Midwest Messabout 2003
by Bruce Hector

The annual Midwest Messabout was a huge success, over 25 boats and 40 people were there, making it the largest Messabout we'd ever attended. It was held at the Gun Creek Campground on Rend Lake, Illinois near Benton on the weekend of June 5, 6, and 7.

At times, the boat traffic was so thick I felt I could walk across the bay
just stepping from boat to boat.

(click images to enlarge)

The star of the show was none other than boat designer Jim Michalak himself, who brought his Bolger Birdwatcher behind his old green Chevy truck with his trademark homemade camper top. The wind never got very strong, the wind gods being flukey, as always. so the Birdwatcher never had it's sails up. Jim noted that she's not much of a light air sailor. She ran light and fast on an old 6 hp, and made a fine, if futuristic powerboat. She was also a very stable camera platform and Jim ran her near most of the boats that were out sailing Saturday morning so I could get these photos.

John Sellers brought his Bolger Teal from Dayton, Ohio. He built it to plans, but without the sail rig. He'd done a very nice finish and she appeared to row easily, with a good glide.

Henry Laurent brought a 16 foot Coleman Voyageur canoe from Emmonsburg, Iowa. He had made an intriguing Junk Yawl rig for it, which did quite well in the light airs. The rig included twin lee boards and a kick up rudder.

Roger Harlow dragged a bright yellow Michalak Piccup Pram up from Corpus Christi, Texas which looked great, and both rowed and sailed very well.

The nicest finish at the show had to be on Rex and Kathie Payne's furniture quality, strip built Mellonseed skiff they trailored in from Nashville, Indiana.. It's a design by Marc Barto and is 16 feet long. Built up of thin cedar strips, I'd bet it had a dozen coats of varnish. But they weren't afraid to get it wet, and she sailed very sweetly. The Payne's should also get the "Best Dressed" award, being fully clothed in head to toe Tilley's, including the hats, their wardrobes cost more than many of the boats did.

Richard Spelling and Alexis brought the world's first (and only?) Bolger
designed Chebacco Light Cruiser in from Tulsa, Oklahoma. This 20 foot Cat Yawl sails and motors easily, even in the light air. She sports a raised roof cabin with comfortable sleeping for two. Richard publishes the ezine Chebacco and was taking lots of photos also.

The Jetfish skiff was there again. Jim told me that Larry Pullon had been constantly modifying it for years, sure seemed pretty good as a go fast skiff.
Dave Seaburg of Rockford, Illinois had a nicely done D4 Pram with a custom gaff sail rig. Unusually nice, it was finished bright and was a real tiny charmer.

Bob Peckham of Davison, MI was there with a model of an improved RB42 he plans to build and use as a camp cruiser with a raised coaming. Unfortunately, his model got scrunched before I could get a pic of it.

Max Wawrzyniak had his blue Michalak AF4 and an Oracle. I thought he had a ROAR also, but perhaps he was trying someone else's boat. He herded everyone into the bay for a group shot, but I'm sure there were so many boats there he couldn't get them all in one shot.
Bill Paxton (owner) and Roger Davis dragged a modified Stevenson Weekender in from Burnsville, MN. Bill built her without the cabin as a roomy day sailor, and finished her very well with a blue stripe and bright work. She'd look perfect with a few gunports along the side, perhaps with matching mini-brass cannons. Arrrgggghhhhh!

Gary Irving had a Vector.

Richard Scubbie had the whole family and a few black Labs, plus a nicely restored aluminum power skiff (tan and red) with an older 18 hp motor that was giving him trouble, until he dropped off his wife on shore. Jim
Michalak said that would permit him to use the proper cuss words, which are required for the starting of old engines. Richard found the correct
vocabulary, for the motor performed flawlessly after.

The Skiff America 20 was very well represented, with 4 showing up by late Saturday. Kilburn Adams and Glen Myrick arrived Friday night and regaled us with Mississippi cruising stories. These are a very nicely thought out power skiffs with accommodations for two under a trunk cabin. And they get up and scoot too. I missed the names of the two addition skippers but the look of 4 Skiff America's cruising in line astern will not soon be forgotten.

Phillip Lea brought his very well made, and modified Bolger June Bug. He'd added a few inches of beam along with a superb job of building and finishing to end up with a very stable row/sailor that always seemed to find a breeze.

Jeff Huesel spent the day skimming by in his modified Glen L Utility. Looked great and obviously ran well and flat.

Rhett Davis and Marina Duncan from Coastal Georgia brought an attractive Michalak AF 4 done in green and off white trim, as well as a Michalak Piragua 18.

Tom Cole, also from Kingston, Kingston, Oklahoma, that is, brought his stretched Bolger Micro. This is not a Long Micro, but a standard one that had a stretch built in to it during construction. She finished up at about 18 feet. Good workmanship throughout. The interior cabin was finished with two full size berths, and the berth flats could be lifted to expose chocked off holds for a cooler, water jug, etc. Neat storage. Tom took Jim, Michalak, Jesse Inskeep and myself out for a sail in light airs and she moved along with grace and aplomb until the wind died out completely. Then Phil "I always have wind" Lea sailed past us in his June Bug as we started the motor. Geeez!

Mike Zenker and his daughter were there in their Campanoe. This is two 18 foot canoes joined into a catamaran camper with a wide deck and built in double berths fore and aft. They used it on shore as their camper and motored around the lake very smartly on Saturday. The Campanoe seemed to work exactly as advertised.

Guy Boyce was there with "Church" his jet powered centre console skiff that is where he spends his Sunday's, good name!
An extremely well detailed Selway Fisher cabin skiff in the 20 foot range was there, this is one more boat that your intrepid reported didn't get the owner's names or any details on. Looked great and ran well.

Elaine and I drove in from Kingston, Ontario with a Bolger Nymph in the back of the truck. Mapquest said it was a 927 mile trip, each way. The Nymph was renamed the "Ada E" last August when Elaine's birthday rolled around and caught me unawares. So I gave her a boat! Great idea, as it reduced my fleet by one, enabling me to build more. I must admit that Elaine is the perfect wife for a boat nut, and has never once said "What! Not ANOTHER bloody boat!" to any of my projects.



We headed out around 5 pm Saturday as we faced a longish drive to make it back to work for Monday morn, so we missed the Pot Luck dinner Saturday night, which I heard was a delicious event.

We got lots of ideas for our Messabout in Kingston this September, which was the main purpose for this trip, besides seeing a huge array of homemade boats that is. We'll be adding a scheduled "Parade of Boats" to create a great photo opportunity, borrow the idea of a guest and boat book, and schedule some child and non-boater events. Like a museum trip, or shopping trip. and we'll try to get email addresses too.

All in all, well worth a 1800 mile drive. We had a blast.

Bruce Hector