Fair maiden of the Muskegon: Father and son trio restores 1964 wooden boat over 12 years

ON A BOAT: Bill Goslee (middle) and his sons, Mike (left) and Jimmy (right) restored this 1964 Century Resorter over the course of 12 years. They christened the boat “Dulcinea III” after fictional character Don Quixote’s love interest. (Courtesy photo)

BIG RAPIDS — Boats have always been a part of Mike Goslee’s life. Being out on the water is something that has always put a smile on his face, particularly when he’s water-skiing.

As a child growing up in Caseville, his parents owned a 28-foot wooden Chris Craft the family enjoyed each summer. However, things changed when Goslee’s parents divorced — the boat was sold, and his father, Bill, moved nearly 200 miles away to Alpena. Mike was 12 years old.

During a visit shortly after the divorce, Bill was leafing through a local shopper magazine and came across an old wooden boat in desperate need of repairs.

Planks were missing from the hull, water was in the engine and the interior was torn up by a nursery of raccoons who had made a nest inside the boat.

Where others may have seen a wreck, Bill saw potential.

Bill thought restoring the boat with his sons, Mike and Jimmy, would be a great way to bond with them after the divorce. So, he purchased the 19-foot 1964 Century Resorter for “next to nothing.”

“They’ve always been interested in mechanics,” Bill said. “It was just father and sons doing all hands-on work together. … We’re not too interested in watching professional sports like a lot of fathers and sons. Instead of sitting around watching football games, we built a boat.”

Although they now live in different areas in Michigan — Mike, 28, lives in Big Rapids, and Jimmy, 26, is a marine mechanic in the Coast Guard stationed at Ludington — Mike said the boat restoration project helped bring the brothers closer to their dad after the divorce.

“I probably wouldn’t have formed that close relationship with my dad if they hadn’t divorced. It sounds kind of bad to say that, but things worked out just fine,” Mike said. “He’s taught me a lot of stuff. And now, if I don’t know how to do something, I can call him up and he’ll help me. It makes me feel very blessed that I know how to do the things he’s taught me. … (That experience), is nothing you could ever buy or read in a book.”

Restoring a wooden boat

The boys were only able to visit their father every other weekend to help with the renovations — Bill worked on the boat between visits. It took them about two years just to get the boat running.

The two brothers were excited to take it out on the water. But it still needed plenty of work, Mike said.

The trio restored the boat off and on for the next decade. Their first major project was to redo the engine — a 300-horsepower V-8 Buick 401 engine, typically found in muscle-cars.

“It’s a huge engine. Why they put it in there, I don’t know,” Goslee said. “This thing was designed for water-skiing — it’ll pull your arms off.”

In 2001, Mike moved to Big Rapids to attend Ferris State University. Mike would travel back to Alpena nearly every month to help with the boat, which included re-chroming the boat’s fixtures and restoring the boat’s teal interior.

Not really knowing how to sew vinyl seating, the Goslees sought out someone who could help.

Coincidentally, they found the boat’s original seamstress, who still had the patterns for the seating.

“She gave us all the patterns for it, and we paid a guy to do the interior,” Goslee said. “It was the only thing we didn’t do ourselves. It was quite costly.”

Starting in 2003, Bill, a retired construction worker, would drive the boat down to Big Rapids for the summer. Mike rented space from his landlord to store the boat in a garage when they were not using it, which wasn’t very often. At the end of the boating season, Bill would take it back up to Alpena.

The last major project was replacing the rotted planks in the hull. Because the boat had sat for so many years, rainwater had collected in the bottom and was slowly rotting the bottom. It took them nearly two years to replace the half-inch-thick rotted African mahogany planks.

The Goslees put together a custom-made scaffolding to hold the boat upside-down while they removed the rotted planks. Using heavy-duty marine caulk, each new plank was painstakingly adhered to the ribs of the boat.

“With this stuff, you could glue two boards together and the boards would break before the glue,” Mike said. “It’s not coming apart — this boat was rebuilt better than it was right out of the showroom.”

The boat was finally completed in 2008, and christened “Dulcinea III.” The family’s previous boat was “Dulcinea II.” Bill expects to bring it to Big Rapids later this month.

Dulcinea del Toboso is a fictional character referred to in Miguel de Cervantes’ novel “Don Quixote.” Bill called her Quixote’s “fair maiden” — the boat is his.

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Posted by Jonathan Eppley

Jonathan Eppley is news editor for the Pioneer. He designs and copy edits the Pioneer daily, and manages staff in the evening. Eppley joined the Pioneer staff in 2010. He can be reached at (231) 592-8357 or at jeppley@pioneergroup.com.

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