42 Sport Cruiser
— By Capt. Bill Pike
— September 2003
Magicians of Mahogany
|Mayea Boat Works puts a modern-day spin on gorgeous, old-fashioned, plank-on-frame masterpieces.|
It’s an unpretentious place, Mayea Boat Works: little more than a bunch of corrugated-steel sheds, barns, and boathouses hunkered by the waters of Michigan’s Lake St. Clair. If you were in a hurry and intent on getting to better-known lakeside vacation spots like Algonac or St. Clair Shores, you’d probably just drive on through the town of Fairhaven and never notice the sign by the side of the road that proclaims “Mayea Marine Store.” Such an oversight would be truly unfortunate, though, because inside the store, in addition to the shiny new cans of varnish and the shelves full of WEST SYSTEM® epoxy paraphernalia, you’d likely come across a lady named Flo. And Flo’s the gal who, when she’s not answering the phone for Mayea Boat Works, keeping the company’s books, ordering parts, and paying the bills, can tell folks where they can find Larry Mayea.
Mayea’s a fascinating guy, but hard to keep tabs on, for any number of reasons. Maybe it’s because he’s got the kind of metabolism that inhales a 60-hour workweek and keeps right on truckin’. Or maybe it’s because, having got his start by sweeping floors in the woodworking shop when he was just ten, he’s simply accustomed to hard work and staying abreast of all things great and small, both hither and yon. Or maybe—and this is what I personally believe—Mayea’s just like the other four principals of Mayea Boat Works: his 83-year-old father Herb (who continues to walk three miles a day for exercise, although he just cut back to a 45-hour workweek), his younger brother Donny, his brother-in-law Norm, and his son Chad. They’re all so synched into plank-on-frame mahogany boatbuilding that trying to keep up with just one of them for two days ‘bout wore me plumb out, as we like to say in the sunny South.
Of course, I loved every minute of it, although in actuality two days isn’t a real long time to get a proper handle on what goes on at Mayea Boat Works, where Mays-Craft boats are built. For one thing, the place is inscrutably old—it first opened its big double doors in July 1903, which made it 100 years old the day I arrived to begin gaping and scratching my head in amazement. Mayea Boat Works has withstood the building of Navy seaplanes during WWI, the hard days of the Great Depression, a couple of Prohibition shootouts, the creation of prototype landing craft during WWII, and a vast and disastrous fire that almost burned the whole shebang to the ground. Even most of the tools the guys use are old.
This article originally appeared in the August 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.