Jerry Baganz had a dream of building a boat—a sturdy, seaworthy, efficient trawler—and with the help of his son he made the dream come true and named it Dreamers
Mike Baganz (left) and his parents Pat and Jerry stood on the bow of the trawler the two men built. Photo by Sam ArendtWhen Jerry Baganz of Port Washington retired two years ago, he decided to build a boat to cruise Lake Michigan.
But not just any boat — a trawler that could cruise at 10 mph, get 10 miles to the gallon and be no noisier than 10 decibels.
“That doesn’t sound like much mileage in terms of cars, but in boats, that’s huge,” Baganz said.
His pride and joy — Dreamers, a 29-foot trawler — was launched June 26 at the Port Washington Marina.
It gets only nine miles to the gallon (not bad, considering some motorboats get less than one mile per gallon of fuel), but in all other respects exceeds his expectations.
The name, he said, reflects who he is, and also his son Mike, who helped build the boat, and his wife Pat.
“In order to do something like this, you have to be a bit of a dreamer and also a very hard realist and dedicate yourself to the tasks,” Baganz said. “Stories are legend of people who started their boats and never finished or took eight years to finish them.
“What people do when they retire is part of the spirit that goes into something like this. Some people sit around, golf or fish. I built a boat. We’re to the age now that we’re able to have a little more freedom (Pat retired as a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee). With the trawler, we can get up and go anytime we want.”
When people admire the trawler with its gleaming mahogany deck and trim, calling it a “pretty good boat,” he corrects them.
“There is no such thing as a pretty good boat — it’s either a great boat or it’s a planter,” Baganz said.
His trawler, he said, is a great boat, as akin to his beloved sailboat as a motorboat can be.
“You have the nature of sailing, but you’re able to overcome the disadvantages,” said Baganz, referring to the vagaries of the wind. “The wind comes from four directions — too strong, too
weak, not at all or wrong way.”
Baganz had a 25-foot sailboat named C Cloud for many years, but his wife Pat wasn’t comfortable handling it. He sold the sailboat last year.
“Although she could operate the sailboat, she always worried that if something happened to me, she would be helpless on the water. She loves this and takes the wheel as much I do,”
He recently did a man-overboard drill on the trawler, tossing a life preserver in the lake for his wife to pick up. She deftly turned the trawler around and retrieved the preserver.
“Building a boat is both an engineering challenge and an artistic project,” Baganz said. “If you want to save money, don’t build a boat. It’s really an art project that you realize has to float.
“I was very confident that it would float, but I didn’t know how it would sit on its lines. As it turned out, it was perfect.
It had to test perfect to be on Lake Michigan with the wind and rain and everything the lake can dish out very suddenly.
“Thus far, it’s exceeded expectations. I’m continually amazed at how well it has performed.”
The trawler has a two-foot-deep keel that runs the length of the boat.
Baganz and his wife recently returned from a four-night cruise from Port to Manitowoc to Sturgeon Bay and back again. The trawler handled high winds and three-foot waves without
“In rough water, I would rather be in a sailboat than a motorboat, and this feels like a sailboat,” Baganz said. “It plows through the water rather than planing above it.”
Baganz and his son built the trawler in 18 months. Baganz worked on it every day. Mike joined him on weekends and many weekdays after work.
“Mike was my conscience. He’s more of a detail man than I am,” Baganz said.
“I would have had it done in six months and it wouldn’t have floated 10 feet. It would have taken him 10 years to make it perfect and he may never have gotten it done. Between the two of
us, we struck a nice balance. We’re a very good team.
“All the time we spent together was really good father-son time. That was a fringe benefit of the project.”
Father and son named their venture M&I (Mike & I) Boat Builders.
Baganz figures he put 2,000 hours into constructing the boat.
“That doesn’t count lying awake at night until 2 to 4 a.m. trying to figure out what you’re going to do the next day,” he said.
After deciding to build a trawler, he settled on a design by Karl Stambaugh of Chesapeake Marine Design for a 27-foot boat.
He made the trawler two feet longer and six inches wider to allow more room for seating and sleeping, but the 6,000-pound boat is still small enough to be hauled on a trailer with a pickup
Baganz recalculated the plans for the added dimensions, then constructed the frame of Douglas fir in his basement starting in November 2009. He finished the frame in February and
moved the boat-building operation to a warehouse in Port’s industrial park.
“Once I got the frame made, I never looked at the plans again,” Baganz said.
“When you build a boat, you have the opportunity to tailor it to yourself, your height and shape. There are all kinds of innovations in here.”
The interior trim is black walnut that came from a tree he felled years ago on his property. The mahogany was salvaged from a shipyard. The hull and cabin sides are made of 1/2-inch
marine plywood, with the keel two boards thick.
A 60-horsepower Mercury outboard motor powers the trawler. The motor was installed and the back of the boat built around it, so it fits perfectly.
The original design called for the motor cabinet to run the length of the rear deck with storage areas on either side, but Mike suggested the cabinet be shortened and two seats built on
either side. Adirondack chair backs were painted green.
The outboard motor is easier to reach for maintenance and less expensive than an inboard motor, Baganz said.
“It was the only thing I didn’t make and have control over, and it’s the only thing that’s given me trouble,” he said. “There is nothing else on the boat I can’t fix. I can reach everything easily
to fix or clean it.”
The pilot seat flips up so the captain can stand comfortably at the wheel or sit. Baganz added a box so Pat’s feet don’t dangle when she’s at the wheel.
Four lounge chairs with removable tables between them provide comfortable seating and standing room for guests. Pat made the cushions and curtains for the trawler.
Baganz became fascinated with wooden boats through his late father-in-law, a marine draftsman for Stearns, a former boat-building company in Sturgeon Bay.
“He was a wooden boat fan, but had nine kids and never had a boat,” Baganz said.
This is the fourth wooden boat Baganz has built or restored. He restored a 15-foot motorboat, then built a 14-foot sailboat and a 19-foot rowing skiff.
Although he does minor repairs around the house, Baganz doesn’t consider himself a woodworker, except when it comes to boats.
He made the trawler using a table saw and ordinary hand tools.
“It became a full-time job,” Baganz said. “I loved it. I’m having some postpartum depression.
“If I were to do it again, it would be with a couple of young guys. I would enjoy helping them build it.”
When he completed the keel in April 2010, Baganz inscribed, “Dedicated to dreams lived and yet to be lived,” signing his and Mike’s names.
“It’s important to keep your dreams alive,” Baganz said.
Baganz will display the four wooden boats he has built at the Port Washington Maritime Festival, which will be held Friday through Sunday, Aug. 19 to 21, at the lakefront.
The 29-foot trawler and 14-foot motorboat will be in the water, while his 14-foot sailboat and 19-foot rowing skiff will be outside the education tent where Baganz will present “Introduction
to Boat Building” several times each day.