Making Magic at Metan
May 20, 2011
If you’ve been to the New England Boat Show or the Newport International Boat Show, you’ve probably seen some examples of Metan Marine’s restoration work, along with the “before and after” photos. However, nothing compares to seeing the “before” up close and personal.
A recent visit to Metan’s new facility in Halifax, Massachusetts, taught me that no boat is beyond repair. In walking around the yard, I saw boat after boat that looked as if it had been chewed up by a hurricane and spit out on shore. Ruptured hulls, torn seats, rotten stringers, mildew-stained decks, peeling teak. It was a nightmarish landscape of boat abuse. Surely these mangled and mistreated vessels were destined for the scrap heap, but Metan advertising director Pam Borrelli, wife of company founder and president Mike Borrelli, assured me that all of the vintage boats I was looking at from the ‘60s and ‘70s would be restored to mint condition.
As for the “after” side of the picture, you can see plenty of examples on display in front of Metan Marine’s headquarters or inside the shop. The latter is where Metan’s team of expert technicians perform their miracles in fiberglass repair, paint and gelcoat application, and wood restoration and replacement. What emerges is nothing short of remarkable, which is why Metan is so busy these days.
Coordinating all the work is Mike Borrelli, a veritable lightning-bolt of energy. During my visit he was overseeing shipment of a Boston Whaler Outrage 21 to an owner in Maine, then dashing off to help with the delivery of a hard-used Coast Guard patrol vessel in need of sprucing up. Then there was the restored 25’ Boston Whaler Guardian that Metan was preparing for shipment to Mexico, of all places. In this business you have to be able to juggle a number of projects in various stages of completion, and Mike Borrelli has the perfect disposition for the job.
He got started in the boat-restoration business in the mid-‘90s, shortly after moving to the South Shore of Massachusetts, where he crewed on charter boats and fished for sharks. “I noticed a demand for fiberglass repair work,” he recalls, “so I read up on the West System [of epoxy] and basically taught myself.” Working from a hut-like strcuture in Hanover, the first boat he restored was a 23’ SeaCraft, the famous deep-vee center console designed by Carl Alberg in 1965 and embraced by fishermen all along the coast. The classic 23 remains one of the most sought-after restoration project boats on the market, and represents a good chunk of Metan’s work. Mike estimates that his company has restored over 2 dozen SeaCrafts, many from the 1970s.
Metan also receives plenty of vintage Boston Whaler 13’ and 17’ models (eg., the Sakonnet, Montauk), and more recently 21-foot Outrages, whose owners would rather see the boat restored than buy a new one. “In many cases, the boats represent the owner’s early boating experiences. It might be the boat they used as a kid, and they want to pass it along to their children or grandchildren. They want the same boat, with the same classic look, not a replacement,” explains Pam Borrelli.
Metan often employs a variety of clever and cutting-edge techniques to restore a boat, including the fabrication of entire hull sections—a process known as “splashing”. In one case, Metan received a boat that had struck a channel marker, opening a huge hole in the forward port section of the hull. Mike and his crew found a matching boat and used it to make a mold of the damaged hull section, from which they created a new fiberglass section. Then they cut out the damaged section and glassed in the new one. When they were done faring and re-gelcoating the hull, no evidence of the damage could be detected.
When you consider the intricate and extensive restoration work involved in many of Metan’s projects, you can see why the company bills itself as a “re-fabrication” shop. In other words, they possess all of the know-how and tooling needed to build a boat from scratch, right down to the brightwork and custom wood cabinetry.
Metan also functions as a full-service boatyard and service facility. It handles insurance and warranty repairs, Awlgrip paint service and factory gelcoat repair, transom and stringer replacement, brokerage service, winter storage and bottom blasting and painting. In recent years it has also become involved with manufacturing one-off composite parts outside the marine industry, as in the case of the UNO motorcycle, for which they created the vehicle’s unique body.
Another side project of Metan’s hits closer to the Borrelli’s home. Pam and Mike are the parents of an autistic child, and have started a campaign to raise money for autism awareness and treatment. Metan is holding an on-going raffle for a restored classic 1960s-era Boston Whaler 13 with choice of 40-hp engine and trailer. A $100 donation gives the donor a 1-in-300 odds of winning the boat while helping the League School of Great Boston and Autism Speaks. Tickets can be purchased by calling (781-293-2755).
With everything that’s going on at Metan, the Borrellis hardly have time to enjoy their own boat, although they vow to get on the water more this season. “In fact, we’re thinking of having a Metan get-together at our marina in Scituate this summer,” says Pam. “That way our customers can come over by boat. There will be music, food—you name it.”
If the event is a reflection of the Borrellis’ thoroughness and attention to detail, it’ll be one heck of a party!
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