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Beautifully Reborn, Big-Time Skater Cats Heading For Lake Erie This Weekend

Though they were built 14 years apart, Tom Cat and Fifty Shades—both headed for a fun run this weekend on Lake Erie out of Put-in-Bay, Ohio—have a lot more in common than being spectacular catamarans from Skater Powerboats in Douglas, Mich.

Fifty Shades is ready to turn heads on Lake Erie this weekend.

Most obviously, both are big boats. Tom Cat is a classic, full-figured 2001-model-year 46-footer that was repainted by Chris Mills of Boat Customs earlier this year. Finished in 2015, Fifty Shades is a more-contemporary, lower-profile 50-footer.

Both are powered by refreshed Mercury Racing 1350 engines. And both recently logged significant service and upgrade time at Grant’s Signature Racing in Bradenton, Fla.

“With Fifty Shades, we took the drives and gimbals from black to white and did a lot of general service work,” said Grant Bruggemann, the owner and namesake of the well-established Mercury Racing-certified service and rigging shop. “We powder-coated the bilge to make it look prettier and added LED lights in the engine compartment and cockpit. We added fender racks to make it more user friendly, and did some bottom work to make it run even better than it already does.”

The endless talent of Craig Ellis of Appearance Products is on display in the new interior of the Fifty Shades Skater.

“Grant is just phenomenal,” said Joe Gilstorf, the 50-footer’s Michigan-based owner who picked up the boat from Bruggemann and brought it home two days ago. “They really got the boat straightened out and did a great job with the rigging.”

Owned by Todd Fountain, Tom Cat also of Michigan, departed Grant’s Signature Racing yesterday.

“For Tom Cat, we did a lot rigging updates including having Brian Jackson of Offshore Outdrives, which is in house at our shop, refresh the gimbals and drives,” Bruggemann said. “We also added brand-new SeaDek surfacing. I tested the boat yesterday morning before it left here and it ran 164 mph on the limiters.”

Both Fifty Shades and Tom Cat also have breathtaking, and strikingly different brand-new interiors. Craig Ellis of Appearance Products of Grand Rapids, Mich., handled the work for Gilstorf’s boats. Jamie Borg of Cutting Edge Interiors in Punta Gorda, Fla., took care of the interior of Tom Cat for Fountain.

Cutting Edge Interiors’ Jamie Borg delivered a dazzling new interior for Tom Cat.

“Jamie at Cutting Edge is awesome, but I haven’t actually seen the new interior in person yet,” he added, then laughed. “The boat is supposed to be getting here at 8 a.m. today. I can’t wait.

“Joe is my buddy,” he added. “I am excited to see him on the water this weekend—we’re heading to Put-in-Bay and Grant has both boats roaring.”

Gilstorf, who credited Fountain with helping him learn to drive a catamaran, said he and Fountain will run side by side this weekend.

“We have known each other for 20-plus years and we’ve gotten in some trouble together,” he said, then laughed. “Todd has taught me a lot. I had an MTI cat before the Skater, but I was a Cigarette V-bottom guy before that—I had a couple of Top Guns, a Café Racer, a 42X. We’re going to have fun running together this weekend.”

Captured here during SkaterFest 2019, Tom Cat is among the best-known Skater catamarans on the water. Photo by Pete Boden copyright Shoot 2 Thrill Pix/speedonthewater.com.

And that—their owners being friends—may be best the thing of all that Fifty Shades and Tom Cat have in common.

Editor’s note: Todd Fountain took delivery of Tom Cat—and saw its new interior for the first time—when this story went live.

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