Earlier this year, the Checkmate 43 Punisher project—a collaborative effort between former Checkmate Powerboats ownership and the Seelye Wright Toy Store powerboat dealership—fizzled when the Bucyrus, Ohio, boat company went out of business and the Kalamazoo, Mich., dealership closed its doors. Based on 43-foot Chief V-bottom tooling, the boat, which is powered by twin Mercury Racing 700 SCi engines, all but vanished and was put up for sale by its owner, Bill Wright, and went into storage at a marina in South Haven, Mich.
A little more than a month ago Monica Reiffer purchased the 43-footer for her and her husband, Bill. Longtime Checkmate fans—they started with a 253 and later moved up to a 30-foot model with a 1,700-hp turbocharged engine (detuned to 850 hp at present) from Earhart Engineering and Performance LLC—who live in Grand Rapids, Mich., they decided to take a serious look at the boat when its price dropped into the $250,000 range.
“I followed the story of this boat from when it was commissioned and thought it was way cool, but didn’t think it was realistic for me because of the price,” said Bill Reiffer, who in addition to being a self-employed businessman is one of the partners in the company that built the turbocharged engine for his 30-footer. “But when we saw it was for sale (at the lower price than the initial $400,000 plus), we made an appointment to go and look at it. We took it out on Lake Michigan in five-footers, and it was a wave crusher.”
When the Reiffers took possession of the 43-footer last month, it had just 19 hours on its engines. Top speed for the boat so far, which reached 85 mph in early tests under its previous owner, is up to 94 mph, according to Bill Reiffer.
“It’s on the limiters and needs more prop at that speed,” he said. “We think it’s a 100-mph boat with bigger propellers.
“I think Bill Wright took it out three times,” he continued. “He wanted to be shed of it and gone. It was pretty neglected when we first looked at it, but the fit and finish is amazing. There’s been a lot of work done to it. I believe Keith Holmes of CK Motorsports did some re-rigging on it. It’s an amazing boat.”
Although the unique Checkmate 43′ Punisher currently is in storage for the winter, Reiffer said he and his wife plan to use it extensively during the 2014 boating season.
“We are going to do the Boyne Thunder Poker Run for sure—that’s right in our backyard,” he said. “And we are thinking of doing the Lake Cumberland Poker Run in September.”
Reiffer also said at some point he might consider repowering the boat with twin Earhart 1,700-hp turbocharged engines, but that he’s no hurry to do that anytime soon. “Moving from our single-engine 30-footer to this twin-engine 43-footer was a big change,” he said. “We need to spend some time getting used to it.”