When Louisiana native Nate Michel, a performance boater known best for the Cloud IX 40-foot MTI catamaran he completely redid a few years back and sold earlier this year, borrowed his good friend and fellow Louisiana native James Branton’s Skater Powerboats 388 powered by twin Mercury Racing 1100 engines after blowing a drive in Cloud IX during last year’s Kort 200—3.0, an event he helped produce with his other good friend, Kort Wittich, he had no clue the boat would look dramatically different just 12 months later.
Louisiana’s James Branton is excited to show off his most recent project boat, a 38-foot Skater Powerboats catamaran dubbed Pink Parts, at this week’s Tickfaw 200 Poker Run in his home state. Photos courtesy Nate Michel
Coinciding with the return of Louisiana’s popular Tickfaw 200 Poker Run hosted by Blood River Landing in Springfield this week, Branton and his fun-loving friend Michel, who helped oversee the overhaul of the 2019-model-year catamaran, got the opportunity to run Branton’s new Skater today on the Tickfaw River and other local waterways. Branton took delivery of the 388 from Evan Schaubhut and the team at Hydroflat Custom Fiberglass in Des Allemands, La., yesterday and he was blown away by the finished product, which he called “one of a kind.”
Branton, who like his performance boat enthusiast father, Dave Branton, has owned many boats during his lifetime, said his goal with the eight-seat 38-footer that his family purchased from Skater aficionado Ron Szolack in August 2019 was to make it “one of a kind.”
“I’d seen another Skater that was painted very similar to ours and I wasn’t too fond of that,” Branton said. “So when Nate and I got together during last year’s Key West Poker Run, I told him I wanted to update the boat and we started talking about ideas.”
While aboard the Branton family’s Westport 130, a 40-meter yacht, Michel said the idea came to his friend quickly and evolved from there almost as fast.
“Jim said he wanted to do something pink, something old school,” Michel said, adding that his friend knew hot colors—or neon colors—were back in, but that he wanted a modern twist on the retro, old-school, BMX-type colors. “So the thought process was a Miami Vice-type vibe with a new-style flair, bringing old school and mixing it with new school. We were thinking maybe some different type of pinks in there, something to make the color pop super hard, and something that nobody else has done before.
“As we were talking, I said to Jim, ‘Man, why don’t we give some of our guys a shot at this’ because we’ve been trying to put together a dream team of people who can do, you know, interior, paint, rigging—just do everything,” he added. “So we took it to our local guys over here in Des Allemands and they derigged the entire boat and took everything apart. They painted the bilge, all the cockpit compartments, the dash, the seatbacks, pretty much the entire boat. We brought in a local guy, Ben LaGrange from Southern Cooler & Marine in Arnaudville, La., to do the SeaDek and we had Nick Mayden of Mayden Design Co. in Foristell, Mo., handle the interior.”
Branton and Michel admitted that their friends didn’t take the project idea seriously to begin with, first of all because they were focused on a pink scheme and second because it’s not like the boat was in disarray and needed any repair.
“At first nobody really believed us,” Michel said. “They were like, ‘Are you serious, do you really want to do this?’ And Jim stayed adamant on it, stating that he really wanted to find the ‘perfect pink.’ Then once we started on the renderings and found the right color, everybody got on board with the idea.”
This is the Skater before Branton decided it needed a new look. Photo from the 2019 Skaterfest by Pete Boden/Shoot 2 Thrill Pix
Branton said the boat’s overall look evolved into the pink being more of an accent color to the silver, gray and black graphics but still being the distinctive feature of the Skater, which he’s named Pink Parts.
“We picked everything about the initial renderings apart—I mean every line and every shadow—and we went back and forth back to get it just right,” Branton explained, adding that they decided to utilize the boat’s original silver-accent turbocharged engines from Mercury Racing but have engine guru Mark Boos of Precision Marine Performance Engines in Kenner, La., convert the 9.0-liter V8 engines to 1,350-hp offerings. “Between the grays and the shadowing and the sparkling in this boat, it’s pretty impressive. All of the colors pop.”
Check out more images of the recently completed project boat in the slideshow above.
Schaubhut, who founded Hydroflat in 2009, said he enjoyed working on the 38-foot Skater, which took hundreds of man-hours to complete.
“I love how the boat turned out,” Schaubhut said. “I like it when people come up with new ideas and want to try new things. You can get bored doing the same paint schemes in the same colors and this one—with the hot pink candy in the paint—is definitely not boring. It was a lot of work, don’t get me wrong, but we’re very happy with how the whole project came together. Getting the pink just right was tricky because of the way we applied it. I call it ‘powerboat popping pink.’ It’s a new pink we came up with.
“When it comes interiors, Skaters, for the most part, are fairly simple so we weren’t looking to do anything too fancy,” he added. “Instead, Jim chose Alcantara—he likes that stuff—and opted to keep it neutral. So rather than try to find interiors colors that matched, we did a good amount of paint work inside the cockpit, transferring the pattern in the paint to the dash, the gunwales and even onto the seat backs. Overall it was a fun project and we’re hopeful Jim—and Nate—are proud of how it.”
Based on their first impressions—and what’s about to come as more and more people see the boat during the next few days at the Tickfaw 200 Poker Run—the longtime friends are sure to be filled with pride.
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