Last fall, I briefly reported on a stunning Skater Powerboats 338 catamaran that was given a comprehensive overhaul thanks to the teams at Boat Customs in Caledonia, Mich., Appearance Products in Grand Rapids, Mich., and Double R Performance in Oro-Medonte, a township in south-central Ontario, Canada, on the northwestern shore of Lake Simcoe, which is north of Toronto.
Clay Leibel loves his like-new Skater 338 catamaran powered by twin Mercury Racing 860 engines (below, click to enlarge). Photos courtesy Clay Leibel and Chris Mills
The 33-foot Skater, which was part of a story I did checking in with Chris Mills—the low-key owner of Boat Customs—regarding several projects his team had completed, is owned by Canadian performance boater Clay Leibel, who also owns a classic twin-engine 28-foot V-bottom from Cigarette Racing Team. Leibel was thrilled with the project and I interviewed him briefly following the story but failed to ever put an article together specifically about the transformation…until now.
After purchasing the 2014 Skater in September 2018, Leibel knew right away that he wanted to liven up the all-white boat, which was powered by a pair of 1,000-hp Smith Power engines connected with Arneson surface drives, so he enlisted Boat Customs to give it a full facelift and Double R to repower and rerig the boat with twin Mercury Racing 860 engines and No. 6 drives. And, after coming up with the new look following some back and forth with Mills on the renderings and other modifications, he called on Appearance Products, which handles many interiors for Douglas Marine/Skater, to tackle the matching red, black and silver upholstery.
“The boat came out amazing—I couldn’t be happier,” Leibel said. “It was the first Skater with 860s and it runs 144 mph, which is plenty of speed for me. The 860s are extraordinary motors; the midrange is incredible. And the fact that we took out the 1,000-hp engines and didn’t lose a single mph going to the 860s speaks volumes to what an amazing job Double R did setting up the boat.”
Leibel also was beyond impressed by the fabrication and paintwork Mills and company did to the boat, which included modifying the dash, building custom engine scoops and cutting a few feet off the bustle then rebuilding and reshaping it. Leibel said he knew he wanted the boat to have a red base and a black bottom, and he wanted it to look fast.
“Chris pretty much nailed the design concept right from the start,” Leibel said. “We made some minor tweaks but his style and what I like were very much in line. The whole process was so much fun. Chris and his guys are very talented; what they did with the new scoops is art in my opinion. And the paintjob, which included the seatbacks, dash panels and engine compartments, is outstanding. I can’t wait to do another project with Chris. He really is the best around.
“The interior from Appearance Products turned out amazing, too,” he added. “Craig (Ellis) and his team were so easy to work with and their work speaks for itself. Not only was everyone involved in the project extremely helpful, they all worked hard to meet their deadlines and even come in ahead of schedule.”
Check out the slideshow above for more images of the radically overhauled Skater.
Throughout the process, Leibel said his nephew, Luke Leibel, provided a lot advice and expertise to help shape the way the boat came together.
“Luke’s eye for the little details that led to the final product is second to none,” the proud uncle stressed. “I owe him a great deal of thanks on this project.”
Leibel knew he wanted Double R to handle the mechanical side of the project so he reached out to Raymond Roberts, who co-owns the dealership and service center with his brother, Peter, and Roberts was all-in on the project.
“Double R rigged the entire boat from top to bottom; nothing was reused in the process,” Leibel explained. “When I first met with Raymond, he did some calculations based on his recommended propeller sizes and estimated that the boat should be run the low- to mid-140-mph range with the 860s, and he was spot on. Double R’s Darren Worobec took charge of the rigging effort and did an incredible job.
“The Double R team also deserves credit for redoing the tilt trailer, too,” he added. “It was kind of a mess and they put a lot of work into making it like new.”
Leibel said he has plan to run the boat locally and at different events in Canada and the United States this summer—pandemic restrictions pending obviously.
Boat Customs Going Back To Basics
When It’s All About Appearance