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Youth Movement: Upstate Powerboat’s Phil Hess

Phil Hess would love to have his relatively new business called Upstate Powerboat in Baldwinsville, N.Y.—just outside of Syracuse—become “the Performance Boat Center of the Northeast” someday. Of course, the ambitious 21-year-old, who specializes in fiberglass repair and paint work,  knows that’s a lofty and distant goal. But he also knows that without ambition and passion nothing great ever happens.


Hess’ first restoration project was this Cigarette 35′ Cafe Racer.

So Hess, whose powerboat restoration service has grown enough for him to take some time away from college, started small. In fact, his first fiberglass repair and re-rig jobs were on stand-up Jet Skis. And that was where his passion was born.

“I’ve been around boats my whole life,” said Hess. “My family had a cottage in the 1,000 Islands area. I think my first word was ‘Jet Ski.’ So I spent a lot of time working on repairing fiberglass on them. I also spent about a year-and-a-half working at a fiberglass shop in Syracuse.”

But Hess eventually needed something substantially larger to play with than personal watercraft. In early 2014, he purchased a 1989 Cigarette 35′ Café Racer and completely restored its damaged and faded exterior, renovated the dash and cleaned up the bilge. After running the V-bottom all summer, he sold the boat. It’s new owner has since repowered the Cigarette with a pair of 640-hp Lassassa engines and Konrad 540 drives. (The boat originally had twin 420-hp engines and TRS drives.)

For a few more angles of the restored 35-footer, check out the slideshow above.

“That was my first boat under my business name,” said Hess. “We repaired all the fiberglass, repaired some rot, took out the engines and re-rigged it. Then I sold it at the end of the summer.”

Next up for Hess was a fiberglass repair and paint job on another Cigarette, this time a 38′ Top Gun Carbon Fiber Edition built in 1992. He delivered that boat to its owner two days ago. Hess won’t miss the 38-footer, as he purchased the same model—built in the same year —to restore during the next two to three months in his 6,000-square-foot facility. At some point, he’ll likely sell the renovated conventional V-bottom.

“My Carbon Edition boat is going to get totally new paint, 750-hp engines and Bravo XR drives on IMCO boxes, a new dash and a new interior,” said Hess. “I’m shooting to be done in a couple of months. I have a couple of buddies who help sometimes, but mostly they just drink beer and watch me work. Mostly, it’s just me.”

And for this enterprising 21-year-old, that’s perfect. For now.

Most recently, Hess completed the exterior renovation of this Cigarette 38′ Top Gun Carbon Fiber Edition.

Editor’s Note: Speedonthewater.com will follow Hess’ current Cigarette 38′ Top Gun Carbon Fiber Edition project as it progresses.