The wooden works of art start at $14,000 and are the widest, most stable, small boats on the market. That’s good news for those who like to drift tight water, casting for fish on two feet.
DESIGNING DRIFT BOATS
As a boy in northern Michigan, Croff began woodworking with an uncle.
“There was no end to what could be created with wood,” Croff said, “and I was constantly experimenting.”
Fishing was also a favorite pastime, as Croff and his brother used to cast flies for brook trout in Silver Creek.
“A lot of time was spent cruising the banks of the rivers, wading and trying to catch that elusive trout,” he said. “Nighttime fishing proved more successful, but wading at night can be treacherous.”
Croff decided to build a small, stable boat that could quietly navigate those evening waters.
“[It had to be] steady enough to stand and fish from it,” he said. “It also had to draft very little water in order to move atop the logs, rocks, and deadheads that are common in our rivers.”
A drift boat, or flat-bottomed craft with flared sides, was the likely answer. But all the models Croff knew of were too big to navigate the small rivers in his backyard.
“So I decided to build one,” he said. “I drew out a quick design on a napkin, and started building.”
From those humble beginnings, Croff Craft Custom Driftboats began.
Very similar to the classic Mackenzie drift boat design, Croff’s boats are wider – 60 inches at the bottom, creating “excellent stability,” Croff said.
“We build the widest small boat on the market,” he said. “The cedar wood helps keep the weight down to create less draft, and the bottom is constructed with a rocker that enables the boat to spin at its center for easier control while floating.”
Built for both rivers and small lakes, the boats can also be modified with a transom to allow for a small motor.
While fishermen love them, the boats aren’t “just” for fishing.
“Fishing is only one activity,” Croff said.
“Many enjoy the boats for a leisure float, or cruise on the lake.”
Though the boats are primarily made from cedar, there are also walnut and some other exotic woods in places that need denser material, giving the hulls contrast and color.
Croff said the building process is complex.
“Cedar planks are cut, glued, fiberglassed, and epoxied together to construct the bottom of the boat,” he said. “The sides are shaped in a similar manner and joined to the bottom, where the decks are built in.”
Rails strengthen the design, the bow and stern are made, and then the oar locks and boxes for the seats are built and installed.
The boat is then taped off and sprayed inside and out with protective polyurethane. All the wood is sanded and coated with varnish, and finally, the seats are constructed from walnut and woven with parachute cord.
“My hands touch every inch of the boat many times before it is finished,” he said, “and no two boats are alike.”
Croff considers each client’s boat an original piece of work, so custom means custom. Croff will build to suit.
To acquire a Croff Craft Driftboat, all it takes is a phone call to get things moving, although there is a wait list since the boats are made one at a time.
“In every boat I build there is a lot of blood, sweat, and tears … literally. I am the designer, engineer, builder, and finish guy,” he said. “But I absolutely love what I do, and try very hard to make that love show itself in the finished product.”
For more information on Croff Craft Custom Driftboats and the craftsmanship of Phil Croff, visit croffcraft.com or call (231) 330-5762.