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Boat builder Wes Blazer making Port Clinton splash with Interlake sailboats

Wes Blazer of Weatherly Boat Works on Buckeye Boulevard in Port Clinton debuted his new Interlake sailboat at the recent Catawba Island Boat Show. A very popular sailboat today, the Interlake was first manufactured in 1935 for the Sandusky Sailing Club. (Photo by D’Arcy Egan)

BY D’ARCY EGAN

The boat building industry that put Port Clinton in the spotlight decades ago with the stately Matthews yachts is long gone, but this summer Wes Blazer of Weatherly Boat Works on Buckeye Boulevard in Port Clinton is bringing boat building back to the region. The Sandusky native is creating new 18-foot Interlake sailboats, a boat that has been very popular with sailors along the Lake Erie shore and around the country since 1935.

“I have a lot of experience with fiberglass boats, from building molds and creating prototype boats, after working for a few years in research and development for Boston Whaler in Edgewater, Fla.,” said Blazer, 31. He had always wanted to return to his home town of Sandusky, though, where he had been a member of an Interlake sailing club and enjoyed racing the sleek sailboats.

The Sandusky Sailing Club set the standards in 1935 for the Interlake, said Blazer, and his Interlake boats today are faithful to the 18-foot length, the 650-pound weight of each boat and the standardized hull, mast and rudders. It makes for a level playing field when sailors square off on the water.

“The new boats are actually much easier to sail, and safer,” said Blazer. “In the old days, when the Interlake sailboats were being produced in the Toledo area, they were empty shells with a deck.

“I’ve incorporated a flotation system in the new ones, making for a safer boat. If you should capsize, the boat is not going to sink. The design lets a sailor bail bail out the boat and keep on going. It’s not a self-righting design, but rather  self-rescuing.”

Blazer has the five molds needed to produce an Interlake boat, and the interest in new Interlake sailboats has been very good, he said. Harry Kilpatrick at Custom Flex in Toledo had made them for years, and while mentally sharp, said Blazer, he’s approaching his 90s.

The Interlake popularity is not a surprise. For many, sailing and racing Interlake boats has been a family tradition.

“I’ve seen three generations still sailing the same Interlake sailboat,” Blazer said. “I know youngsters whose families were members of the Sandusky Sailing Club take up sailing and end up get married. Sailing is a wholesome sport, and the Interlake Sailing Class Association has events this year from Florida to Ohio.”

The Sandusky Sailing Club has a one-Design Regatta on June 9-10, while Cleveland Race Week has an Interlake event out of Edgewater Yacht Club on June 16-17. Edgewater hosts the national championship on July 25-28. There are also One Design Regattas at Indian Lake on July 7-8 and the Lorain Sailing Yacht Club on July 14.

Blazer’s goal is to build one Interlake sailboat per month, a goal now realistic after teaming with Tom Humphrey, who owns the building on Buckeye Boulevard where Blazer is making the boats.

“I was renting a garage in Sandusky, which was suitable for making only one boat at a time,” said Blazer. “Tom called to say he needed a storage area and I needed a more spacious place to make the boats. It was the perfect solution.”

Blazer also does fiberglass work on power and sailboats, and repairs and renovations on elderly wooden boats, such as the many Lymans around the area.

“I got my start building boats when I was just 13 years old, signing up for a boat building class at the museum in Vermilion. The teacher was Bob Reynolds, the grandson of Scott Matthews, the owner of Matthews Boats in Port Clinton.

“Matthews was the Rolls Royce of boats back then,” said Blazer. “Lyman, made in Sandusky, was the Chevy or Ford pickup. The Inland Seas Steel Clipper and Darst Boats were also made in Sandusky back then.”

Blazer still spends his weekends racing Interlake sailboats, and building new Interlake sailboats during the week. This week, he said, he is filling an order for Interlake No. 1,143 and renovating a beloved Interlake built in 1968.