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It’s a winner

N26.DEVRIESRoger DeVries had put significant sweat equity into his 1974 Sea Ray, replacing the transom, deck and stringers and installing a new exhaust manifold on the runabout's 155-hp MerCruiser I/O. He had given the boat the foundation for a new life.

"The boat was not in horrible shape," says DeVries, 62, of Wyoming, Mich., who had acquired the bowrider three years earlier. "It was structurally sound by the time I got finished with it."

Even so, the 19-foot SRV 190 was a cosmetic and mechanical nightmare, with outdated wiring and engine and steering controls, dilapidated upholstery and a thoroughly oxidized gelcoat. And the vessel sat on a rust bucket of a trailer that barely made it to the launch ramp. The retired locomotive engineer's boating days with his sons and their families weren't exactly worry-free.

"We had it in the water a couple times last summer, and it was good enough to get out there," says Lisa DeVries, 28, who is married to DeVries' eldest son Nick, 28. But something always needed to be fixed, she recalls.

N26.SEA.RAYSo when Lisa DeVries heard an announcement on the radio seeking contestants for an extreme boat makeover contest, she thought her father-in-law would have a good shot at winning.

The contest, held by Action Water Sports of Hudsonville, Mich., would award a $10,000 refit to the owner of a boat who was a military veteran or a person with special physical needs. The boat had to be 25 feet or smaller and in working condition.

Lisa DeVries' entry letter explained that Roger DeVries was a Vietnam-era veteran who lacked the time to complete the refit of his Sea Ray because he was constantly helping others. Nicknamed "The Doctor," DeVries has fixed everything for friends and family, including Lisa DeVries' car on more than one occasion. And, she wrote, he was the father of three sons who were currently in the military. One son, Adam, 24, was in Iraq for his second tour, and the two others - Nick and Jeremy, 25 - were scheduled to ship out in spring 2011.

The contest was a close one, with about 40 entrants who could have won. Roger DeVries and his family were selected, but that's just the beginning of the story. In snowballing fashion, marine businesses jumped aboard with Action Water Sports and helped turn the $10,000 refit into a nearly $29,000 overhaul.

"It looks like they stripped that thing down to nothing and rebuilt it," says Roger DeVries, who had traded a 13-foot aluminum boat with a 30-hp Johnson for the Sea Ray. "It looks like a brand-new boat. I'm just delighted."

DeVries didn't know he had won the contest - or even that he was an entrant - until the day his name was called in February at the Grand Rapids (Mich.) Boat Show. The rest of the family had been told just after Christmas, and for nearly two months the DeVries clan kept it a secret.

N27.BEFORELuckily, the boat was in storage in a barn at a friend's home, so the family had no problem hauling it to the dealer (other than the threat of the trailer falling apart) so the work could be done. And because it was winter, DeVries had no reason to go to the barn to check on his boat.

N27.AFTER"There were a couple times when we almost spilled the beans because we just wanted to talk to him about it," says daughter-in-law DeVries. "We kept forgetting it was a secret."

Lisa and Nick DeVries invited friends and family to the boat show to see the made-over Sea Ray - and the father's reaction. In fact, DeVries wondered why he kept bumping into so many friends and acquaintances at the show. "I was just blown away," he says. "I had no idea that they had taken it and they redid just about everything."

The project took on a life of its own when Action Water Sports and Tim Danner from Land 'N' Sea Distributing began calling parts suppliers and asking them to donate products for the cause.

"When I called, I figured I would be talking 15 to 20 minutes to pitch this and end up with a small donation," says Danner, a former MerCruiser certified technician who helped install the engine components. "But two or three minutes into the conversation, they said, 'Yeah, we think this is a great idea. Whatever you need, let us know and we're on board.' It just built momentum."

N28.DEVRIES.CLANComing up with the new trailer was a product of teamwork. "We did not expect to supply a new trailer with this boat," Action Water Sports manager Jerry Brouwer says. "I called Phoenix Trailers and explained it to them. They called their suppliers - the paint supplier, steel, lighting, the tongue jack, the winch. And then suddenly we had a lot of people supporting one cause. We just went to the people in the marine industry that we do business with on a regular basis and asked for help. And they responded - big time."

The helping hands that pitched in

The work and donated products on Roger DeVries' "new" Sea Ray includes:

  • Action Water Sports of Hudsonville, Mich., (www.actionwater.com) restored the gelcoat new and installed new electronics, engine components and hardware.
  • Nautical Needle of Holland, Mich., (www.thenauticalneedle.us) took care of the interior, refitting the seats and the gunwale panels with new upholstery. The engine box also was redone, with the Army's insignia sewn into the upholstery. The helm seat was also upholstered with an Army insignia.
  • Under the engine box, the distributor, fuel pump, starter and alternator were replaced. The drive received a new water pump, gimbal, U-joints, bellows and shift shaft. All parts were supplied by Sierra (www.sierramarine.com).
  • Teleflex donated a rotary steering system, new engine controls and shift cables, and new gauges (www.teleflexmarine.com).
  • From Seachoice (www.seachoice.com) came new cleats, rail fittings, a battery switch, switch panel, breakers, miscellaneous other switches, battery boxes, steering wheel and windshield wiper motors.
  • A Humminbird 798c SI chart plotter/fishfinder with side sonar and a battery charger arrived courtesy of Johnson Outdoors (www.johnsonoutdoors.com, www.humminbird.com).
  • Fusion Electronics (www.fusioncaraudio.com) gave the boat an iPod-ready stereo and four speakers.
  • Johnson Pump supplied bilge and aerator pumps (www.johnson-pump.com).
  • Norcross Marine (www.norcrossmarine.com) sent a numeric digital depth finder.
  • Turning Point Propellers (www.turningpointpropellers.com) sent a new prop.
  • Garelick (www.garelick.com) supplied a bracket for an auxiliary motor, a pedestal base for the driver's seat and a swim platform.
  • Taylor Marine (www.taylormarine.com) donated a Bimini top, fenders and an American flag kit.
  • A custom trailer was provided by Phoenix Trailers of Ellsworth, Mich., (www.phoenixtrail.com) and many of its parts suppliers.
  • New rubrail and deck carpet from MasterCraft (www.mastercraft.com).
  • Murray Lake Marina supplied a surplus distributor and hydraulic ram assembly (www.murraylakemarina.com).
  • Land 'N' Sea Distributing (www.landnsea.com) oversaw and distributed the products.

Action Water Sports, a dealer for Cobalt, MasterCraft and JC Pontoon, held the contest to generate publicity for the business and to show how boating gets family members together, Brouwer says.

DeVries is a lifetime boater and has enjoyed sailing and powerboating. "I have always liked sailing," he says. "I have had a few sailboats, just daysailers. I grew up on the water with my parents, water skiing and fishing."

Before he went into the Army, DeVries nearly restored a 12-foot wooden Switzer Craft racing boat with a 30-hp Mercury. "When I came home, the boat had dry-rotted from the inside out, so it wound up on a bonfire," he says. "That baby would fly."

The Sea Ray flies faster - about 43 mph, according to its proud owner. "It runs beautifully," DeVries says. "The compression is right up there. The power curve is excellent. I have towed people tubing and wakeboarding, and you can't even tell they're back there. Lately, I've been taking it out probably three or four times a week. I've gotten a lot of compliments on just the look of the boat. I'm real happy."

He'll be even happier when all three sons are home safe. He looks forward to taking them for a boat ride. "Yeah, I'm really looking forward to all of this being done so we can be a family again," he says, "all together again."

This article originally appeared in the September 2010 issue.

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