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From yard reject to eye-catching original

Mike Lavin did something that most people only dream of — he purchased the boat of his dreams for only $1.

Mike Lavin did something that most people only dream of — he purchased the boat of his dreams for only $1.

“The guys at the boatyard said that I didn’t want any part of that boat,” explains Lavin, who is 47 and of Madison, Conn. “Sure, it was rotting so bad I could put my fist through the cabin wall. So what? I saw the boat as a good project. In my eyes it was the perfect deal.”

In August 2003, Lavin bought the boat, a 1976 Luhrs Super 320 Sedan, from a Connecticut boater. The Luhrs, however, wasn’t the center console Lavin wanted, so he solved that problem. “Me and a couple buddies took a chainsaw to it,” Lavin says with a laugh. “The boat had two steering stations and a flybridge, but it doesn’t anymore. We lopped them off.”

The result, after hundreds of hours of work over the last two years, is that Lavin now owns a 32-foot, 6-inch Luhrs hull, named Magician, that’s been converted into a center console. Lavin says there aren’t any other boats like his on the water.

“I always wanted to do something like this,” he says. “The Luhrs reputation gave me the confidence that this would be a good boat to do this to. Now, I have people stopping me on the water saying things like, ‘Where can I get one of those?’ It’s great.”

Lavin, who works in sales for a disaster recovery planning company, recruited four of his best friends to help him restore his boat. They fabricated deck beams and laid a plywood deck. The men constructed the console, repainted the cockpit and deck, installed a head under the console, tuned up the original twin Chrysler 318s and rewired the boat “from top to bottom.”

Lavin estimates he spent about $6,000 in restorations, which includes his purchases of 20 PFDs, a hand-held GPS and a VHF radio.

“It’s been worth it,” Lavin says. “If I bought something like this new, or even used, it would have cost a lot more than what I’ve paid. Plus, I mean, this has really been a labor of love. The best part is that I’ve done all the work myself and that I’m doing exactly what I want with her. That’s a big part of the fun.”

During the restoration process Lavin had his share of critics. Not many people, Lavin says, believed that he could pull it off.

“I was one of those guys that told him he couldn’t do it, that it’d never work,” says John Metaxas, also of Madison. “But I was the first to admit that I was dead wrong.”

Before Lavin hauled Magician out for the winter, he enjoyed taking her out twice a week in the waters around where she’s berthed at the Cedar Island Marina in Clinton, Conn. “She might have a big open deck but she’s really set up for one guy,” says Lavin. “You pull in the lines, walk around, pick up the fenders and you’re good to go. Being out in the sunshine, in the breeze, taking in the fresh air — that’s what I like.

“Everyone asks me, with a boat like this, where I like to go fishing,” he continues. “But I’m allergic to fish, so I won’t be doing any of that. I bought this boat to go out with my buddies and my family. We’ll cruise up the [Connecticut River], go out to Long Island or maybe as far as Block Island. There’s so much space on this boat it’s like when you host an event and the tent or the hall you rent is too big. With 15 people on board this boat, it’s like nothing.”

And apparently Lavin isn’t finished working on Magician. Among other things next season Lavin wants to cut out the bulkhead and install a saltwater hot tub with a flow-jet pump. “The more I think about it the more I know this boat needs a hot tub,” Lavin says. “The heat from the engines will heat up the water. All you’ll have to do is sit back and relax.

“She’s such a unique boat,” Lavin adds. “The way I see it, the sky’s the limit.”