Late in the last century, I was making the rounds of Minnesota boat builders, a trip that included stops at Lund and Crestliner. In New York Mills, Minn., I got a tour of the Lund manufacturing facility, my first visit to a plant that makes riveted aluminum boats. If you’ve never been, the sound is deafening; a constant pound, pound, pounding of riveting machines.
In the midst of the tour, the Lund rep took pains to point out all the advantages of riveted construction over welded aluminum construction. Welding, he said, can ruin the temper of the aluminum and weaken it. And welds can crack or break, and when that happens good luck finding a welder who can do a good job fixing it. Rivets, on the other hand, are easy to replace and in a pinch you can plug leaking rivets with epoxy. Lund has repaired many of its boats after they were run on rocks and suffered significant damage. “And did you ever notice how they build jet airplanes?” he said in summary. “Rivets.”
The very next day I was 60 miles down the road in Little Falls, touring the Crestliner facility, where all the boats are welded. No pounding here, just the hissing and snapping and bright light of dozens of welding stations. And as we walked through the plant, the Crestliner host took pains to point out all of the advantages of welded construction. It’s stronger, and when done correctly by pros like the Crestliner welders, does not weaken the metal. It’s more attractive – who would want to look at a boat with all those ugly rivet heads? Over time, rivets get loose and leak. Hit a rock, and welded boat will just get a dent. The Lund might blow out a dozen rivets! “And think about this,” he said in summary, “Why would you take a perfectly good piece of aluminum, drill it full of hundreds of holes, and then expect it to float?”
So when I was back in New York Mills last October to visit the facility where both Crestliner and Lund boats are now made (see Crestliner and Lund: Minnesota Nice), I asked if it was difficult mixing the two cultures, welded versus riveted, after all these years. I even gave each brand a chance to bash the other guy’s construction. And they would not take the bait. Nothing but love.
What happened is that in 2004, Lund and Crestliner were sold by Genmar Corporation to the Brunswick Boat Group. Genmar used to let its boat brands operate as autonomous businesses, so Lund would pick on Crestliner, Larson would roll it eyes at Glastron, and it was all OK. At Brunswick, criticizing sister brands is apparently bad form.
However, the other night I found a one-page flyer on the Crestliner website, with the headline “The US Navy Builds Ships with All-Welded Construction…So Does Crestliner.” And then in the fine print, bashes riveted boats. I’m glad the sibling rivalry is still going strong.