By Cal Martell, member of the Glacier Lakes Chapter.

It is a 1960 14′ Tomahawk Ski-Mate.

I’ve been rebuilding classic fiberglass and wood boats for 32 years. Some to keep, some with the intention of resale. Thirty-two times I’ve told myself, I’ll never rebuild another classic boat and thirty-two times I have lied to myself. Every boat was “the last one” and then the disease sets back in. I would search for another project. Most of the boats were salvaged from a local charity website and others were found on Craigslist.

This Tomahawk was stacked, trailer et al on top of two other trailers, bunk bed style, and filled with every piece of junk available, all in a commercial storage locker. I made the owner a reasonable offer if he would pick it off the pile, inflate the trailer tires, and take the junk out. No title, but a bill of sale and a registration number on the hull. The purchase was made with the original Balko trailer, no motor, no interior, but it did have a windshield and Fins!

I’ve restored worse basket cases so this one would be a piece of cake. I started out by actually using the trailer to bring it home, praying all the way with fingers crossed that the tires and bearings would hold out…success, fair winds were behind me.

After getting it home, a complete inventory of the boat only took one minute. Good brightwork, good cable steering system and good windshield. That’s it. I used a high pressure hose to get all the gunk out, removed the windshield, brightwork, and steering system. Using two skyhooks, I flipped the boat over onto several small dollies and the work began.

I sanded the hull, repaired dock and rock scrapes, then primed and painted. Next, I flipped it right side up and filled all the holes in the dash and seat backs. This procedure is a repeat of everything I have done for 32 years, so the process is second nature. I create a punch list and check off the jobs as they are done.

I do not farm anything out. I do all my own painting, fabricating, seat building, and upholstery using inexpensive tools on hand. The boat did have a 15″ short shaft transom. I found an older tri-hull on-line that was junk but had a running older motor with low hours but required a 20″ transom. Again, not a problem, been there done that. I added 5″ to the transom by inserting 1/2″ rebar through the new addition and older solid transom, filling and fairing.

I finished patching and filling scrapes, etc. on the hull then primed and painted. I have to confess, this is the first boat that I painted completely with the roll and tip technique. Five coats of Rustoleum gloss white with a chemical hardener and lots of sanding and buffing created a nice gloss finish. I put all the brightwork back on, buffed the windshield and started making patterns for the seat backs. I upholstered the seats with marine vinyl over 2″ marine foam. I replaced the old cable/pulley steering with a single push pull to connect to the 1978 Evinrude 70hp.

The boat has not been in the water yet. As I write this story, 12″ of snow is falling.


  1. Great work and a beautiful boat. I am considering buying a 1960 Tomahawk Ski Mate that was restored by a man who didn’t appreciate keeping it original. I like the boat but have concerns. Since you have so much experience restoring boats, I would appreciate your advice. First, if you were to sell your boat, could you tell me the approximate value? This one does not have bright work, original guages or steering wheel. It has a unknown year 25 hp Mercury. I can send photos but don’t think I can do in this reply.
    [email protected]

  2. I have a 1959 Spirit that I redid several years ago. Enough wired things had been done by the previous owner that a restoration was impractical, but it makes a nice “daily ride”. Enjoy

  3. Cal,

    Great project – and I understand your passion/disease

    I am buying a 1960 or so Tomahawk I found in Three Lakes, Last registered in 1978 with a Merc 500. Boat in excellent shape. Not sure of the model, fins are less pronounced and seatbacks are not molded into the gunwales. can’t really identify even using the Fiberglassics site. Looks kinda like a Skimate

    How did you retitle the boat? I’m in Wisconsin

    • Hi John, I grew up next door to the Tomahawk Boat factory owner in Tomahawk on the Wisconsin river. If the forward part of the fins on the boat are less pronounced than shown on a pic of the Ski Mate, you likely are looking at a Spirit of Tomahawk model. It was a popular boat that preceded the Ski Mate.

  4. I have my original Tomahawk a 1958 that has lord knows how many hours pulling water skies in my youth. I do not know if I will ever restore it or the Scott 40 but your article gives me some momentum in that direction. They are good handling boats, well made and ask little in return for the pleasure they provide. A 70 horse power engine may be a little exciting on the water.

  5. Great work and a nice boat. I am also considering buying something like this. Are there any suggestion about decorate a boat to look more cosy?
    Thank you and have a lovely day!

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