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BoatUS Members Share Their Best Boat Makeovers

Two BoatUS Members share inspiring makeovers of their center console and sport coupe powerboats.

White center-console powerboat tied to a dock by the water with a yellow building  and other boats docked in the background

Providence, Shamrock 220 SE Center-Console

I purchased (rescued, really) a 1991 Shamrock 220 SE center-console that was bound for the trash heap. The boat was listed under "fishfinders" on Craigslist and, as it turns out, it was wasting away in a backyard just a mile from my home. This is my second Shamrock, the first was a 20-footer. Shamrocks have what I call beautiful New England, or Down East lines — that's all I saw!

My son, Tucker, and I did all of the mechanical, water, and electrical work. We farmed out the custom T-Top fabrication and marine electronics to Omni Marine, and the marine detailing (interior and exterior) to Vito's Mobile Detailing. It was a team effort to bring the newly christened Providence back to like-new condition.

Close-up of green-colored boat engine with hose, wires and some rust and corrosion visible

1991 Shamrock 220 SE Center-Console engine before renovation.

First up, we did a complete engine overhaul, followed by a thorough electrical makeover, including LED lighting. You don't see small center-consoles with inboard engines these days, but the boat came with a 302 Indmar gas engine with raw water cooling and an Edelbrock 600 CFM carburetor. I replaced the old galvanized exhaust and the stuffing box and rudder packing, and installed a new steering system and wheel, helm controls, and throttle assembly. The fuel system was completely replaced, and the aluminum tanks looked new on inspection. I replaced the thru-hull fittings, and the washdown and livewell pumps.

White with red trim center-console boat sitting on a trailer in a warehouse

1991 Shamrock 220 SE Center-Console sitting on a aluminum trailer built for an Aquasport before renovation.

The boat was sitting on a 7,500-pound aluminum trailer built for an Aquasport. This was taken down to zero and rebuilt with new bunks, hydraulic brakes, wiring, LED lighting, wheels, bearings, and tires.

Close up photo of the inside of the aft deck of a center-console powerboat under renovation

1991 Shamrock 220 SE Center-Console aft deck before renovation.

Then we took the boat over to Omni Marine for a custom T-top, swim platform, and canvas. Once the T-top was completed, Omni installed a new Simrad NSS12 EVO3 with HALO20+ Radar and a 3D imaging transducer. Knowing communications is vital, and to back up the GPS overboard feature, we added a Horizon GX2200 VHF radio with AIS/GPS collision avoidance and a Shakespeare 5226-XT 6dB antenna.

And what would a Florida boat be without rockin' tunes? We added a Fusion Apollo deck with Wi-Fi, and a 1500-watt amp, six speakers, and a 10-inch subwoofer. The detail crew showed up and, eight hours later, the fiberglass came back to life like it was brand new!

A white center-console powerboat afloat on the water

1991 Shamrock 220 SE Center-Console afloat after renovation.

I estimate the entire project, from purchase to launch, cost about $22,000. I routinely get offers significantly higher than this because it looks brand new — but we're keeping it! We take it to Islamorada, and the big flaring bow eats up the sea. We love-love-love this boat!

— Tim Fielding, Florida

Dalia, Regal 35 Sport Coupe

We bought our 2014 Regal 35 Sport Coupe new, and it's been a great boat, but two things I never loved were the dashboard's analog dials and the lack of autopilot. Thankfully, both of those projects tied together nicely.

Blue and white Regal 35 Sport Coup powerboat docked at a marina with other powerboats, sailboats and a city skyline in the background

For the autopilot, my boat came with the base MerCruiser Axius joystick steering system that turns the boat 360 degrees within its own length. Upgrading to Axius Premier added Skyhook digital anchor and autopilot. By also adding in modern Mercury VesselView onboard information management system displays for the dash, the boat would have an all-glass, digital dashboard — no more gauges!

Over the winter, I settled on a three-screen layout. To mimic the port and starboard feel of the old analog gauges, I chose two 4-inch VesselView screens on either side of a centered 7-inch VesselView display. I found a dash panel I liked on and ordered two (one for a spare, total cost $183 plus shipping). I hired a mechanic and electronics expert I trusted, Bob Fleckenstein of Basa's Marine in Chicago, and it took us about two days to get the job done.

Close-up photo of a Regal 35 Sport Coup powerboat with old analog gauges

Close-up photo of a new dash panel was outfitted with three VesselView digital screens on a Regal 35 Sports Coup powerboat

The new dash panel was outfitted with three VesselView digital screens (bottom), replacing the old analog gauges (top).

Upgrading the Axius and the dash panel involved removing the old panel held in with six Torx screws, carefully disconnecting and labeling the wiring harnesses of each gauge, positioning the inertial solid-state compass module in the cabin, and finding a convenient location for the Axius Premier keypad on the dashboard. That took about four hours. I did a lot of research on the parts and their costs, and called customer service at Mercury a few times to run my ideas past them.

As for the dash, the most delicate part was cutting the new dash panel, made from solid 3/8-inch Lexan plastic. One slip and it could crack, and I only had one spare. I bought high-end Festool blades for my jigsaw. We carefully marked the panel, then one person held it down while the other slowly cut.

As expected, there were surprises. The fit for the VesselView screens was tighter than expected, but with careful measuring and tight tolerances, we got everything snug. There was an initial concern that the panel might crack, but it never did. We also needed to buy a few additional wiring harnesses. Sadly, there were no YouTube videos that provided much help, but the dealer (Basa's Marine) and its mechanic were outstanding.

We put it to the test as soon as summer started with a family trip from Chicago to Mackinac Island — a round-trip distance of 800 miles over seven days. The autopilot is a game-changer. Some of the hops between ports were more than three hours, with the longest being a 120-mile, four-hour run from Chicago to Muskegon over open water. So having the boat drive itself (while keeping a close lookout) made the trip a lot more comfortable and also safer. The VesselView screens display real-rime fuel economy and consumption, and show exactly how many gallons of fuel remain in each tank.

And, of course, crossing Lake Michigan on autopilot is much less tiring and stressful than driving by hand. My wife commented on how much more relaxed and less stressed I am driving the boat now that it has autopilot. It was a significant cost, more than $9,000 for the whole makeover, but worth every penny. The boat looks state-of-the-art, and behaves like it, too.

— Paul Risk, Chicago

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Rich Armstrong

Senior Editor, BoatUS Magazine

A journalist by training, BoatUS Magazine Senior Editor Rich Armstrong has worked in TV news, and at several newspapers, then spent 18 years as a top editor at other boating publications. He’s built a stellar reputation in the marine industry as one of the most thorough reporters in our business. At BoatUS Magazine, Rich handles everything from boat and product innovation and late-breaking news, to compelling feature stories, boat reviews, and features on people and places. The New Jersey shore and lakes of lower New York defined Rich's childhood. But when he bought a 21-foot Four Winns deck boat and introduced his young family to the Connecticut River, his love for the world of boats flourished from there.