Great Lakes Boat Building School

Meet Eric Renshaw

Meet our new instructor, Eric Renshaw

Eric Renshaw was born at Great Lakes Naval Base near Chicago, Illinois in December 1970. His family moved to Montrose, MI when he was 4 and shortly after his father purchased a new 18’ Starcraft center console fishing boat and outfitted it for fishing king salmon. Eric was hooked! Sometime during his sixth year of life, he decided to buy a subscription to Yachting magazine. He studied the plans and new boat designs, and decided that building his own boat would be great, but it might be better to fix up an old wooden boat instead since a $5 per week allowance wouldn’t go very far.

Four years later his father upgraded the Starcraft to a 25’ Sport-Craft and set up for charter fishing. Eric was chosen as crew by his father – which was quite fun, unless the bugs were thick on the lake and the wind didn’t blow! By the time he was 13, Eric would hang out around the docks and help where he could. Pretty soon the marina mechanics hired him on as a gopher (or go-for) and started teaching him about boat motors. His father, a carpenter by trade, was hired by the marina to do repairs on some of the wooden boats, which Eric helped with as well, naturally. Eric developed a passion for building and restoring wooden boats.

At age 19, Eric and his father built a Don Hill designed drift boat to use for guided river trips. Eric then decided to build another drift boat to sell – and that was the founding of Prestige Wooden Yachts. Eric’s business grew out of a 2-car garage into a 10,000 square foot shop with 7 employees over the years, and morphed into Traditional Marine Services as he expanded and adapted. The recession in 2004-2007, along with the lack of skilled labor in the trade, led him to drastically downsize to just himself and occasional hired hands in a 2,500 square foot shop. 

During those years, he built or restored almost 300 wooden boats, sail and power. Projects varied from the restoration of a 22 square meter class sailboat built in 1917 for the king of Norway to hot-moulded Deltacraft, Wagemaker Wolverines, and many Chris Craft, Gar Wood and other types of runabouts. He has built everything from cedar strip canoes to a James Wharram designed Tiki 38 schooner-rigged catamaran, including several boats of his own design. His passion for his trade caught the attention of the Associated Press, launching a series of articles in almost every major newspaper in the country, a couple of television news spots, and a fun bit on Paul Harvey’s morning commentary. 

Eric brings over 30 years of experience and a broad range of skills and knowledge to Great Lakes Boat Building School. He does not like being called an expert as he thinks there is always more to learn in any field! He is looking forward to passing his knowledge along to students as well as learning more from both fellow instructors and students.