Why We No Longer Build Boats on Commission

The Marilyn-Jean, was commissioned by the Inland Water Route Historical Society, makes its home in Alanson, MI. It took the school 3 years to complete.

Starting in the fall of 2018 Great Lakes Boat Building School is no longer accepting requests to build boats on a commission basis.

The school has recently undergone a remarkable transformation.
The former 18-month Comprehensive Career Boat Building program, which included time off over the summer, has been pared to a 12-month year-round offering with enrollment dates in the winter, spring, summer, and fall.

“We shaped the curriculum to keep in tune with industry needs,” said Instructor Matt Edmondson (GLBBS ’14). “To be a valuable and marketable employee requires skill and knowledge in building a boat from stem to stern. The student must be a problem solver and able to apply different approaches. The industry is constantly changing and the student must learn, through experience, to be flexible and adaptable. There is no one way to anything as each boat is unique.”

That uniqueness poses challenges for an instructional staff intent on delivering a consistent educational experience to our students.


GLBBS students and friends row the Whaleboat, one of the most notable commissions, built for the Charles W Morgan out of Mystic Seaport, CT.

“A commission request would come in and we would immediately go to our curriculum and say, ‘well, this boat checks off all of these boxes’,” said Jim Biernesser, GLBBS Director of Education.  “Then, if we could agree on a timeline and price, we would need to go out and find another boat to build that took care of the remaining skills outlined in our curriculum.”

“We truly appreciate every commission we’ve been a part of over the years.  But, eliminating commissioned boats in favor of those of the appropriate design and size for learning lets our students and instructors shine,” said Biernesser.  “Students are guaranteed a consistent experience from one cohort to the next and our instructors are able realize efficiencies within the construction methods. They can really focus on the job of preparing our students for careers in the industry.”

The last commissioned boat project, the GLBBS Barrelback, is set to be finished in June of 2019.  You can learn more about the boats chosen to be built on spec as part of the new curriculum by visiting our Projects page.

For more information about purchasing a boat built by Great Lakes Boat Building School please click here to email us or call Ryan Hinnen at 906-484-1081.

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What People Say

Thank you so much for doing such a beautiful job on the
Marilyn Jean. Everyone loves her!

Wayne B., Commissioned Boat Client July 14, 2017

What Will You Build Next?