Mark Sauer – The St. Paul Shipwrights

by Steve Merjanian

This is the fourth in a series that highlights the professional restorers who are also members of BSLOL. We are defining a professional as an individual who earns his/her living by restoring boats. We don’t endorse any individual, however we will attempt to factually record some of their accomplishments.

As a youngster, Mark’s family had Chris Craft cruisers in Lake City. It was at this early age that Mark learned the skills of small craft maintenance.

In 1967 the Sauer family acquired a lake cottage that came with a 1951 Chris Craft 19’ Holiday. Now springtime varnishing became a yearly ritual. In time his interest in working on wooden boats grew into a business.

He worked out of a heated barn on an estate that overlooked the St. Croix River. His rent to the owner was nominal in exchange for taking care of the estate property. It was during this time that Mark expanded his knowledge by reading the works of Herreshoff, Alden, Stewart, MacIntosh and others.

During the 1980s he made his living fixing sailboats and power craft. He came to the realization that he wanted to improve his skills to the next level. In 1990 Mark enrolled in the Northwest School of Boat Building in Port Townsend, WA. After more than a year of study, he could now build wooden boats and more importantly work on existing craft with intimate knowledge of their construction. He likes to check his work with his peers, do the lines and offsets for a design drawing and then, taking this information, build a half hull model. He then lofts the boat (expanding the design to full size drawings) and builds the boat piece by piece from the loft floor. This building experience helps you understand each aspect of the process along with the attendant 10,000 questions to be answered.

In 1992 he founded the St. Paul Shipwrights, and by 2003, there were two shop locations and seven employees. Two of Mark’s crew came from a boat building school, yet all of them constantly question and check each other’s work. This synergism is the modus operandi of this shop. The Watergate shop is used mainly for the large cruisers and sailboats that cannot be easily trailered. The St. Paul shop can handle boats up to thirty feet. This shop is located in an old fire station and has overhead cranes to lift and flip over boats. It is also easier to control the level of dust when varnishing and therefore, is used for the show-quality restorations. Mark estimates his shipwrights work on 15 to 20 boats per year.

1940 Garwood 25’ Overnighter, “Anna Rita” Transom view.

1940 Garwood 25’ Overnighter

1925 Hacker 26’ Dolphin

as seen at the BSLOL 2000 Rendezvous From 1998 through 2000, this boat has won six awards!

1959 Riva 26’ Tritone

Once owned by Rita Hayworth, the Riva

was the featured boat at the 2003 Minneapolis

Boat Show. In 2002, she captured four awards!

When I visited the St. Paul shop they were finishing up a beautiful 1940 Garwood 25’ Over Nighter. The scantlings on the boat had been beefed up to better handle the power of a modern V8 engine. This boat was upside down last year at the Water Gate shop during the BSLOL workshop where Mark presented the relationship of the stem, keel, and gripe. At that time the frames, stingers, keel, stem and gripe had just been brought into purchase. The new frames and bottom were 1/8 of an inch thicker to improve the hull strength. This boat is named Ann Rita and will be seen on Gull Lake this summer.

St. Paul Shipwrights has won many awards over the past few years. The 1959 Riva 26’ Tritone won four awards in 2002 and was the featured boat at the 2003 Minneapolis Boat Show. Another winner was the 1925 hacker 26’ Dolphin that won six awards from 1998 through 2000.
A 1955 Chris Craft 29’ Semi Enclosed Cruiser went through a major rebuild and then won Best of show on Lake Vermillion in 2001.

Mark is at that point in his career when he wants to give back the knowledge he has gained to the young shipwrights in his midst. He believes in solid communications with coworkers, clients and the hobbyist. His knowledge is vast and he willingly shares it as a teacher and consultant. Eventually he would like to build new wooden boats in Minnesota, besides reconstructing existing craft.

Mark’s shop is located at 643 Ohio Street,
St. Paul, MN 55107.
Phone: 651-227-7069