Made in the Northwest: Bentz Boats
LEWISTON, Idaho – Bentz Boats has been in the business of custom made, aluminum boats since 1972. But Bryan Bentz says his dad, Darrell Bentz, really got started a few years prior when he recovered a sunken log drive boat in the Clearwater River and rebuilt it.
“And really sparked my dad to have an interest in boats. And so, his first aluminum jet boat he built in 1970,” recalled Bentz.
That boat, Darrell’s Dream, is still in operation today. It’s part of the reason Bentz Boats has become known for its quality.
“50 years, we’ve got a pretty good reputation,” said Bentz.
He says their boats are sold all over the United State, Canada and beyond.
“We’ve got boats in South America, Australia, Nepal, India, worldwide.”
The company only has a dozen or so employees, who are all trained to build to custom specifications and high standards.
“It’s not about quantity here, it’s definitely quality,” said operations manager Carl Pottala. “Most of our boats are certified by the Coast Guard and so there’s a lot of standards that have to be built to for that.”
Pottala says Bentz Boats use a type of aluminum known for its strong bending movement and strong sheer strength.
“They’re all welded construction. There’s no rivet bolted together. Everything is formed, welded, fitted here on the facility.”
Each finished boat requires an enormous amount of man hours.
“A smaller boat, like a 24 foot boat from us, will have anywhere from 900 to 1,200 hours, 1,300 hours,” explained Bentz. “And a vessel like behind us has got 7,500 hours. So it can be very, very laborous.”
The boat Bentz referred to is a 68 footer for a tour company in Lake Powell on the Utah-Arizona border. It’s not only the biggest boat the company has made by length, but also by propulsion system.
“This has got three John Deere 750 horsepower diesel engines and Hamilton 364 jet units,” said Bentz.
That means even when loaded with passengers, this boat will be really fast.
But before any boat is delivered, Bentz said the company will do sea trials in the Snake River and they’ll be inspected by the Coast Guard.
“We’ll do a stability test, simulating passengers weights and movements, making sure that if a whale watching boat in Alaska that a whale comes up to one side, and everybody rushes to that side, that the boat doesn’t turn over.”
Bentz Boats recently expanded its facility to increase its production capabilities.
“This year, for example, we were able to send a 46 foot triple into the Alaskan market and also build this (68 foot) boat simultaneously,” said Bentz.
The company also hopes to increase its number of employees in the near future, as it looks forward to another 50 years in the Lewis Clark Valley.
“Just continue the legacy that’s going here,” said Pottala. “Keep building quality boats that last people lifetimes.”
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