Living the Lyman Life

Kurt Kresser has a passion for wooden boats.

That passion began many years ago, even before Kresser purchased his 1963 25’ Lyman Sleeper named Mourning Wake, a nod to his profession as a funeral director with Groff Funeral Home and Crematory.

The classic Lake Erie boat is celebrating its 60th anniversary season, and to commemorate this milestone, Kresser had a goal of completing a full restoration of the vessel.  

Lyman boats, according to, were crafted in Sandusky throughout the 1940s-early 1970s. Of the 60,000 vessels designed and handcrafted in the city, only 15,000 remain in existence, and Kresser plans to make sure the Mourning Wake is one of them, for a very long time.

What started as a three-year restoration ended up being a four-year project, and the culmination of this season’s launch in mid-May.

Kresser purchased the boat in early 2000 and spent the last 20+ years learning everything he needed to know to take on a project like this.  

Kresser works on his Lyman in "Bill's Barn."“I’ve always enjoyed boating and living here and I thought if I were to ever have a boat, it would have to be a Lyman,” Kresser says. “I’ve always said If you’re going to buy a motorcycle, you buy a Harley-Davidson. If you're going to own a boat, you own a Lyman.”

The first phase of the restoration involved stripping and revarnishing the transom and painting the hull, but the second phase really put his knowledge and skills to the test.  

“I’ve always taken care of the upkeep of the boat but nothing to the extent of this project,” Kresser says. “It was time for this to be done.”

To get it done, Kresser enlisted the expertise of Sandusky Bay Marine Restoration’s Pat Dietrich to do much of the woodworking to the bottom of the boat which included part of the stem, the knee, a section of the keel, and several ribs, all of which are made of white oak.  

The bottom of the boat was replaced, waterline to the waterline with marine plywood.  The 1963 Lyman is a lapstrake clinker-built boat. This construction style means that each plank overlaps the next, much like the siding on a house. The planks are fastened with bronze tack-style nails clinched over a steel block.  

The helm of Kresser's Lyman is torn out to be rebuilt.The restoration process was a tedious and time-consuming one. Kresser missed an entire boating season while the boat was in dry dock, but he knew it was necessary to get the job done right.  

After Dietrich returned the boat in bare wood condition, Kresser put “today’s technology” into it by applying two coats of Smith’s Penetrating Epoxy, four barrier coats, and finishing with two coats of Lyman Cooper Bronze.  

With this phase of the restoration complete, the Mourning Wake’s seaworthiness was ensured, and the wood was protected for many more years to come.

“I’m just taking care of it until the next person takes over for me,” Kresser says.  
To help take care of it before that time comes along, though, Kresser needed a little help from his friends: specifically, Billy Bogzevitz.

Last fall, at the close of the 2022 boating season, Kresser enlisted Bogzevitz for the final restoration phase.

Bogzevitz had the knowledge and expertise to do the job right, having restored and brought a 26’ Lyman boat back to life that probably should have gone to the burn pile.  

The pair hauled the Mourning Wake to “Bill’s Barn” in October 2022 and began a seven-month project to rewire the engine, dash, and varnish the boat.  

Everything was removed from the deck, including windows, hatches, cleats, hardware, and even the helm. Every piece was labeled, and the hardware was stored in corresponding plastic zip-top bags to ensure proper reinstallation at the finish.  

Stripping away the old varnish and preparing the wood for restoration took three and a half months.  

“I’m just taking care of it until the next person takes over for me." But when it was time to varnish, Kresser and Bogzevitz knew what they were doing. They used Lyman mahogany filler and a clear coat, and Kresser explains that when you varnish, the idea is to build a flat surface and keep building it up.

The process begins with diluting or thinning the varnish by 25% and gradually working up to full strength. This will ensure a smooth, impeccable finish. Once a coat of varnish was applied, he allowed it to dry for several days before scuffing it up with sandpaper and wiping it clean of dust particles. The scuffing ensures that the next layer will adhere properly.  

This four-step process was repeated 13 times, using the roll and tip technique, before perfection was declared. Thirteen layers of varnishing skill and tenacity resulted in a breathtaking finish on this vintage vessel. The Mourning Wake will keep its classic look for years to come.

Like with every project, nothing goes back together as it came apart, and this one was no different. Kresser diligently reattached the cleats, windows, and hatch, but somehow either there were too many screws or not enough. 

“I don’t know what the heck happened,” Kresser laughs, “but it all seemed to work out.”

The lessons learned and friendships made working on this restoration may be more valuable than the boat itself. 

“It was a good winter with my friends and people helping and learning new tricks together,” Kresser says. “All I know is we had fun and lots of laughs.”

It’s all a part of the Lyman Life.

“My dad restored old cars,” Kresser says. “I guess I restore old boats.”

As you take in a summer’s eve sunset on Lake Erie, keep your eye out for Kresser cruising the “Lyman Loop” around the coal dock. Be sure and wave: He will smile and tip his hand your way.