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Jerry Gilbreath
Jerry Gilbreath, owner of Gilbreath Marine Technology in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, earlier in May shows off “Jefe,” the 34-foot, ultra-custom mahogany boat he designed. The boat has won several awards at boat shows in the region. Photo by SHAWN GUST/Coeur d’Alene Press

COEUR D'ALENE, Idaho - Jerry Gilbreath swears his boat "Jefe" actually runs better than it looks.

And Gilbreath, 61, made every effort to make sure Jefe, Spanish for chief or leader, looks perfect.

"For the last 40 years I've made my living designing, building and racing offshore power boats," said Gilbreath, owner of Gilbreath Marine Technology, and a champion offshore powerboat racer. "In the back of my mind, when I retired, I always wanted to build the ultimate boat."

Gilbreath, of Coeur d'Alene, said for people who know boats, and know them well, it's the detail that's gone into building the ultra-custom runabout that awes them.

"They recognize the time that it took and the detail that we put into this boat," Gilbreath said.

The 34-foot boat was cold-molded with African mahogany and western red cedar, and is powered by twin 400-horsepower Mercury engines.

"This is truly a Coeur d'Alene-built boat," Gilbreath said. "We have wonderful craftsmen here."

The fit and finish of the wood is what stands out to wooden boat aficionados, Gilbreath said.

The boat was built by The Resort Boat Shop. Gilbreath designed it.

Tapley Cabinet Works and Mountain Upholstery, both of Coeur d'Alene, did work on the boat.

Along with mahogany and cedar, the boat also has some teak wood, mostly on the flooring. All the wood was purchased from Aagesen Millworks in Post Falls.

Gilbreath bought thousands of feet of wood to ensure the grains match.

Every detail of the boat's design and construction has received his full attention. Every part was designed and crafted only for Jefe, including the half-inch-thick safety glass windshield.

"I want someone to come in and tell me what I did wrong, because I'll change it," Gilbreath said. "I absolutely will. This is the most perfect detailed boat they've ever seen."

Which is what he set out to make.

His design of Jefe was inspired by Italian Riva boats. The interior design was inspired by luxury car maker Bentley.

He said the cost of the boat approaches $1 million.

He'll be keeping the boat at the Coeur d'Alene Resort, depending on the weather, he said.

The boat was finished one year ago this month, after two years of work, and already has 40 operating hours on it, Gilbreath said.

Since the boat was finished, it has received awards at the five boat shows in which it has been entered.

It won awards at the Coeur d'Alene Regional Wooden Boat Show, at a similar show in Sandpoint, and another at Payette Lake in McCall. He's done similarly well outside the state, at Lake Tahoe, on the California-Nevada border, and at the 2010 Desert Storm powerboat event at Lake Havasu City, Ariz.

Craig Brosenne, general manager of the Resort Boat Shop, said, "We're very fortunate that he picked our shop to build his dream boat. Having the owner so involved was fun. The outcome because of that was a better built boat."

The shop mostly builds custom wood boats.

Building using the cold-molded process takes twice as long as building a plank boat, which would require the use of plugs and screws, he said.

Gilbreath's boat has 30 coats of finish on it.

"That requires a lot of patience," he said. "The end result was a perfect boat."

The Resort Boat Shop is owned by Hagadone Corp., which also owns the Coeur d'Alene Press.

Gilbreath moved to the Coeur d'Alene area from Southern California in 1996. His boating experience, in part, included working as vice president of Fountain Powerboats Inc. for five years, and he consulted for Mercury Marine for 25 years.

"On Lake Coeur d'Alene and around the Inland Northwest, the wood boat is the classic," Gilbreath said.

He wanted to make a wooden boat because of the history here, but he chose to do so using current technology as he strove for perfection, he said.

Most wood boats on lakes here today are reconditioned and restored from the 1920s through the 1960s, he said.

"This boat is 100 percent computer generated" in terms of design, Gilbreath said.

Jefe has an aluminum small-block Chevy engine, and the aluminum makes the engine lighter and more efficient than a similarly sized steel engine.

"A typical wood boat this long would weigh about 11,000 pounds, while this boat weighs around 6,500 pounds," said Gilbreath.

The boat can reach 70 miles per hour.

"The exhaust goes through the propeller, so you can't hear the engines run at all," he said. "One of my wife's (Donna) things was, ‘We've had all these loud boats, but that's not what fits in around this area.' We want to be able to idle into a cove and not disturb the wildlife, and have a good time and enjoy nature."


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