CASHMERE — It’s no longer seaworthy, but the 75-year-old plywood dinghy that Dan Mrachek keeps in the back of his repair shop helps keep afloat memories of his family’s three generations in the boat business.
The small wooden craft, upright against a workshop wall, was made by his father, Loren, when the elder Mrachek was only 11 years old. “Boats were a big part of his entire life,” smiled Maracheck. “And mine, too.”
Dan Mrachek, 65, owns and operates Lyle’s Boats and Motors, Inc., the watercraft experts here who’ve been repairing motors and boats for over three-quarters of a century. Every year, boating enthusiasts bring hundreds of motors for tuning and overhauls, boats for fix-ups and improvements, trailers checked for safety and thousands of general boating queries on boat performance, maintenance and destinations.
“Repairing motors and boats is our business,” he said of the three-employee shop that’s just a stone’s-throw toss from the Wenatchee River. “But the advice? Well, I give a lot of that away.”
Every year, Lyle’s also helps sell a few boats on consignment and offers some boat storage spaces.
Lyle’s has remained anchored at the center of North Central Washington’s boating industry since 1937, when Dan’s grandfather Lyle Mrachek first began selling Johnson outboard motors to local fishermen. Now, engine repairs make up about 75 to 80 percent of Lyle’s business.
The boating industry has undergone a lot of change since then, said Dan Mrachek. Major motor brands have consolidated, international companies have captured big segments of the U.S. motor market and technology for both motors and boats has evolved dramatically over the decades.
“The outboard motors we see today aren’t the motors of 20 years ago,” said Mrachek. “They’re run quieter, run cleaner and deliver more power and distance on less fuel.”
The older two-stroke carbureted outboard motors can no longer meet federal emission standards. Thankfully, said Mrachek, newer direct fuel injection technology has cut emissions while increasing fuel efficiency by about 40 percent.
“I’ve got customers who’ve replaced their older 90-horsepower outboards with newer motors. They come back and tell me they can go twice as far before fueling up,” said Mrachek. “That’s an incredible improvement — and in many cases these newer fuel injected models can blow the doors off 4-stroke engines.”
A customer’s choice of boat and the motor that powers it can vary greatly depending on how they’re used (skiing, fishing, work) and where they’re launched (lake, river, coastal waters), said Mrachek.
“The very fast, inboard ski boats have been popular in recent years,” he said. “They have big stereo systems and move like the wind. But now we’re seeing an increase in more family-type boats — pontoon boats, for instance — bought by baby boomers.”
Business slowed slightly during the recession, Mrachek noted. “But not by much. Repairs held strong as more owners fixed older motors and boats rather than buy new ones.”
Plus, he added, once someone makes that initial boat purchase, costs for boating can be relatively low from year to year. “It’s not like buying the newest, latest, most stylish skiing gear,” said Mrachek. “Buy a good boat and motor and you can be set for years.”
And his own favorite rig? Mrachek said he’s owned a lot of boats in his life — big, little, fast, slow, fishing, waterskiing — and now, after 60 years, he’s settled on one that may suit him best. “It’s simple, it’s small, I can handle it by myself, and it’s perfect for fishing,” he said of his 14-foot aluminum skiff with a 25-hp outboard.
“That’s the thing with a boat — you want it to fit right,” he said. “And this one fits me just right.”