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There are lots of builders of wooden drift boats out there.
I have been emailing back and forth with some people that offer plans for the home boat builder.
One of those people, is Jason Cajune. Jason owns Montana Boatbuilders.
Jason was once a fly fishing guide himself. I asked what got him into the boat building business.
His answer was he just thought he could build a better boat than was being offered by the mass producers.
Now, it’s a full time gig. They build and sell beautiful drift boats, pre-cut assemble it yourself kits, and they offer plans for sale to wannabe boat builders like myself.
A Note And Invitation
In the last email I got from Jason, he wrote:
Ron, It’s fine if you link to our site or use quotes and photos. However, all our designs are copyright protected and so the plans are essentially a license to build one boat. As long as those are the parameters you use that is fine with me. Stop by anytime. — Jason
Sweet. I had to drive through Livingston, Montana soon. That’s where they are located. I was looking forward to meeting the man behind the boats, seeing the shop and the works in progress. I was not disappointed.
On a side note: I took a ton of photos. Very few turned out well enough to publish.
I blame it on excessive amounts of coffee during a marathon behind the wheel driving across the country. Talk about the coffee jitters! Every time I brought the viewfinder up to my eye, I could feel my pulse in my temples and just couldn’t hold the camera steady enough to get decent shots. Didn’t have a tripod with me but I did manage to capture a couple of decent images. Good thing he gave me permission to use his photos.
The Montana Boatbuilders facility is on highway 89 just a few miles south of Livingston, MT. It sits between the highway and the Yellowstone River. That highway, by the way, is the one you take to get to the North Entrance of Yellowstone National Park.
I pulled into the gravel drive and parked in front of the office. I know it was the office because there was an oar nailed to the wall into which someone had carved the word Office.
I know, sometimes my wife calls me Mr. Obvious. I think she is just jealous of my extraordinary powers of observation.
I looked in through the door. Hmm, nobody there. Then a lady’s voice asked from behind me “Are you looking for Jason?”
“Yes, I am.”
“He’s in the back shop, just go back there and go in.” the lady said as she pointed to a large metal building. Warm welcome so far.
The back shop is half finishing shop and half cut out shop. It’s where the boats begin life when the parts are cut from sheets of mahogony plywood they use for the topsides and a high strength kevlar reinforced honeycomb material for the boat bottom. They were very busy in there but Jason stopped long enough to talk with me and show me what was going on.
Here, they are in the process of cutting out the components and packing them into a crate for delivery to a customer that ordered a pre-cut boat building kit. Their kits include everything you need to build the basic boat and you can order all of the accessories from them to make your boat as customized as you would like it to be.
Then I walked through the door to the finishing shop. There were two boats in there in the final stages. This one has been treated with a protective bed liner type material you often see in pickups and is now being prepped for the next stage of painting and finish top coats.
This boat is nearly complete. They were in the process of putting the finishing touches in place and making sure everything worked properly.
Jason talked with me for a couple of minutes and he asked if I had been in the front shop yet. I had not, so he told me to go check it out as well.
From Panels To Drift Boats
The front shop is where they do the majority of the actual building process.
They put the panels together, install storage boxes and drawers, seat mounts, knee locks and everything else it takes to build a high end, custom drift boat.
As I looked around, I made a mental note to self: buy more clamps before starting my own boat building project.
The guys in this shop were busy fitting, installing, sanding, cutting, drilling and clamping everything together.
There were several boats in different stages of the build. Some were just getting started and some were not far from getting a final sanding before they would be shuffled to the back shop for finishing process. These are a few shots of what they were working on.
The guys were very cordial. They let me wander around snapping pictures. They were also happy to explain what was going on in the different stages of the different boats they were in the process of building.
Look close at all of the compartments. Notice that they are painted? Much easier to do before you get the lids and doors in place. If you are going to build a boat, that little tip will save you some headaches.
You can hover over the pictures with your pointer for the caption and you can click on them for a larger version. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a shop equipped like this? It’s not necessary to have all of this high dollar equipment to build your own drifter. A good set of basic tools, a work space, time and plenty of commitment to the project will get you by just fine.
A Great Experience
To say I was really impressed with the boats they build there would be the understatement of the year. It was awesome and I feel fortunate that Jason and the gang let me see it all up close.
Remember, Montana Boatbuilders sells completed, custom made to order boats, pre-cut kits and complete, detailed plans. On their website, you will also find a link to their boat builder’s forum where builders ask questions, share tips, photos before, during and after their builds.
Check them out. I’ll bet Jason would let you stop by yourself.
For the closing picture, here is one from their website with a big thumbs up. Can you see yourself in a Montana Boatbuilders Drift Boat?
Thank you Jason, and the whole crew. I really enjoyed stopping by Montana Boatbuilders.
Sharp Hooks and Tight Lines,
I'm a fly fishing guide in Montana. One of my greatest pleasures in life is introducing people to fly fishing — watching them catch their first fish on a fly, and watching them 'get it' when it all comes together. I love sharing what I've learned in an easy-to-understand manner.