Mitzi Skiff Defective Materials and Workmanship

Even though this Mitzi Skiff looks like a boat you'd love to own, the truth is disappointing!

What does this mean for you? How can it affect you? Read the letter and emails below I sent to Mitzi Skiff.

NOTE: these defects apply to 2009 and newer skiffs only -- 2008 and earlier Mitzi Skiffs built by the founder of Mitzi Skiffs are solid, well-built boats with high quality hardware. Unfortunately, after the company was sold, the workmanship and quality suffered greatly.

Dear Brad Grubbs/Rick Leonard (Mitzi Skiff),

       Slightly over three years ago, after reading angler reviews and weighing the prices, I purchased your Mitzi 17 and I'm looking forward to enjoying another season on the water.

       I have about 360 hours on this little used Mitzi skiff (for sale?) and will happily admit it is a very fun flats boat compared to many skiffs.

       Even so, note that I am writing to you about some major defects and your manufacturer warranty. About two weeks ago I was cleaning the area behind my forward hatch and noticed the bottom panel holding my battery and gas tank was flexing way too much.  (continued below)

Forward this warning to your fishing pals! 

UPDATE: I posted my grievance on the Florida Sportsman Forum and one small forum in Texas to get feedback.

In 2 weeks these 2 forums alone caught 2,338 (and growing) viewer's attention who read my post, so there appears to be much concern about Mitzi Skiff defects (or any boat manufacturer's defects for that matter).

These viewers who are posting or viewing my webpage (now totaling over 4,000) come from 33 states including FL, NC, NY, TX, CO, KS, UT, MT, OR, WA, CA, SC, TN, OH, MA, MD, DE, GA, AL, PA, DC, RI, MN, VA, IL, SD, WI, MS, NM, HI, KY, NV, AK.

They also come from 29 countries outside the U.S. including Puerto Rico, Canada, Qatar, Cayman Islands, Bahamas, Portugal, Spain, Cote D'ivoire, Ireland, Hong Kong, New Zealand, South Africa, Zambia, New Caledonia, Switzerland, Finland, Germany, Romania, Argentina, Belize, Barbados, Japan, Mexico, Poland, Tunisia, Peru, India, Isle of Man, and Australia.

UPDATE: 3 months after I created this webpage, the owner of the Mitzi Skiffs/Royal Purple sponsored boat contacted me to say he was having issues with separation of his Mitzi Skiff hull, deck, and console -- and the boat has had issues since the day he picked it up!

UPDATE: Recently, after seeing a Mitzi Skiffs ad in Coastal Angler Magazine, I asked a friend to contact them for more information about the Suzuki motor (only 20 lbs. lighter than my 90hp Yamaha) they are now rigging on the Mitzi 17. It took Mitzi Skiffs 6 days to get back to him. I'd like to believe that anyone with integrity in the boat business would follow up within a day or two. Can you imagine how long Mitzi Skiffs would take to complete their sub-level warranty work on your defective skiff?

NOTE: After hearing the stories from Mitzi Skiff owners and would be buyers over the past 18 months, my recommendation would be to buy a 2008 or 2007 Mitzi 17 for $16K or less -- problem is they are hard to find.


(Brad Grubbs letter continued)

       On further inspection, I saw that on each of the bottom corners of the hatch opening there were two large cracks.

       I pushed down on this panel and it flexed from one side of the boat to the other side, with the cracks making it even weaker. Then I ran my fingers along the lower underside of the inside hatch panel and realized there was no bonding adhesive or fiberglass in place to strengthen this load area.

       I then followed this line of the weakened panel to the outside (port side) of the hull to where it meets the chine and noticed there were stress cracks in the gel coat. I continued to follow these stress cracks along the side and bottom of the hull forward to the bow and aft to the stern. The cracks ran over 100 inches along the chine area and at places up to eight inches high on the hull.

       My next step was to check the starboard side of the hull, and I found the same problem. I was trying to think what could have caused this problem, then remembered when I first began using my boat shortly after my ten hour Yamaha break in period I had noticed a "squeaking" in the hull at slow to medium cruising speeds when there was a small chop.

       This discovery led me to begin checking the insert of the boat as I had recently reattached a forward rod holder that came unglued (this is the fourth rod holder that has come unglued) and noticed under the side carpet that the floorboard insert lip section flexed in and out.

       After mulling over this flexing problem for a few seconds, I began pushing in on this side lip from the floor panel and noticed it flexed in and out nearly the full length of the cockpit on each side of the boat. When I pushed down on the floorboard along the right and left sides of the cockpit they also flexed -- in an up and down direction. I then pulled back a large area of carpet and inspected where the floor panel and hull should be attached.

       What I saw gave me the answer to why I heard the hull squeaking and creaking nearly three years ago, and why I had these gel coat stress cracks, and gas tank compartment cracks. The whole length of this section (both sides, where the floorboard was supposed to attach to the hull) had separated from the hull. The bonding adhesive you used was still attached to the hull, but completely free from the floorboard insert. (You will receive a picture and video by email within the next two days.)

       My next step was to take the boat in for an inspection. The first person I took the boat to said he could fix the surface and cosmetic issues. But, he could not guarantee the structural integrity of the boat since the insert had separated from the hull, and this may have caused more severe issues. It did not make much sense to do an unsafe, half-assed repair job.

       He was also concerned about the excessive flex in the hull sideboards and also the bottom and asked me if there was foam under the cockpit floor. I told him there was supposed to be foam in that area but doubted my own words after witnessing the excessive sideboard and hull bottom flexing.

       The second person I took the boat to did not want to work on the boat either, saying the issues were major and I needed to talk with the manufacturer about a warranty. Oh, before I forget, there is also a spider crack running over a foot in diameter in the forward cockpit floorboard.

       After talking with these two boat companies (who have been in the boat business over 30 years each), they both agreed the reason for the hull and insert separation was most likely due to a failure to properly clean the wax and dust off the insert after it was removed from the mold, or using the wrong adhesive bond, or both. Considering that you were 2 years new in the skiff business when I purchased my boat, I can understand how this kind of mistake would happen.

       So here we are at this point and I am now asking you to suggest a next step. Just so you are aware, I read your 5 year warranty program regarding gel coat, spider cracks, etc. and my issue is clearly focused on your defective manufacturing practice (defects in material and workmanship) in 2009 that caused these separation and cracking problems.

       Please get back to me within 7 days at Lee@ReeledIn.net. If I don't hear from you within that time I will move forward with my next step.   Sincerely, Lee Roberts


Email Exchange #1 (3-12-13):

(Mitzi Skiff)

In a message dated 3/12/2013 11:13:04 A.M. Eastern Daylight Time, magaent123@hotmail.com writes:

Hi Lee

Glad you have enjoyed your boat so far. Sorry you are having trouble now. In your letter you did not include the HIN#. Have you contacted your selling dealer? Or do you prefer to work direct with us at the factory? Please call Rick or Brad at 252-235-2461. Let's see if we can get you back on the water. Thanks Brad


Thanks for your reply. I prefer to work with the factory and correspond with you by email. The HIN is below as are the pics I promised you. The video is attached. Lee


Note - the above number may have zeros instead of the letter O and the number 1 instead of a capital "I". See pics at bottom of email.

Email Exchange #2 (3-13-13):

(Mitzi Skiff)

In a message dated 3/13/2013 12:48:08 P.M. Eastern Daylight Time, magaent123@hotmail.com writes:

With you wanting to work direct instead of through your selling dealer, I need a couple of pics of the HIN # and of the mtr VIN#. Not all of this is going to happen by email. I need your contact phone# also. Thanks Brad


Below are the pics you requested - since the motor VIN pic is blurry, see info below:

Yamaha F90 TLR
61 P L 1036577

Email Exchange #3 (3-14-13):

(Mitzi Skiff)

In a message dated 3/14/2013 12:04:42 P.M. Eastern Daylight Time, megaent123@hotmail.com writes:

Lee, are you aware that you have overpowered/overloaded this boat by nearly 30%. This is for sure an unsafe condition and could be possibly criminal in some states. Brad


Brad, this is quite a strong claim you are making considering the following:

1. The U.S. Coast Guard allows a motor up to 98 hp for this size beam and length boat according to their formula (do the math). When I had the boat rigged, I took this into account.

2. In the past, when doing my research on skiffs, a Mitzi dealer much north of Sarasota offered a Yamaha 90 hp 2 stroke motor for the Mitzi 17. Plus, I met an angler here in Sarasota with a Mitzi 17 tunnel and a 90 hp 2 stroke - no problems other than this 90 hp 2 stroke is noisy and gets poor gas mileage.

3. Each of the boat shops I mentioned earlier in my letter agreed that the hull and insert defects were not caused by the bigger motor, but rather poor materials and workmanship.

4. As I mentioned in my first letter to you, I noticed the hull squeaking/creaking kind of noise shortly after I put the boat in the water 3 seasons ago, so the bigger motor is a non issue.

5. I did some checking on my HIN (CFP CC001 A010) and learned they must be permanently affixed or the boat manufacturer could be libel. My HIN is not permanently affixed as you can see by the photo I sent you earlier, rather it's just a very thin piece of aluminum riveted on to the transom. My understanding is the HIN should be made with an embossing tool and then embedded into the resin to make it permanent.

As you know, the first 3 letters (CFP) are for the manufacturer code (Custom Fiberglass Products), the next 5 numbers include the hull serial number and should not be alphanumeric. Since you have CC001, it appears that your code represents a center console skiff that was the first one you made. The last part of the HIN becomes alphanumeric and is A010 which stands for January (A) and was registered by the manufacturer in 2010 (which is correct since this is about when I bought the center console boat).

Now, I just ran this HIN number on the U.S. Coast Guard website and it returned "no results". This discrepancy leaves me in doubt...

So, Brad, let's get back on track and focus on the heart of this matter i.e. your faulty materials and workmanship and what next steps we are going to take.
Sincerely, Lee Roberts

Email Exchange #4 (3-19-13):

(Mitzi Skiff)

In a message dated 3/18/2013 12:55:43 P.M. Eastern Daylight Time, megaent123@hotmail.com writes:


The US Coast Guard Maximum Capacities plate for a Mitzi 17 list the max hp as 70hp. Anything over that is over powered/ over loaded. Over powering is not a practice that the manufacturer can authorize or condone. There are simply too many liability possibilities involved with that practice. By over powering the boat, you have assumed those liabilities. We cannot repair or authorize repair of any boat that is over powered. We stand behind our products and want to help you with yours. If you will correct the over powered condition; I will repair your boat at the factory. Brad



Your response regarding the 70 hp scenario leaves me somewhat baffled since you say you cannot authorize or condone overpowering. When I was researching the purchase of my Mitzi 17, your dealer in Texas listed a Mitzi 17 with a 75 hp Etec. If my memory serves me correctly, the Royal Purple Mitzi 17 you sponsor(ed) also has a 75 hp Etec. Plus, the USCG maximum capacities plate from Grubbs Marine Services you gave me lists a 75 hp motor.

But, that's all neither here nor there...

Since you offered to fix the defective materials and workmanship if I repower my Mitzi 17 with a smaller motor, that takes me to my next step.

Let me give you a brief history about my less than satisfactory association with Mitzi Skiff. Below is a letter I sent to Rick Leonard shortly after I took possession of my Mitzi 17:

CONTINUED: click here