Curt Dzuba and sons, Jesse and Mathew
stand on the deck of a finished fire/rescue
built at Miracle Marine.
By Emery Styron
In a long, rusty, metal chicken shed northeast of Potosi, a Canadian aeronautics engineer and crew build custom all-welded aluminum-hulled fire and rescue boats that save lives on the Ohio River and fishing boats that provide safe, pleasurable transportation on Ozarks lakes and rivers.
The engineer-owner is Curtis S. Dzuba, who brought his computer-assisted manufacturing skills to Missouri nine years ago as a partner in Potosi-based Scorpion Watercraft Inc. Dzuba bought the company after one of the
partners died, and all the dust settled. The Scorpion brand still exists, but is represented in adjusted design by other current dealers. The CNC (computer-numerical-controlled) plasma cutter that Dzuba set up then is now cutting boat hulls from heavy aluminum in the former Silvey Egg Company facility on Route E, northeast of town. His company is Miracle Marine & Manufacturing, Inc.
Dzuba’s passion lies in larger jet-propelled commercial craft, but has designed and builds a sub-20 ft. outboard for the areas recreational boat dealers. But, fabricating fire/rescue and patrol craft pays the bills.
The fire and rescue boat business began during the Scorpion Watercraft days when a battalion chief from the Evansville (Indiana) Fire Department came to the plant with a napkin drawing of a boat he wanted built for himself. Dzuba designed and built one boat for him and had the local fire department put it through sea trials, with a excellent report. Evansville Station No. 3 also purchased one of the fireboats. Today, you can see it and many others like it, on duty at the annual “Thunder on the Ohio” racing event.
Miracle Marine has delivered many fireboats from New York to Wisconsin, and North Carolina and Texas. Miracle Marine averaged one such boat a month last year and expects to build six in 2009.
One model, the Water Rescue Strike Team Asset, is advertised as having the ability to maneuver 5,000 lbs. under power in 24 inches of flood water. It is ideal for doing door-to-door and structure sweeps with adequate room for crew and passengers.
The boats may be fitted with a 4,000 gallon per minute water pump for fire-fighting, a landing craft-style power front gate for equipment loading and handicapped access, and a hardened hull structure to withstand collisions and to deal with floating debris.
Miracle Marine custom produces all-welded marine hulls and subcomponents for independent original equipment manufacturers and dealers, several of which are well known to Traveler readers.
Hull and component customers include: Gator Jet Boats of Cuba, MO., Troutt and Sons, St. James MO., Shoal Runner Boats , Doolittle MO., NoMad Houseboats, Lebanon MO., and R&L Marine of Piedmont, MO. Out of area customers include: SVI Fireboats of Colorado, Firefish, Inc. of Alberta, Canada, and Carns Alaskan Marine.
Like many Ozarks businesses, Miracle Marine is a family operation. Curtis serves as chief executive officer and marine design engineer. His wife, Syleasa, keeps the books. Sons Jesse and Mathew Caron and son-in-law Randy Sholts work in the plant.
His equipment includes Autocad/Inventor 3-D CAD-CAM software, CNC posting and nesting software, an 8 ft .x 30 ft. Sabra 3000 CNC plasma cutter and marker, a 16 ft., 150-ton custom press brake and various other bending, forming and welding devices.
“Aluminum,” says Dzuba, “has no friends. It doesn’t like to be cut, formed, welded, or especially, painted.”
Painting is done in Potosi at Bohannon’s Body Shop’s heated booth with a curing oven. Upholstery is provided by Bennie Dunn, Potosi. Trailers are built at Rivercraft in Van Buren.
In addition to the 17,500 sq. ft. fabricating plant, Dzuba has a new 5,000 sq. ft. finishing operation on the acreage where he lives.
“Miracle Marine, as far as I know today, is the only all-welded aluminum boat with a 150 horsepower outboard rating and 1,100 lb. capacity that’s been tested in Maryland by the U.S. Coast Guard and has achieved a green file,” said Dzuba. “The green file means we passed our inspection on our JTS 1860 for 150 hp rating and 1100 lb. capacity placard.”
Dzuba took a JTS 1860 to the Coast Guard’s facilities in Maryland, where it was tested and passed the USCG’s level floatation requirements for outboards under 20 feet long. JTS stands for Joe Troutt Special, Troutt being one of Miracle Marine’s dealers.
Dzuba is adamant on two points about boat-building: He wants his boats to be the strongest and the safest, period.
With huge current manufacturing capabilities, he said “we need as many sales reps as possible to maintain a full crew of 12, capable of 500 hulls per year.” Fabrication responsibilities require all of his time, leaving no time for sales. He states “we cannot sell direct to the public and maintain a loyal OEM and dealer network.”
His safety focus may come from his aviation background. As an aeronaut‑
ics engineer by training, now a marine design engineer, he worked for a
company building gyroplanes in his hometown of Red Deer, Alberta, Canada. This is where he began experimenting with Mercury Marine engines. They worked well in aircraft because, at the time, they provided the most horsepower with the lightest weight of any engine on the market. The relationship with Mercury led to work for Outlaw Marine, a jet boat builder in Red Deer that sold hulls to Missouri boat dealers.
“Coming from the aircraft industry, where every nut, bolt and washer can be the basis for a lawsuit, I want to protect customers and myself” he said.
More important is the safety factor. “USCG requires a sub 20-ft. outboard powered boat to remain afloat, ‘level’ after an accident or sinking, thus greatly reducing the chance of loss of life due to drowning. I want everybody to know that just to save a buck, your commercially rated john boat will sink. It’s not worth it,” he said.
Dzuba says Missouri is awash in recreational boats labeled by dealers or vendors for commercial use because they can be sold more cheaply.
That’s a violation of the law and a risk to boaters, he said. While some purchasers believe a boat built for commercial use is more rugged and thereby safer than a recreational boat, the facts are otherwise, according to Coast Guard literature, Boats rated commercial under Coast Guard regulations do not have to comply with the federal standards set for recreational boats. Such boats can be built and sold for less money, so there’s a temptation to sell them to recreational users.
Dzuba says Miracle Marine will not be a party to that, because “we do not want to risk the customer or end users’ safety, and because it is illegal.”
Dzuba said he has worked for boat manufacturers who compete with dealers by selling boats directly to the public, but he doesn’t like to do business that way.
He’s happy running a family boat building operation and leaving the sales to dealers.