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SkipperLiner assets go on the auction block

Assets and equipment of SkipperLiner Inc. in Wisconsin will be sold in an online auction on Tuesday.

Assets and equipment of SkipperLiner Inc. in Wisconsin — at one time the nation's largest builder of luxury houseboats and commercial passenger boats — will be sold in an online auction on Tuesday.

SkipperLiner ran aground when demand for its yachts dried up during the recession and owner Noel Jordan closed it in April 2010, according to the Post-Bulletin.

Entrepreneur Jeb Griffith tossed the company a lifeline when he bought it from Jordan six months later and operated it until he closed it again last fall.

In addition to the equipment and assets, SkipperLiner’s headquarters at 127 Marina Drive in LaCrosse is on the market for the leasing of office and warehouse space at $5 to $12 a square foot.

The auction, through Orbitbid.com, will begin at 8 a.m. Tuesday, with staggered end times, depending on the items, until 8 p.m.

The hundreds of items on the auction block range from aluminum stepladders and airless paint sprayers to Witco kitchen equipment at the starting bid of a Lincoln head, as well as a couple of vehicles. Potential deals vary from nuts and bolts to hand and power tools and a beer keg tapper/cooler.

SkipperLiner, which was established in 1971, crafted almost 1,000 boats, according to its website. Its products included large commercial dining boats, tugs, barges, water taxis, paddle-wheelers, yachts and luxury houseboats in the 40- to 120-foot classes.

Before the recession, SkipperLiner employed about 100 people, but the downturn dropped its payroll to about 30. It had 55 workers before Jordan closed it, but the number of workers when the Griffiths dropped anchor is unavailable.

"It's a sad event whenever we lose a company that employed 50 to 100 people," said Barry Blomquist, the founder of Mid-City Steel Fabricating, which was a subcontractor for SkipperLiner.

"Noel Jordan is a great guy who created a lot of jobs for a very long time," said Blomquist, who is retired after selling Mid-City in 2007 but remains active in the community, including being an Onalaska Common Council member.

"[The year] 2008 was trouble for a lot of industries," he told the paper. "The economy had as much to do with it as anything."

Although not as familiar with the Griffiths, he said, "I think they tried. I think it's too bad the economy took down the houseboat and tour boat industry. It's expendable income and the cost of fuel."

One of the final boats SkipperLiner launched was the Cal Fremling, Winona State University's $1.4 million floating classroom, which took to the Mississippi River a year ago.

Local bidders will have a bit of an edge over more far-flung deal seekers, as the lots will be available for inspection from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. today and from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Tuesday.

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