Island Life: Aluminum Armada

A passion for boating & camaraderie brings friends together

Sitting in R.P. McMurphy’s early on a Friday morning talking to Court Rusu and Alex “Al” Bohl about the Aluminum Armada boat club on Grosse Ile, it’s obvious that this group is passionate about boats, water, good times, and camaraderie.

p-aluminum-armada-pic-2“When it started off we were just a group of friends,” says Rusu, original member and owner of R.P. McMurphy’s. He laughs, adding, “Most of us got boats instead of cars when we turned 16. They were aluminum fishing boats and so we’d all get together on the water in a big cluster, and eventually we started calling ourselves the Armada.”

Bohl pipes up, recalling that Islanders first dubbed the group of friends “The Turtle Cove Crew.” Not wanting that title to stick, they created their own unique name: The Aluminum Armada. “That was in 2004,” Bohl recollects. That same year, they held their first ever end-of-the-year party that was such a roaring success, they decided to add on.

Holding events like cardboard boat races, annual fishing tournaments, river cleanups, black tie affairs, a “Stage Three Run to Detroit,” and even fundraisers for organizations like Toys for Motts, this dynamic group has much to offer its members.

A very modest Rusu claims, “We’re just a group of friends who decided to organize one day,” but it’s clear that their ties run much deeper. “For the most part all the original members are still around,” he adds.

While a few have moved away, there are still roughly 100 members who join in on activities on any given day. Participants, captains, and Commodores alike are free to come and go as their calendars permit. While not everyone has a title within the Armada, there are official distinctions of Captains and Commodore. This year’s Commodore is Grosse Ile resident Pat Hancock, who, with that title, is in charge of organizing the group and planning the year’s events.

One of the most interesting events of the year is the cardboard boat races, at the mention of which Bohl is quick to point out that he is a three-time reigning champ. “I’m pretty much the best cardboard boat builder in the area,” Bohl boasts.

Rusu, laughing, explains the premise. “Your cardboard boat is made out of cardboard and duct tape. You build a boat out of those items and if your boat makes it around the buoy and back first, you win.”

Newest social member of the Armada, Joe Gruber, says the friendships he’s developed with the Armada have been unmatch­ed. Never much of a seafarer himself, the newcomer quickly realized that the passion for boating runs deep on Grosse Ile. “These guys do a really good job of being the stewards of fun and exciting boating activities in the area,” he says.

The Aluminum Armada is a welcoming group and is open to people who want to meet up, make friends, get their aluminum boats on the water, and have a good time. “We’re inclusive,” Rusu and Bohl agree, and invite readers to friend them on Facebook to find out about upcoming events.

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