RED WING -- Anyone who has passed by Vogel Harbor recently can’t help but notice the 65-foot long, four-level Skipperliner boat docked there.
The boat, called the Joyful Noise, is owned by Peter and Michele Borne, and is the centerpiece of their Unlocked Mission project which has a website at unlockedmission.com. They plan to turn the boat into the only floating music studio in the United States.
“We want to unlock potential in the music and arts,” Peter said. “I am a music producer and do video work, as well. Michele is the educator. We are a one-two punch.”
The Bornes’ dream is to restore the boat, set it up for musical performances and recording, and then teach classes, play music, and record artists in locations up and down the Mississippi River and its tributaries.
“We all have our life’s journey,” Peter said. “Everything I’ve done has kind of brought me to this moment. I did radio in the city on KQRS. I was a producer, so I did commercial work. That turned into video work for commercials, which turned into my other passion which is tinkering with cars. I wanted the Batmobile. This is just a bigger version of the Batmobile. It is so quirky, so odd, so unique.”
The boat was built in 2000 by Skipperliner in La Crosse, Wis. It went through several owners, and eventually went back to the Skipperliner yard in 2013 where it was essentially abandoned. It sat on land there in disrepair until the Bornes discovered it and bought it in 2019.
While the Bornes’ children were growing up, the family spent a dozen summers boating in Red Wing. In the winters, they stored their boat with Regelman’s in Bay City. Last year, when it came time to launch the boat in La Crosse, Peter learned that the only transport company with equipment large enough to move the Joyful Noise was Regelman’s. They brought jacks, lifted the boat, and moved it into the water.
Electricians and mechanics showed up to help them get the mechanical systems running, and when the boat was ready for the river, Peter and several of his musician friends played for the marina staff.
“We did a thank you show for the marina in La Crosse,” Peter said. “At the end, I said, ‘Mic drop and anchor up.’”
The next day the boat left and traveled to Red Wing the weekend of June 13. Peter and Michele had enjoyed their summers boating in Red Wing, so it is their first choice as a homeport for the Joyful Noise. They have been meeting with city officials, foundations, and local craftsmen to find the help they need to get the boat totally ready for its new purpose.
“We are working with people who have time, talent, or treasures,” Peter said. “Some are foundation people. Some are from the city and want to see how we can benefit the city, with a youth program especially, but beyond that to the community at large. This is basically a large, floating classroom. It has the capability to be converted for all kinds of things.”
As part of his research into this project, Peter searched the internet for other people who had made music studios on boats. He found a boat called the Astoria, which is owned by David Gilmour of Pink Floyd and is docked in the Thames River.
“We decided to make contact with him and his team,” Peter said. “We got a call back inviting us to come and visit, so last July, we did.”
They flew to London and talked with Nick Whittaker, the man who built the boat for Gilmour, and he listened to the Bornes talk about their boat. Then he started making suggestions.
“He was saying we can do this and we can do that,” Michele said. “Very soon it was all three of us in on this together.”
Whittaker then arranged for the Bornes to tour a boat called the Grand Cru, owned by Pete Townsend of the Who.
“All the people we tell about this are intrigued,” Peter said. “They know what it takes to run a boat on the water in that world, but they are also intrigued by the idea of the Mississippi.”
Peter and Michele hope that with some help from the community and people of Red Wing that they can have their boat ready for full programming by the spring of 2021.
“Imagine what a weeklong program would look like through a YMCA, churches, or community organizations,” Peter said. “We would start the week learning about songwriting and work on songwriting. By Wednesday we would be recording and tracking.”
The Bornes said many people have made donations to their nonprofit organization and others have offered their skills and time to work on parts of the boat.
“We thought this story would start when we had the renovation complete,” Peter said, “but the story has already started.”