Founded in 1974, Bay Welding Services and Bay Weld Boats has developed a reputation for building sturdy, seaworthy aluminum boats. While aluminum has its merits as marine material, it also presents a design challenge. How does a boat builder add some color and flair to shiny metal?
The solution? Add vinyl fabric.
Previously Bay Welding contracted with Alaska Sign Express at Print Works for its vinyl work. Earlier this year, Bay Welding bought computerized vinyl printing equipment from Alaska Sign Express and started a new subsidiary company, North West Signs and Vinyl. Along with the equipment came the guy to run it, Jamin Bultman, who worked at Alaska Sign for four years.
“I came with the equipment,” Bultman said.
The creation of North West Signs and Vinyl adds a third company to the Bay Welding Services corporation. It joins Bay Weld Boats and Otto Machine Works, purchased last year from Otto Kilcher to do custom machine fabrication.
Bultman, an energetic 24, is graphic designer and production manager of North West Signs. The shop is in one of the big barn-red buildings at the Bay Welding Services complex at Commerce Park on East End Road behind Alaska Coastal Freight.
“We’re excited to have Jamin on board and what new opportunities that will open up,” said Eric Engebretsen, Bay Welding Services general manager and son of founder Allen Engebretsen.
North West offers a simple service: design, printing and installation of vinyl artwork.
Using programs like Adobe Illustrator, Bultman can duplicate a company logo or create original, full-color artwork. A printer can produce and cut out art up to 62-inches wide and up to 150 yards long — the limit of the vinyl roll stock. The art can be simple as some stripes on a cabin or a boat’s name in a basic font or as elaborate as a painting. Ultraviolet-ray resistant, the vinyl has a 10-year life, longer than most marine paints.
One new trend is to wrap boats in vinyl, even below the waterline, Bultman said. The vinyl has anti-fouling properties to keep barnacles and algae from growing on a boat while it’s in the water. It also can reduce the resistance of aluminum. Boat names can be done in fonts with a shadow effect, in two or more colors.
“It looks like a paint job,” Bultman said.
Some cut vinyl in two colors would have to be carefully installed as separate pieces, but with full-color printing, North West Signs and Vinyl eliminates that step. Bultman can mock up a section of a design and do a partial print for a customer.
“They can look at it and touch it and say ‘That’s what I want,’” Bultman said.
Vinyl products also can be used inside a boat. On the floor of Bultman’s office he installed a compass rose design using a background of a Kachemak Bay marine chart. Bultman said some mariners ask for a vinyl print of charts to cover tables in boat galleys. As testament to the vinyl’s durability, the compass rose on the floor gets walked on daily and hasn’t peeled up or gotten scuffed.
North West Signs and Vinyl also can do smaller, non-boat related jobs. Bultman is married to Rachel Coe, daughter of Dan Coe of Handpainted Signs. North West prints smaller images on vinyl of Coe’s artwork that he sells at the Alaska Wildberry Saturday Market. Other products include simple, durable industrial signs as well as elaborate banners.
Bultman came to Homer to attend Alaska Bible Institute. He learned graphic design the uncollege way. “I watched lots of tutorials. I basically taught myself,” Bultman said.
He said he likes working with customers on a project he for the entire process.
“The cool thing is I am able to talk to people and see it all the way to the end,” Bultman said.
Meanwhile, Bay Weld Boats has been working at a ferocious pace, Eric Engebretsen said. Since building its 100th boat in 2013, Bay Weld Boats has now made 173 boats. Its biggest project to date is nearing completion, a 50-foot boat for the Norton Sound Economic Development Corporation. Bay Weld now has a service road that connects down the hill to Northern Enterprises Boat Yard on Kachemak Drive, with its boat lift. That means boats can be transported to tidewater and launched without taking them the long way around on East End Road.
As Bay Weld builds boats, that simple touch of durable vinyl helps identify them.
“It’s a pretty cool product,” Engebretsen said. “It’s become more of our boat brand, having the vinyl.”
Michael Armstrong can be reached at
North West Signs
A division of Bay Welding Services
owned by Allen Engebretsen
Jamin Bultman, production manager
Commerce Park (behind Alaskan Coastal Freight)
3301 East End Road
8 a.m.- 5 p.m., Monday-Friday
For more info: