Floating An Impossible Dream

Steve Meyer and 1 more 2 Comments

A year ago no one would have believed today we would be sitting in a boat our Troop built from a fir tree and a broken golf cart. But that was before the boys began dreaming last spring…

In our Trail Life Troop, as a new program year begins, the boys gather and begin to dream about new adventures. This particular year, the boys were excited about two things: fishing and shooting guns. It seemed it would be the year of the blast and cast. Then someone tossed out the idea of building a fishing boat. Instead of dismissing the notion outright, we wrote it on the list. Soon the outlandish idea was gaining traction, and boys and adults were getting excited as a seemingly crazy suggestion slowly became a plausible plan. None of the boys had ever built a boat, and we certainly didn’t have a budget for it. What we did have was access to a sawmill at Camp Lutherhaven and plenty of trees we could mill. Perhaps we could make a rowboat.

Before we could even consider building, we had to determine rather the wood from trees available to us could work for constructing a boat. At our next Troop meeting, the boys spent a significant amount of time doing research and determined a douglas fir was our ideal tree.  The roar of a chainsaw and the smell of fresh cut fir signaled the beginning of our boat building project. In minutes a nice straight douglas fir had been dropped, and the process of milling it into strips for the hull and timbers for the frame had begun. The Troop then turned its attention to finalizing the boat style, shape, and method for building. Eventually, we decided on a 15-foot runabout that could handle a small motor. It seemed it would have to be small because we did not have a budget for anything large.

Engineering an Engine

That notion soon changed as well. Our first idea was to take an engine out of an old broken golf cart and modify it to create an inboard motor. It was then a boy suggested we just fix the golf cart, sell it, and use the money to buy a small outboard motor. That’s how our fundraising scheme began. We figured we could fix up old, non-working small engines to sell and use the money to pay for fiberglass and other boat parts. In the process, the boys could pick up their small engine repair badge and learn a thing or two about entrepreneurship. The boys put in 16 hours rebuilding a 10-hp engine on a generator to earn the small engine repair badge – and then they went on to fix a compressor, a brush hog, and a golf cart to sell on craigslist. 


Building a Boat

The boat build started in November after the wood we milled had dried.  Since the boys can’t use power saws, I framed up the majority of the shell and then hauled it to a Tuesday night Troop meeting for them to start sanding down in the parking lot. The Adventurers worked together on two additional weekends over the following months. The first weekend we sanded more on the hull and filled all the holes with wood putty to get it ready for fiberglass. The second weekend they installed all the flooring, the seats, and the oarlocks. One of the boys in the Troop is a master blacksmith, and he designed and forged the most gorgeous set of decorative oarlocks I’ve ever seen.

Once the boat was put together, we stayed up late into the night working on an old donated 5-hp outboard motor.  The parts for the gas tank and primer bulb didn’t come in, so we rigged up a funnel and a hose as an IV-drip running gas into the engine. You wouldn’t believe all the whooping and hollering that came out of that shop when that 40-year-old outboard came back to life in the middle of the night! 

We took it for a test run the next morning.  It ran flawlessly as long as the guy standing in the back holding the IV gas drip bag didn’t fall overboard. Since we researched and designed the boat ourselves instead of working off plans, we weren’t sure how it would ride in the water.  We were all pleasantly surprised at how high it floated.  I’m pretty sure we’ll be able to fit a half dozen Trailmen and at least a few hundred pounds of fish in it.  The boys can hardly wait to take it out for the spring Pike fishing season in North Idaho … as soon as the ice melts.

The final step was to give the boat a name. After much discussion, the boys decided to name to the boat, “Lots of Character s.” To clarify the play on words, the final “s” will dangle below the end of the word “Character” so that it appears to be falling off into the water. Plans are already being made for next year. The boys are eagerly discussing building a 24-foot wooden cruiser with a big ole 8 cylinder engine. Our Troop has already purchased a pair of two-man saws so the boys can fell the tree. They are hoping next year will be the year of the wake board and the water ski!!!


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