I have been around boats since I was a kid. My grandfather, who was a boat builder had taught me a lot about the business, hoping that I would take over the business when he was he gone. I had other plans anyway.
I was not his only grandson, but I was the only one staying with me since my dad joined the army and had to be away many times in a calendar year. When I had the chance, I joined a band of singers that I was interested in music.
When I eventually returned after squandering my money to partying and picking up different ladies and spending money on them anyhow. Thankfully grandpa was still alive, and that meant I had a place to live. He treated me like the prodigal son who returned home after losing his fortunes.
I began to help him in the business and made him realize that I was interested in the business again. We built a lot of boats together and sold them, making a lot of money in the process.
One day when grandpa and I were in a pub sharing stories with other people, a man showed up dressed in a very expensive suit. He began to engage people in the pub. Most of the people there were boaters and sailors.
“I have the most wonderful pontoon boat you have ever seen,” he said. I figured he must be a salesman. He continued. “And you can have this pontoon boat for a small amount of money.”
“How much are we talking about?” Barry, one of the sailors, asked.
“Just forty thousand dollars,” the salesman said.
Most of the men whistled. It was obvious that they could not afford such a boat. I had to speak up. “You know, I can make my own pontoon boat for less than one thousand dollars.”
The man laughed and looked at me like I was crazy. “You are so funny. You must be a comedian.”
I gave him my serious look. “Does it look like I am joking?”
He stopped laughing and stared at me with an incredulous look. “That’s absolutely impossible.”
“Really?” Grandpa said. “Have you ever built a boat before?”
“Of course not, but…”
“I can bet you that the amount spends will not even be up to five hundred dollars.”
“Bradley,” Grandpa said.
“Mr. Bradley, I am ready to make that bet with you. How much should we bet?”
“How about 2000 dollars?”
“I am game.”
And that was how Grandpa bet with the guy, and they made Mr. Jenkins, the town baker as the referee. I didn’t know that Grandpa carried so much money with him. For grandpa to bet so much money on me, it meant that he put a lot of faith in my abilities. I was proud, and I vowed not to disappoint him.
I got to work and began to look for all the materials that I would need to build my pontoon boat. I got some planks of different sizes from George who owed me some favors. He didn’t know what to do with them, so I took them from his hands.
After measuring the planks, I began with the design of the deck of the boat, using braces and screws to join planks together. The calculations I had made before embarking on the boat design showed that I would need six fifty-five gallons of drum. This caused a little problem based on the budget I had made, which was exactly $500. Luckily, Mrs. Hawkins who was moving to New York to be with her family had about a ten fifty-five gallon drums to give out. I offered to pay for the gallons, but she gave them to me for free.
When the four corners of the deck were well combined, I got a barrel sitting between two by fours. I got some deck boards from some dumpsters. I got the deck boards on the deck frame and screwed them. I got the entire deck covered and left some holes for where important things could be kept, important stuff like life jackets and other things.
I combined all the gallons and set the frame on them. The sizes of the drums were part of my calculations. I got other boards and covered the entire frame and drum across their lengths. I used straps to keep everything tight.
The work was kind of exhaustive and took almost an entire day. Grandpa had to come and encourage me to continue the next morning. The next morning, I continued with the building of the boat and added all the finishing touches, putting safety and ease in mind.
I set up the engine that would drive the boat, including a gas tank.
On the third day, after beginning the building of the boat, I got it registered with the authorities. We got the boat to the river for a test run with a truck that belonged to a neighbor of ours. We invited the salesman, and many other people came to watch.
I started the boat, and with cheers, we moved it far away from shore. I stopped it when I was satisfied and then I swam for a while. I got back on the boat and moved it back to the shore.
“Is this a boat or not?” one of the sailors who were in the pub when the salesman joined us, faced the salesman and said, “Is that a boat or not?”
The salesman pointed at the boat as we loaded it on the truck bed. “That? That isn’t a boat. That…that is just something that…that…”
“That what? Come on, man, pay up. The amount spent to build this boat was just $200.”
“Are you calling us liars?”
The man had no other choice than to pay. He still had the temerity to speak. “Anyway, this is not the kind of boat I want to sell to you people. I am talking about a real boat with the cover in case of rain, a cabin in case you want to sleep, stereo for music, that kind of boat.”
“You know what dude? We like this type,” a sailor said. The others cheered and the salesman left in frustration.
Many of the sailors came to me and told me to build their boat for them. I had to tell them how lucky I was to have gotten the materials I used. They agreed to get the materials themselves and then I can build for them.