Down to the Sea On Pontoons - Part II

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In Which I Chip Crud Off the Perfect Boat

In our last installment, my neighbor Harold and I decided to buy a pontoon boat together. If you’ve never seen a pontoon boat, what we’re talking about is basically a motorized patio floating on a couple of giant aluminum cans. We had come to the conclusion that a pontoon boat might serve as the ideal platform for, among other things, the sun-drenched and leisurely consumption of alcohol.

Our story left off just after we brought our “new” boat home using a trailer we didn’t entirely know how to use, resulting in two pontoon-esque furrows all along the 37.5 miles of back roads between here and Grass Lake, MI. It was October, so instead of popping the boat right into the lake we went ahead and put it in “Dry Dock” - four cinder blocks in a big garage.

Harold was an expert woodworker, so he right tucked into making new solid oak table tops, complete with recessed drink holders, for every horizontal surface on the boat. He also knew how to fine-tune the engine, grease the lower unit, beef up the wiring, patch the carpeting, touch up the paint, and repair the stereo system.

I was able put my deep reservoir of knowledge and experience to good use as well; I slid under the boat with a paint scraper and spent the winter hacking away at the thick coat of lime and dried algae on the pontoons.

This turned out to be a pretty effective division of labor. Once Harold got the stereo working, I could crank it up and lie on my back under the boat, hacking away in time with Led Zeppelin’s “Dazed and Confused” (my personal theme song). As the weeks and months went by I became a connoisseur of the sort of background music best suited for crud-chiseling. I found that groups like AC/DC or Nine Inch Nails were too rowdy for whacking away at soft aluminum pontoons, while songs by Barry Manilow or The Eagles would generally take me anywhere from nausea to coma.

In about the middle of March, I made a few calls and ended up trading some hockey equipment and a bag of cash to an upholsterer in return for a new “Bimini Top” and “Playpen Cover.” Neither of these things is nearly as interesting (or sexy) as the names imply. A Playpen Cover is actually a huge canvas canopy that snaps over the railings to keep the sun from cooking the furniture. A Bimini is a sort of convertible top that opens up to keep the sun from cooking the boaters and the beer.

As the winter wore on and my pile of crud scrapings began to pose an avalanche hazard, it felt like Harold and I were making real progress. Finally one day in May, Harold announced that it was time for us to schedule the Scow’s christening and launch.

The trailer we had borrowed to pick up the boat was no longer available, so we decided to find a company we could hire to transport our nautical treasure from the garage to the lake. After a lot of discussion, we decided to go with someone who actually knew how to use a pontoon boat trailer. And maybe take a few notes.

A couple of days before SL (Scow Launch) Day, Harold charged up the battery and put the finishing touches on the interior. On the last night in Dry Dock I whiled away the final hours chipping crud in time with "Stairway To Heaven," along with a little upbeat Aerosmith ("Dude Looks Like A Lady") to get me through the last nasty bits.

On the morning of SL Day I tried to act like a seasoned boat-launcher guy. The previous week I had bought a new Sea Doo (which, if you've never seen one, is basically a floating crotch rocket) and I was looking for any excuse to use the new toy. So, in what we writers call "ominous foreshadowing," I gave Harold my best boat-launcher guy smile and said, "Why don't you go ahead and throw the boat in the water, while I hop on the Sea Doo and meet you over at the launch."

Next up, Part III - In Which the Perfect Boat Doesn’t Actually Sink.

Copyright © 2012, Michael Ball

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