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The Salt Lily

Susan J

It was a gorgeous day back in May of 2015 when I first saw her. My first impression was, boy is that boat ugly, and can she even be moved? There were no seats, the carpet was shot, the trailer tires were flat and this beast was parked in a backyard so small you could barely ride a bicycle in it, but all I saw was potential. I didn’t have a plan; I just knew I wanted a cheap pontoon boat that I could fix up. $300.00 was the asking price, but I always negotiate so I got her for $275.00, spent another couple hundred on an axle bearing and tires, and I was the proud owner of a 24 foot 1981 Lowe pontoon boat.


I started stripping it the next day and got it cleaned up. Then, I waited. It seemed like forever, but in fact it was only a couple of months. Finally, my income tax check came in and I had something to work with. During the months spent waiting for money I started planning, researching, pricing, and looking at other pontoon boats on Google to get ideas. I wanted something different, something eye-catching; a real head turner. The pontoons were painted already with good quality paint so repainting seemed to be the cheapest and smartest option. Three coats of black paint went on them and then the plywood. When I ordered the marine grade plywood I didn’t account for the cabinet idea I had for the back. I was a half sheet short. That turned out to be one of the best mistakes I made and led me to decide on going with a solid wood front. The solid wood is all reclaimed heart pine wood that came from an old house and old tobacco barn that we tore down on our property. I started to work on the rear cabinet. Actually, it is two separate cabinets. I built it that way to account for flexing. The rear cabinet was designed to hold the batteries, the fuel tank and a few other odds and ends. The top was the hardest thing to engineer. It needed to open from the front, the back and be strong enough to support a full-sized man. After much contemplation, I came up with a design with three different sections. I hinged the two outside sections on the back while connecting the center section to the two outside sections in the front with a metal rod. By doing that it gave me access to the motor while in the water.

Enough about that, it’s time to glue the carpet down, install the solid wood front and order the seats, console, wire, gauges, lights, under seat lights, cup holder lights, under water lights, running lights…did I mention lights? I wanted to have almost everything on hand before I went much further. I had never done this before so I wanted to be able to set everything in place before putting any holes in the floor. I double checked everything measuring and re-measuring…and sometimes just staring at it lost in thought. The seats were in place, then the console and then it was time to start running wires. And when I say wires I mean wires. I’m now wondering if all these lights were such a good idea or not. I pushed through it and every time a light was wired I had to check it. Every time I completed wiring something I got excited knowing I was a little closer to the end.


It really started to take shape. The rails were the only thing left to work on. I used the existing rails, but that wasn’t easy. There were smudges of paint on them I had to clean off with a sanding wheel on a grinder. I then etched primer and painted with a base clear coat of automotive paint. I then ordered the new aluminum paneling siding and the graphics for the rails and installed. The motor is an 85 Force Outboard that needed a paint job so I painted that to match the rails. It came from a 1986 Bayliner that was too far gone to restore, but after a tune up she purred like a kitten. Now the boat was complete, although topless, and was ready to be put in the water…so I did just that. I did a couple small test runs with it before I decided she was ready for the big trip.

The big trip? you may ask. Every year a friend and I plan a trip. This particular year, we wanted to go down the mighty Cape Fear River from Fayetteville, NC, pass thru three lock and dams to Carolina Beach. We weren’t in any rush and cruising around 8mph, it took us three days. I did realize something very important that trip and that’s the need for a canopy. I wanted something good, no something better than good, something great and that’s why I’m here. I found it. The smooth black design of the frame meant I didn’t have to paint it and the effortless push of a switch to open is awesome. It’s a true finishing touch to a truly unique boat!


Watch the you tube video from start to finish before the top addition here:

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