Materials for the boat

When Big Boat Man was in his early twenties, he designed and built the house which sits on the property where the boat is being built.

Of course being a young couple with two children, he and his first wife had no money.  They took advantage of a government loan scheme at low interest.  They applied for $18k to build their house.  But then they set about finding materials which were either cheap or free.

There was an old building on Aotea Quay which had housed the headquarters for US troops in WWII.  In the Sixties this was being demolished and word went out that anyone could have the materials if they arranged their own transport.  Well, the beams were huge, thick, heavy, and very few people had the means for toting the stuff away.

BBM did a deal and managed to have enough wood taken up to the property that most of the house was built for a pittance in material costs.  In fact, there was wood left over.

So, some 45 years later when he decided to build the current boat, he still had some large beams behind the shed.  Mind you, they were not the usual kind of wood for building boats, but from his research he knew how to water proof them with linseed oil and other products like the old mariners. (Think ‘toxic’)

Before I go on – the house that stands on the property was also built for next to nothing in labour costs because friends pitched in.  So, from the original loan, $6 k was available to build a boat for diving around Kapiti Island. Of course, that boat took far fewer skills than the one being built now, and was off commercial plans.

So, the wood on this boat in the picture matches the beams in the house on the property where it resides.

The house itself is unique. There is none other like it.  Originally, because the children were young, it had only two doors in the entire house (front and back external).  BBM explains this was because doors were expensive and the children were too young to care about doors.

So, the en suite upstairs is a walk-in wet room.  The downstairs bathroom has a spa tub with shower heads either side.  One wall of it has glass sliding windows to a private garden area, so no curtains or anything required.

The house originally was open from the second floor to the ground floor with the master bedroom and mezzanine area overlooking the lower living areas.  When the children became teenagers and wanted a pool table…..half the mezzanine area was closed off to form a games room.  A loft was added above the pool table in the pitch of the roof for additional sleeping quarters.

The house also has attached sauna and pool.  These days the pool has been partially filled in and boasts huge gold fish and the odd frog.  Large water lilies and ferns finish the scene by the front walkway.

Many years later, when his first wife became an invalid, BBM modified the house again by installing the first domestic hydraulic lift system with three levels.  Complete with a water housing and pump beside the original swimming pool, it is mentioned in some teaching materials. (Not that we would have known this, if it hadn’t been for the husband of a friend who became very animated and started telling us how he had read about the lift installation when he was studying.)

This in turn reminds me of our young Chinese friend when he was studying.  He was in his final year of a building science degree.  By this time he was living in our flat out back.  He came into the kitchen after staying up all night to complete a final Project.  He proudly showed me the insert he had drawn in the middle of a page of building plans – a highlight cross section of what he declared to be a ‘stut’.  I asked, do you mean a ‘stud’?  Could be, he answered, I’ve never  met one in person!

So I took him out to the garage where I knew building materials were exposed.  I pointed out the studs, and he excitedly started naming all the other materials he could see.  So, we decided it was our duty to arrange some practical experience for him in the building industry.  BBM rang up a builder, explained the situation, and arranged for the young man to work full time over his two week study break.

He was excited. He was beside himself.  He had connections to get practical experience and get ahead of the other students.

Be sure to dress in layers.  Why? Because you will start getting hot as you work and you’ll want to take clothes off.

Get some steel-tipped boots. Why? Because you don’t want to lose toes when something heavy falls on your foot – and it will.  Also, you don’t want to be the only worker not allowed on the job site because of incorrect safety gear.

Take a lunch with you.  Why? Because you will need to eat for energy.  Aren’t there any shops??!  No, there are no shops near the building sight.  You need to take enough for morning tea as well.

As the two weeks wore on, he was looking droopier and droopier.  He didn’t like getting wet. Sometimes it was cold, sometimes hot. He left early in the morning and was sometimes too tired to want evening tea.

After the experience, he said nothing for a few days.  Then, he came bouncing into the kitchen to declare that he had decided to be one of those engineers who sits in an office!

And he has.  He has quickly moved up in his career because he was willing to continue learning after completing his degree.  One company asked him to take a look at some brand new design software they purchased.  He spent two weeks reading documentation and trying it out.  Then he went to his manager and said that he was ready to talk to an senior engineer or expert about some questions he had.  The manager turned to him amazed – what are you talking about?  You ARE our in-house expert now.

We like to think we played a small part in his success.


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