Man builds own houseboat as a hobby

Published online: Sep 03, 2009 News By Lucas McInnis
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The idea of relaxing the summer away on a houseboat is something most people will probably never get to experience, but for Chaplin Road resident Donnie Galley and his wife Marilyn, all that idea needed was a dedicated handy man and the help of the neighbourhood.

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It took Galley about three years to put his houseboat together, finishing about four years ago, complete with two cabins and a washroom.

"Everything on there is just from a junkyard, eh," the 59-year-old explained. "The window are off a building I tore down and the front window is actually a door from a restaurant and those ladders are off a friend of mine's pool and just stuff like that. And I bought a couple of old fishing boats and I took the stuff out of them."

Galley said he decided to build the boat "just as a hobby," starting by just thinking he could build it.

It isn't the first thing he's built, in the past building sheds and camps "but I've never ever built a boat before."

"He built the home we live in," Marilyn threw out.

Three years since beginning his "hobby" he said he looked at the completed project and couldn't help but think of all the fun he was going to have with it, and he was quite happy with how well it worked.

"You can spend the whole day, you can sleep on it and you can eat on it."

The houseboat can accommodate six people, but that stop extra people from looking for a chance to take a ride, which at times means about a dozen people jumping aboard.

Depending on the weather, which Galley said hasn't been great over the past few years, he said they sometimes will sail as far as Bay du Vin, but also going to Newcastle and Chatham.

"I wanted something that we could sleep on, and eat on it. A place to get out of the sun when you're on the river," he said. "A lot of times we just go out and just let it float on the river and whichever way the tide is going. If the tide is going down we're going down, if the tide is going up we're going up."

The boat is about 40 feet long. Galley said this is because when he received the pipes that's how long the pipes were and he didn't want to cut them.

"I didn't have it quite that big, but I didn't want to cut those pipes. That's why I made it 40 feet."

He built the boat in his backyard, working on it for two years before putting it on the water on the third. Unfortunately, it wasn't "quite right" the first time it was placed on the water and he had to take it in.

The boat wasn't leveling on the water. To fix the problem, Galley added gas tanks from a jet airplane, and four years since it was put in the water things have been going smoothly.

"It's something to keep a guy busy. You always have to do something."

Galley said while he does enjoy fishing, they do not do so from the houseboat.

"We just rode on it and barbecue and stuff like that," he said, describing it as "very, very relaxing."

"It's because of the water. When you go out, everything slows down when you're on the water."

Propelling the boat is a six-cylinder diesel engine, a running gear off a fishing boat adjusted for Galley's creation.

"Everybody was more than willing, once they found out what you were doing, to contribute to it," he said. "The majority of it was second-hand stuff ... I did all my own work so it didn't cost me anything for labour."

Taking a walk on the boat, you would be surprised at how expertly it appeared to be built. The main room is large, neatly decorated with photos of the Galleys and the boat, given to them by people amazed to see the boat on the water. The bedroom holds a bunkbed. The rails hold strong and the entire structure appears as solid as a home on land.

In case of a worst-case scenario, they boat has 14 lifejackets, but nothing has yet caused need for the them.

And at the front of the boat, above the window of the main cabin, is a sign with the boat's name, in honour of Galley's wife: Marilyn Mae.

"I think it's pretty amazing that he drove every nail by himself. He did it all by himself and he had no plans to follow, it was all in his head," Marilyn said. "I'm very proud that he did it and so many people like to come and see it."

When Galley first told his wife he was going to build the boat she said she wasn't sure if she was going to ever see it.

"Usually when Donnie has a plan he usually follows through. But I just didn't know how we were going to get it together ... (But) when it floats it's just as steady as the shore."

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