I don’t really remember my parents, just a few things that stuck with me from very early childhood. My Father was a Chemical Engineer and the plant manager at one of the largest chemical plants on the Gulf Coast. The few people I’ve met who knew him said he was a true hero. He lost his life saving the plant and the employees from a terrorist. My Father got the remote switch from him but got shot three times in the process. He lived for several minutes and told everyone that he had written a will and his fathers lawyer had it. He said that he wanted it to be carried out exactly as he had wrote it and he wanted each of them to testify to his words when my mother tried to take what he wanted given to me.
He had my mother figured out for sure and he gave her one half the equity in the house, one half the savings, and all personal belongings in her possession. He left for me, in the care of Pop until I was eighteen, one half the house equity, one half the savings, all the insurance and any personal property that my mother did not want. I guess my mother threw a fit and demanded that Judge Alvarez give her the life insurance money. The judge told her that a person could make any one they chose the sole beneficiary of a life insurance policy and she could take it all the way to the supreme court and get the same answer. She told him that if Pop was getting the money then he could have me to go with it. The judge put the forms in front of her and had her sign them and then told her to get out of his courtroom and never come back, or at least that’s the story I got and that’s how Pop wound up with me.
Pop was a real character and if he had been born in an earlier period I’m sure he would have robbed stage coaches for a living. He had no use for politicians or Tax men at any level and seemed to always be one jump ahead of the tax man. His main source of income as far as the tax people knew was real estate investments, speculations, and some medium sized developments. I think he might have been the richest man in the Rio Grande Valley. I was five years old when Pop took me in and for the first couple of years I went every where he went. We lived in the back of his real estate office, ate in restaurants, and took lots of coffee breaks. I learned to read the newspaper and restaurant menus, and speak a little Spanish. I could count as far as you wanted me to and do addition, subtraction, division, and multiplication. Pop worked with me constantly and every waitress in town would try to stump me on world events. If it was in the paper, I knew about it.
We also bought and sold junk. Pop would go to every sale within a hundred and fifty miles and we would bring back a pickup load and store it in his old metal building. We put ads in the newspaper and the classified paper that you get at the convenience stores and within a week most of it would be gone. It was an almost perfect life for a boy and then one day the Cameron County Child Protection Agency in the person of an ugly old bitch happened to be in the restaurant and asked Pop how old I was and why I wasn’t in school. He told her I knew more than all the students and half the teachers, that I didn’t need to go to her damned school, and it wasn’t none of her business anyway.
That’s how I met Judge Alvarez. We went to court and Pop hired a retired fourth grade teacher to test me as his defense. He told the court that I was home schooled and introduced the teacher and told her to ask me anything that she thought a fourth grade student should know. He told her I was only seven but he figured I was at least as smart as a fourth grader. She started asking me simple arithmetic problems and gave me a sheet of paper and a pencil to figure on. She went through a few history questions and we got in a discussion on current events, she gave me a spelling test and then started adding harder words. She told the court I was probably at seventh grade level but she would need more time and tests to be exact. When asked she told the court that my home schooling was way ahead of the public school system. The Judge thanked her for coming and asked if Cameron County had any further questions. I guess they didn’t, the old bitch gathered up her paperwork and stormed out. The judge waited until she left then told Pop that he was real impressed with my ability but it was not the way to raise a boy. Pop told him we could go get a cup of coffee and talk it over. I didn’t know that Pop’s name was Donnie but that’s what the judge called him. Pop called Judge Alvarez Alvie, and Alvie told Pop that he needed a house that was not in the back of his office and I probably needed to be around children my age or I was going to have zero social skills. That he hadn’t done just a terrific job of my father’s social skills and he might ought to change things as in right god damn now. Then we talked about houses and Alvie said that Russell was still trying to sell that big old house in San Benito and we might be able to trade him out of it. We left Alvie and went to find Russell.
Russell was another of Pops friends and he had a house that he got in some kind of business deal and he told Pop he would trade it to him for some commercial property that Pop had in Brownsville and Port Isabel, there was enough in each town for a small strip mall or large store such as Walmart. Pop told him he would have to look at the house and Russell went with us. The house was on the north side of San Benito in a loop of the river. The loop looked like it might enclose 25 or 30 acres and about half went with the house. I was all for the trade because it had a swimming pool bigger than Pops office, parking lot included. Russell had never had an offer on the house in the almost two years he had owned it because it was so expensive and Pop went to work on him. We got the house and three lots in the business district of Harlingen for the two lots that Russell wanted. Pop thought he had got the best part of the deal and Russell felt the same way so I guess it was a good trade. It took a couple of days to get the paperwork completed and Pop got one of his guys to wait at the house for the utilities people to turn them on.
Most of the people that Pop and I considered friends were contractors, repairmen or service oriented business people so it only took two weeks to get the inside of the house remodeled, painted, and furnished. There was a small house in the back that Pop said was for the grounds keeper and the grounds definitely needed some keeping. The place had just been left with no care for about three years and what Pop called the equipment shed, had no equipment, so off we went to take care of that. We got a Kubota tractor with a brush hog mower and a front loader bucket, a mower that would turn around in a circle if you needed it to. Lots of hand tools, gas cans, oil, filters, edgers, weed eaters, and other things I had no idea what they did. It was fun and I learned a lot of things that day.
Pop had put the word out that he needed a family to live in the little house and take care of the grounds, it didn’t take long to find a young couple. The guy had a regular job but they made a deal where the woman worked the grounds and the guy would help her with any heavy duty stuff on weekends and evenings. In return they got free rent and utilities. Pop told them that if they didn’t have the place looking really sharp in a very short period of time they were out. And, no parties, fights, loud noise, or getting drunk and raising hell.
Pop hired a woman named Treva and she had twin daughters about three months older than me. They didn’t speak much English and I’m not sure they had started school. I do know that there was never better friends than Nina and Tina and me. The day they moved in my life changed, and my name changed from Thomas or Tommy to something that sounded like Toe-Me, and the three of us were known as TNT. I liked it, I liked them, and with a mix of Spanish and English we spent hours swimming and playing. Then one day Mrs. Bustamonte, the retired teacher who I had met in court showed up, and what was called the sun room became the class room. For about six months I got away with just reading while she worked with the girls. Then we got another teacher and between them they gave us an education second to none. We had classes year around and on the weekends the four car garage became a trades school. We had a lot of weekend teachers, I guess Pop would be talking to someone and find out that they were a skilled tradesman and just hire them to teach us whatever they knew. We liked it because we got all kinds of new stuff to play with.
We had a teacher from Harlingen that taught us a mix of styles in self defense and we got more than a few scrapes and bruises and had a wonderful time beating the shit out of each other. I got real good at getting away because the girls liked to gang up on me. I think it was payback for me half drowning them when I was teaching them to swim. We learned to do metal work, and Tina could TIG weld stainless steel and make it look like a robot had done it. Nina and I could weld steel and aluminum put Tina was an artist when it came to TIG welding. Nina was more into woodworking, and we made a wall of book shelves for Pops Office. The guy who taught us woodworking had owned a cabinet shop in Brownsville and Pop bought a lot of power tools from him. The house has a four car attached garage and it was getting pretty full of equipment of various trades we had learned. We asked why we were learning all of the different things and Pop just said that one day we would probably own a business of some kind and we needed to know how things were done.
When we were thirteen Pop took us to the Brownsville Independent School Office and we took our final high school test that was given to home schooled kids before they could receive a high school diploma issued by the state. We went to see Judge Alvarez so Pop could brag on us and wound up in the coffee shop. Alvie asked us what we were going to do now that we had finished school. You need to remember that we had been going to school, and I mean pushed to the limit to learn, year around for six years and none of us really wanted to go to college. Tina told Alvie that we had been thinking about starting a business but couldn’t think of anything that would work with us being as young as we were. Alvie told Pop he better find us something to do or we would get into trouble sure as hell. Coffee turned into lunch and we talked about business and what our interests were, and the problem was, we didn’t want to do the same thing as each other but we wanted to stay together. Pop told Alvie that he would work on it and we loaded up and headed home.
We were all talking and not paying attention and just as we entered San Benito Pop slammed on the brakes and about threw us out of the truck. He backed up and pointed at a sign and said there’s something you can do. The sign said all used boats half price. Boats? We don’t know nothing about Boats. The whole place looked like a junkyard but the sign said Boyd’s Marine. Pop told us to go look the boats over for some that were fixable and he would go talk to ole Boyd about prices. We all went in the door and told the man we wanted to look at the boats and he pointed at a door and said through there and turn left out the back door. Pop started talking and we started looking. There was one narrow road through the boats just wide enough for a pickup and we started down it. There were boats and what had been boats everywhere. Some of them were piled three deep. Parts and motors were in the boats, under the boats, and even hanging on the rusty chain link fence. Nina asked if there was anything that we wanted to fix and I pointed to a wind charger on an old cabin cruiser and said I’d like to have that. We went back inside to see if we could buy it and Pop and Boyd were arguing over the price of the whole damned shop and it sounded like Pop was going to buy the place. I told the girls we better go look this over a bit more.
The sales room was maybe 30 by 40 and the shop was L shaped and might be 40 by 80 if it was straight. The shop was wall to wall junk. There was no place that you could get through to find something even if you knew where it was. Tina said that maybe we could sell all the scrap metal, clean the place up, paint it and rent it to someone. Nina said it would take a year just to haul the trash away. Pop wound up buying it for about what the property was worth when it was cleaned up. I told Pop that it should keep us out of trouble alright, we never would get it cleaned up. He said not to worry about it, just smile and act happy tomorrow when we met Boyd at the courthouse. We smiled but we were not happy. We wondered off to see if the judge was busy. He was in his office and waved us in and asked where Pop was. We told him the whole story and that we thought Pop had lost his mind. He said not to worry about it, if Donnie bought it there was money to be made somewhere. He had to be in court in a few minutes so we went back to find Pop. He told us that we were now in the boat business duly listed with Cameron County as TNT Marine. Then he gave us hell for not having faith in ole Pop. Nina said we had plenty of faith and plenty of work but she thought we would run out of one a long time before we ran out of the other one. We piled in the pickup and Pop took us to the Motor Scooter Store. Things were looking up.
We each got a 50cc scooter that did not require a drivers license in Texas until you went over 50cc engine size. Pop said he didn’t want to be hauling us back and forth to work because he was sure we would want to work some long hard hours at our new business and not be running all over town on the scooters. We didn’t have them an hour before we sneaked off to the convenience store. That wouldn’t have been so bad but there was an asshole who thought he would just take Tina’s new scooter away from her. If the cops hadn’t got there so quick we would have killed the guy. The girl who ran the store knew us and called Pop, then she told the police what happened. The guy tried to tell the cops that we had just jumped him for no reason but Brende, the store clerk told them the same story that we had told. Then Pop drove up. He listened to Brende and talked to the police. He asked if we got what we had came for and that we best not be late to dinner.
At dinner Pop told us that we were going to have a short meeting in the classroom when we finished. All he really told us was that once we had control of a situation there was no need to kill somebody over a scooter. It was obvious to him, the store clerk, and the police, that we had stomped the shit out of the guy even after we had the scooter back. That was not the way he wanted us to do things, yes you protect yourself and your belongings but there was no need to kill somebody. He said that the police had problems with the guy on several occasions or we would probably be down at the police station answering some very serious questions.
There was so much stuff to do at the boat shop that we had no idea where to start, we did talk Rudy and Julie the grounds keepers into driving the tractor to the shop so we could use the loader to move old motors into a single pile. A chain hooked to the bucket worked pretty well for dragging junk from under the boats and we started another pile of trash and weeds. Pop left us alone until two guys from Florida that he had called showed up. They were in the antique and collector boat parts business and Pop hired a crew to help. The guys went through the yard and pointed out anything they wanted and they hired a big rig truck to haul their stuff. We were as gentle as we could be and managed to get the stuff they wanted without damaging it any more than it was. They also knew what could be saved and what was trash and we were hauling trailer loads of fiberglass boats that we cut up with chain saws to the dump. We were able to salvage a lot of controls and steering as we cut them up. We saved a lot of the old chrome pieces and metal boat names like Corsair and SeaRay, I guess there is a market for everything. We got all the boats we were going to keep and all the trailers moved to one end of the yard. Everything they wanted from the yard was in their truck. Then we started on the shop.
It only took a few minutes to figure out that it was either collector or junk with nothing in between. We sorted the junk into two trailers, aluminum and other metal. A few brass pieces were found but were collector pieces. Pop told us later that between the guys from Florida and the scrap aluminum it almost paid for the place. We hauled everything that was left to a vacant lot that belonged to Pop and we had one enclosed trailer with our valuable junk locked in it. We worked with a fence crew pulling up the old fence and loading it to be hauled away. Next came a crew that used gasoline powered pressure washers on the building inside and out. It was starting to look a little better, you could see the concrete floors and they were in good shape. A paving crew paved the entire lot which measured 280 feet at the wide end and 1000 feet long. The back was straight, but the front or street side of the lot tapered in to 40 feet at the narrow end. It was about four times what we needed. After the paving crew left the fence crew came back and with the exception of a small parking lot, enclosed the place with an eight foot chain link fence. We got new bathrooms, a new metal roof, new paint inside and out, and new lighting
We drug the boats and trailers back and we talked Pop into waiting to open until we fixed and sold some of them. We had an old gantry that was on some huge castors that rolled around pretty good and we used it to raise the boats and pull the trailers out then set the boats on the pavement. We numbered the boats and trailers so we would know what boat went with which trailer. We still had our work crew so we decided to repair and paint all the trailers first. We had to haul them about two miles down the highway to get them sand blasted. We bought an airless paint sprayer and primer and paint in five gallon buckets. We used two of the guys as painters and two of them hauling trailers. The other two were kept busy running wheels and tires, first to the tire shop to have the old tires removed, then to the sand blaster, then paint, then back to the tire shop for new tires. The three of us welded and reinforced trailers, installed new rollers, and replaced or repacked wheel bearings. Then we covered boards with outdoor carpet to make the guides and slide boards. A few had wood walk boards along the sides. That was about a month of work.
Pop brought in a couple of guys who really knew how to fix boats and the teaching was underway again. We started with the aluminum boats and learned to drive rivets. Almost all of them had some lose rivets causing leaks so one of us was on the outside with a rivet gun and another inside the boat holding a metal bar against the tail of the rivet. As you drove the rivet it was flattened a bit which tightened it in the hole stopping the leaks. We cleaned the aluminum with orbital sanders with scotchbrite pads. Any bad corrosion was cut out and a repair panel installed. They looked quite amazing when they were setting on their new looking trailers and we lined them up inside the fence so they could be seen from the highway. We cut up two more of the fiberglass boats because they were too far gone and the repair of the others was a long process but, it was coming along.
We talked to Pop about which of us would be forced to run the sales and parts and were surprised to find out that he had hired someone to take care of that. He just wanted us to build boats or maybe race boats and we would make a lot more money than going to college and working for someone else. Tina asked him how much money we owed for the business and he said he would pay for everything until it started showing a profit. The three of us looked at each other and Tina told Pop that something was just not right with this whole deal and we needed to know where we stood. He admitted that we should know and said we would talk about it tonight.
It was not as bad as some of the scenarios we had dreamed up while waiting to talk about it. I think I mentioned that Pop sometimes did a few questionable deals. When he was a young man his main income was from buying and selling junk, antiques, and anything else he could make money on. In the process of hunting stuff for resale he spotted what he knew were drug deals in progress and he got out of the area in a hurry so he didn’t wind up dead. He had, and still has, a metal building about a block off the highway on the edge of Brownsville. He uses it to store whatever junk he buys and on one occasion he had just pulled the pickup into the building and was setting at a work bench he used for a desk and was looking out the window. There are some vacant lots on both sides of the building and he saw two guys stop on the dirt road next to the building and throw several cardboard boxes of a little over a foot square in size into the weeds beside the road. They jumped in the car and took off as fast as they could and turned left onto the highway. He thought the boxes were probably drugs and he got in his pickup and drove around the block and stopped to look. He thought he would check it out before calling the police. The boxes were full of money and he threw them in the back of the truck and pulled it into the building and closed the door. It had took him less than a minute to load them and an hour to hide them in the shop. The guys that threw the money out got into a shooting match with the people they stole it from and got themselves killed. He said after that he started watching every movement made by the drug dealers and even bought some furniture from one of them. Over the years his watchful eye paid off two more times and he was able to move the money before it was picked up without being seen. We asked how much money was in the boxes and he told us just under a million per box and there were six boxes in his first find.
He told us that he thought that our boat business would make a lot of money which could be put in the bank and then become spendable cash. He also told us to always pay with cash when we could. I was still having trouble getting my mind around how much cash there was, so I asked about the other boxes. He said he had looked in the boxes and knew they contained cash, he had hid them and that was the last time he looked. He then told us not to ever sell his storage building and if it burned to the ground dig a hole in the northwest corner about two feet deep and there would be a nice surprise. We decided that it was not Pops fault that the drug dealers were careless with their money.
We stayed busy working our way through the fiberglass boats. The new sales, office, and parts lady named Ramona came to work. Between her and Pop they had larceny cornered. She wrote repair tickets on our own boats and Pop paid the bills with cash. She ordered parts, got us a few dealerships and convinced a few manufacturers that she had bought the dealership with the purchase of Boyd’s Marine. She had the shelves stocked and the pegboard walls were covered with nice shiny stuff. We got a few of the old motors running and we got several new motors to install on the better boats. Ramona and Pop went to the county and were issued re-builders tittles for almost every boat and trailer we had so we had things to sell and some of them were really nice boats.
The first real repair job we got was an eighteen footer that had hit a dock and knocked a hole through the hull just above the water line. We could get to both sides so it was really not much work and the customer was happy with it. Nina asked him how the hole got in it and he said he might have been going a little fast and maybe had a few beers but nobody got hurt.
We had a long park type table made of 2 by 6 lumber for a lunch table and we had finished lunch and set there bullshitting when a guy wearing white pants, a dark blue jacket with gold shoulder boards, a Captains hat, and smoking a pipe walked in. Ramona said Hi there Admiral can I help you. He looked around the room and then at Ramona and said, It’s Captain, not Admiral and I’m looking for a Mister Walston. The girls and I tried hard not to laugh but this guy looked straight out of a 50’s movie. Ramona explained that he was not there but we would be happy to call and it would only take a few minutes for him to get here. He said that would be fine and walked over to our table and set down and introduced himself as Winfred Lee Woodson or just Woody to his friends and he was a Naval Architect, boat designer, and teacher, the school he had been teaching at had gone into bankruptcy and he had been hired by Mister Walston to teach some of his employees a thing or two about boat building and design, and actually build a boat in the process. We told him we were the students and happy to meet him. He had driven here and was going to take a short vacation when he finished with us.
I don’t know what Pop had told him about us but he started out by seeing how much math we knew. I could work about any problem if you wrote it down and handed it to me but I had a hell of a time applying it to what we were doing. The girls were much better at application than I’ll ever be and worked with me until I could finally see what they were telling me. Woody had brought two large cardboard boxes filled with books, blueprints, design examples, and other teaching materials. He said most of it was stuff he had drawn, designed, or written over the years. In the beginning we learned why a boat floats and what makes them sink. From there we went through what makes them faster and what makes them stronger. He told us that lighter was better then proved that it was not always true. If you have a mono hull with a common V shape and it’s not heavy enough to sink down it the water a little ways, it will fall over. If you had a catamaran, the two hulls would keep it from falling over and you could make it lighter. But, that would give you another set of problems, if it was light enough to float on wet pavement and you hit a minnow, it would probably knock a hole in it. So, you had to give a little in one area to gain in another. We learned the different types of boats and purpose built boats. It was interesting to learn something that you could go out in the boat yard and find an example of.
In the second month we learned how to work with a customer to find or build them a boat to fit their needs. Around here we have the open ocean, but also have a lot of protected Intracoastal Waterways and swamps. A lot of those are very shallow and you could use a flat bottom boat that needed just a few inches of water to float on. Those boats were wide for their given length which made them stable for fishing and moving around, but they were not what you would want in rough water. Woody said that if he lived here he would prefer a Catamaran so he could use it in the open water, and the protected shallow water. He showed us a drawing of his dream boat, a 36 foot catamaran with a cabin between the two hulls and also making the hulls accessible from inside the cabin. It would be a long distance cruiser and use two 40 hp outboard motors.
We questioned the outboards instead of longer lasting diesel inboards. He told us that everything was a trade off. The outboards were cheaper, lighter, and easier to work on or replace. They also did not use up valuable hull space. The trade off being that they would not last as long. He had another drawing of a 24 foot catamaran that looked like just a smaller version of the 36 and we asked about it. He said that since he would probably be building the boat by himself, that renting a building by the month in Florida was going to cost as much as the boat so he was looking to save money and time by building the shorter one. Nina asked why he didn’t build it here since he was going to have us building a boat it might as well be his. He said that Pop was not going to pay him to build his own boat. Tina said that we would build four boats and he could have one. He said he was all for it but he didn’t think we would get it past Pop.
Woody, Pop, and the three of us got together and worked out the details for TNT Boats. We would build four boats with Woody’s being first and develop the patterns and templates as we went. We could then make any changes we wanted. All materials engines and parts would be bought through the shop. Woody had been here three months and it was agreed that he would stay for a total of one year. At the end of the year he would have his boat free and clear. We would have our boats and the ownership of the design, templates and tooling made to build them with. We could then build and sell to the public our own design of boat. The agreement was easy, getting the materials bought and approved by the Great Coast Guardsman in Washington took longer. Ramona had some advertising from a plywood plant in Mexico that made Marine Grade plywood but it was not approved. Pop flew to Mexico, visited the plant, bought a sheet of 6mm and a sheet of 9mm selected randomly from their warehouse. He had it sawed to fit in a roll around suitcase and brought it back. Woody was able to get it lab tested at a government approved testing facility. With the certification in hand Pop bought 400 sheets of each size we needed and had them shipped to us. We were getting it cheaper than you could by cheap plywood at Home Depot.
It took another month to get ready to build the first boat, but when we did start we went wide open 7 days a week. We still had four of the guys that started with us, working at odd jobs and fiberglass work on the remainder of our used boats. One of them was looking for some different work so we hired two more guys hopping to get one good one. Pop got a huge carport type structure built onto the entire back of the shop because Woody said that working that much fiberglass was going to make a continuous mess of the inside of the building. We welded up some stands for box fans to keep the air moving and most days it was nice working outside on what we called the Patio. Sometimes the fiberglass dust got pretty thick before the guy doing the sweeping got it picked up. It was a white powder that the locals called Polvo Mono, or Monkey Dust and the sweeper became known as Mono. Woody thought it was a good name for the fiberglass dust so we never told him it was also what the locals called cocaine.
Woody kept a close watch on the materials that went into the boat and kept every scrap of wood and fiberglass in boxes. He said he would weigh it when we finished to give us a scrap rate. Unknown to him I had Mono but the Monkey Dust in a box also. We welded up four sets of fixtures to hold the bulkheads in perfect alignment. You set the bulkhead against an angle iron locator and pushed the handle of a toggle clamp, and it was there until you un-clamped it. The bulkheads were made using a router template, you pinned it to the part and the template followed a bearing on top of the cutter making the part the exact same size as the template with very little finish work. Once all the bulkheads were clamped to the fixture, the stringers which were about 1 by 2 inches and glued up to be as long as you needed, were then attached to the bulkheads using epoxy and plastic staples. The plastic staples only purpose was to hold it in place for the short time it took for the epoxy to set up. Once that was done the framework was covered with 1/4” plywood skin which was routed using a template in the same manner as the bulkheads were made. The skins were also installed using epoxy and plastic staples. The plywood skins were then covered with fiberglass cloth and the hard part began. The low places were filled using an epoxy based filler and the whole thing sanded, filled, and sanded some more until it was smooth, which produced the monkey dust.
The bottom of the cabin which also had the stronger of the cross beams made into it was installed between the hulls, filled, and sanded some more. At that point the bottom was finished and hooked to a hydraulic lift and turn over made from high lift hydraulic jacks and 1” pillow block bearings. When it was turned over you had two hulls with the cabin floor between them. Building the boat to this point was pretty fast and other than a lot of work sanding, it was also pretty simple. Fiberglassing the inside of the hulls was a genuine pain in the ass, back, legs, and many other parts of your body. A flat floor or sole was glassed in and any shelves, cabinets, fuel tanks, or anything else that could be done at that point was done because once the top was installed working inside the hulls was not fun. You then finished the cabin to make a complete boat shell. We have respirators with air lines hooked to them and fed by small compressors. Nina caught one of the guys blowing cigarette smoke in the air intake that a girl was using inside a hull. She told him he was fired and pulled the girl out of the hull. I guess the guy thought it was all just a joke and wound up getting his ass kicked before he left. Tina was quick to tell those watching that this was not a game and if anyone wanted to do stupid stuff, they could do it somewhere else. On the first boat we learned some short cuts and decided that the following boats would have plastic conduit glassed in as it was built which would make the installation of wiring, motor controls, and steering controls a whole lot easier, neater, and eliminate chaffing.
When the boat reached that stage Woody had all of us gather up and told us that when building a boat, at this point you had to decide if you were going to make it a purely functional boat, or if you wanted it to be a cosmetically beautiful boat. He said in his boat he wanted it functional and easy to clean. He said it would go just as good and just as far the way it is but, some people wanted to impress their friends and have fancy wood, velvet upholstery, and stainless steel appliances. He said this boat was going to get a speckle paint and plywood interior because he was a slob and would rather fish, drink beer, and sleep, than clean. This boat would give us an example of that type interior and he thought we should try different things or maybe different stages of fancy on the other three. So you can build a good boat in one month, or a real fancy boat in three or four months. He thought having three choices of colors in speckle paint was as complicated as he wanted it. The upholstery would be canvas or sailcloth.
The next problem was we had no sewing machine and nobody that knew how to sew. Woody said he had sewn a few sails but he had no idea how to make a cushion for a seat. Nina had the answer, where is Pop. She went to the office to call him and when she came back she said that Ramona knew someone and would go talk to her at lunch. So, we hired another employee. Vanessa was early 20’s and had worked for her father and brothers since she was a little girl. She didn’t seem to be real happy about working for them. She told us she could do the work but had no equipment. She knew of a place in Mexico where foam rubber was manufactured and could be bought cheap and her father always bought what he could from a supplier in Monterrey because it was about half price. She would be more than happy to work for us and really wanted the chance. That’s all she had to say because Pop would give anyone a chance and see that they had what they needed for doing the job.
Vanessa had a bit of an argument with her family, Ramona called Pop and they took Pops pickup and went to get her. She spent a lot of her time with Ramona using the computer to find and order a variety of goods to get started. When the sewing machine came we built her a sewing table with a flat sheet metal top. We made it where the table top and the sewing area of the machine were the same level so the cloth would slide smoothly along the surface. She was a noisy girl and was always singing some Mexican song or jabbering some crazy thing or other but, damn that girl knew her business. She would just ask how you wanted it to look and then tell you to go away. She carried a clipboard and a measuring tape almost constantly and I never heard of her having to do something twice. She told Woody that she was not putting that ugly as shit material in his boat. It looked like he had bought a painters drop cloth, sort of an off white material. She told him to tell her why he wanted it that way and then told him he didn’t know nothing about no boats and she would fix it for him. We thought it was funny and for a long time we would tell each other that you don’t know nothing about no boats.
The speckle paint in Woody’s boat had some tangerine orange and silver gray specks in it and Vanessa made some cushions for the seats in gray material with tangerine orange piping and re-covered the captains chair in the same style. She even put gray and tangerine curtains, table cloth and little throw pillows in it and told him he better leave them alone and not touch them with his dirty hands. We continued work on all four boats and Woody called several people he knew in the boat magazine business. They must have been needing a story because several people showed up and they took a gazillion pictures of the boats being built and the completed boat which was called the basic boat package. You could buy the boat for around 115 thousand then you could spend twice that much on upgrades.
And, we have another employee. Terri takes care of the new website for TNT Marine and she is an absolute genius with colors and materials. She took pictures of Woody’s boat and scanned them into her computer where she can change everything in the photo, designing complete new interiors. When the magazines came out there were lots of pictures of the girls and very few of the guys. If we were in a picture it was by accident, but the girls did look nice crawling all over the boats. The customers can send pictures, or boat website links of boats they like for Terri to look at and she can change the interior to what she thinks they want and in a weeks time has it exactly how they want it, and after checking with everybody she knows how much it’s going to cost them.