At first sight, she wasn’t much to look at three years ago. Time and disuse had taken a heavy toll on the old boat. Worn on the outside and gutted inside, the 1968 Gibson cruiser was a major project-in-waiting. Something about the 36-footer, though, appealed to Eddie Shaw’s fix-it genes. The experienced cabinetmaker and avid boater was pretty sure he could eventually get her back in the water. So Eddie purchased the vessel and stored it, to get around to some day. Some day finally came this past March.
Four months of intense labor have given the aged craft new life, but not on the water. “Beached” — as Eddie and Sonya Shaw have christened their “cabin boat” — is dry docked for now, and no one is happier about that than the Shaws — unless it’s their nine grandchildren and a great-grandchild, who range in age from 4 to 19.
A storm and a random internet story set in motion events that led to one of the newest and most unique getaways in the August Landing community in southeastern Lowndes County.
The storm significantly damaged a weekend camper the Shaws originally had on the lot. “The camper was just too messed up,” Sonya said. “Eddie thought if he was going to have to do that much work, he might as well do it on the boat.”
Then Eddie came across an online story about an airplane converted into living space. He got inspired.
“I saw where this guy had bought a big passenger airplane and put it up in the mountains; the whole nose stuck out off the edge of the mountain,” he marveled. “I thought that was so cool, that somebody did something like that. I thought, you know, I could take that boat and put it on land, like it was shipwrecked.”
After moving the boat to August Landing, Eddie’s first task was getting it properly stabilized and braced. That took some research.
“Everybody was saying they didn’t know how I was going to do that,” Eddie recalled. “I wondered how the big shipyards do it, so I did some research on the internet on how a lot of times they build a cradle and pull the boat up on it.” With his craftsman’s know-how and the help of his woodworking son, Shawn Shaw, a sturdy cradle was constructed for the boat. Then father and son, along with one of Eddie’s grandsons, Tyler Rushing, tackled the rest. It was a big job.
“You were kinda scared to put your head inside there; it was just a shell,” said Shawn who has worked alongside his dad for more than 20 years now.
Sonya admits to a few doubts, too. “When Eddie got the boat, I wasn’t too happy about it at first,” she smiled. “If you could have seen the condition it was in … but it’s just been his dream to redo that boat ever since he got it.”
The family crew, with help along the way from others who work with Eddie at Shaw Cabinets, teamed up to replace the cabin ceiling, walls and flooring. Boards were planed and finished, wiring and plumbing modernized, a galley added as well as a bath and sofas that pull out for sleeping. Eddie and company even designed a booth that converts into a bed.
“Every day I’d come down and there was something different that they’d done,” Sonya praised.
Outside, decking, a curving stairway, railings and drop-down shutters were added. The boat was brightened up with sunshine-yellow paint. In a fitting touch, an anchor moors “Beached” in the sand Eddie had hauled in, where youngsters can build sand castles and the river where the family water-skis and fishes can be glimpsed through the trees.
It’s still a work in progress, but Eddie and Sonya, who live about 10 miles away, in New Hope, have been spending weekends at their nautical retreat since the beginning of June. While family members have been out to visit the boat, the push is on to get everything ship-shape for grandkids to stay over. A ground-level bath house with shower, changing area and storage space is almost complete. The cabin will get another coat of sunshine yellow. Decks will be painted white. Sonya is eager to add finishing touches, like deck furniture, a few light strings and potted plants.
“I’m waiting until winter for this, but my plan for then is to put down patio stone and build an outdoor fire pit and have my grill out here,” Eddie enthused. “We could use it year-round.”
The Shaws are appreciative of the community’s response to their cabin boat.
“I tell you what, I have been totally amazed at the reaction so far,” Eddie said. “We’ve probably had 50 or 60 people stop and ask about it; they say they’ve never seen a project down here like that. Nobody has had a negative thing. They’re curious.”
The best reactions, of course, often come from those closest to us, like a grandchild at a family Independence Day celebration.
“She ran by me the other night when they were down here and said, ‘This is the neatest idea!'” Eddie smiled. “That’s good … when a little kid tells me that’s the neatest idea. When the kids really have a good time down here, that’s a reward.”
Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
You can help your community
Quality, in-depth journalism is essential to a healthy community. The Dispatch brings you the most complete reporting and insightful commentary in the Golden Triangle, but we need your help to continue our efforts. Please consider subscribing to our website for only $2.30 per week to help support local journalism and our community.