BEAUFORT — Bill Slachta is building his perfect boat. Not necessarily a perfectly attractive one.
His vessel isn’t pretty, and he hopes Beaufort will accept that.
“We shouldn’t have the attitude that if it’s not pretty, we can’t have it out because, well, I’m not very pretty either,” Slachta said.
Slachta is the owner of the project boat moored on Factory Creek between the Richard V. Woods Memorial Bridge and the Lady’s Island boat landing during most of the last three months.
Once it’s done, it’ll look much better and will be perfect for taking his large family fishing or on cruises on the river, he said.
Slachta, of McPhersonville, laughed when talking about the buzz around town about his vessel. It’s been called everything from a floating outhouse to a floating food truck.
“The people who have made insults, I don’t take it bad because it is ugly. There’s no doubt about it. It looks ugly,” Slachta said. “But whether they think it’s funny or interesting, one way or another they still like having something to talk about.”
The Independence started floating down from Charleston on July 4. Its odd appearance got people talking.
Slachta bought a 55-foot, 46,000-pound sailboat hull in Charleston, attached a T-top from a yacht and put up a plywood middle that has since been mostly covered with white fiberglass.
As he showed pictures of the boat tipped over to less than 45 degrees in low tide, he said people don’t have to worry about it being top-heavy. With less than 4,000 pounds on top — more than 50 pounds of which are screws — the hull is heavy enough to right the boat as soon as the water comes up, he said.
“This is not going to be a boat for taking out into the ocean,” he said. “It’s going to be for the rivers, for the Intracoastal.”
Originally from Ohio, he moved to South Carolina about 15 years ago. Although this is the first boat the 33-year-old has built, Slachta says his background fits the project — he worked in construction for years and is a diesel mechanic.
He settled on the design, which he calls a diesel trawler-houseboat hybrid, after extensive research. Including the 300-square-foot top deck, the boat has more than 1,000 square feet, which should provide enough room for the family to gather without feeling crowded.
The next steps include building up the sides and back of the boat about four feet high, which will make it look less awkward, Slachta said. He will cut windows into the middle section and install hydraulic steering in the cabin and the top deck, which has an “eagle-eye view” at 17 feet above the water.
He expects Independence to cost about $25,000 and require at least six more months of work. Slachta has the parts and is working on it when he can.
“Everybody does not have the money to go out and buy a yacht or go out and buy a big boat that they can use,” he said. “And so I decided to go out and do it the way that I can. It’s not that it’s that much cheaper. It’s that I can go out and build the boat to my specifications.”
After an encounter with the SC Department of Natural Resources and a citation for not having the boat properly registered, he is straightening out paperwork. He took it on a brief trip upriver, but has returned the boat to Factory Creek.
He welcomes the interest as construction progresses. “Usually when you think of an entrepreneur, you think of business, but there is an element of venturing out to do something that is not the norm,” he said.