Huot Technical students get lesson in houseboat building

LACONIA — Students from the Huot Regional Technical Education Center, who earlier this year framed and built the floor, ceiling and walls of a houseboat for a Belmont man, recently got to stop by and see the completed project they had worked on floating next to a dock in Paugus Bay.
The 12 foot wide by 41 foot wide houseboat, which floats on pontoons, was built for Mark Padula of Belmont and was moved from the Huot Center to Boulia-Gorrell Lumber Company in late January, where Padula completed the plumbing, electrical and siding work himself.
Padula was completing work on the rooftop deck and preparing to put a fence around it when the students arrived with their instructor, Matthew Towle.
They got to see the finished interior, complete with a kitchen island, bunks and a bedroom, as well as a shower, which have been put in place since the houseboat left the Huot Center.
''In the beginning it was a little tough to work on. But it turned out to the most fun of anything I worked on. I was speechless when I saw what it looks like now,'' said Tanner Zinkard of Gilmanton, one of the students who worked on the project.
''When I was told we were going to build a houseboat I wasn't even sure how we were going to start. Everything's different from what we had done before,'' said Jarvis Morrison of Meredith, another Huot Center student, who said that he was concerned about how the heavy structure would sit on the pontoons.
''I thought it was going to tip over once it got in the water. But it floats just fine,'' he said.
Padula, who runs a local excavation firm, said that the houseboat will replace a 37-foot-long craft that he and his family have used for the last six years on Paugus Bay.
''We used to have a camp on Diamond Pond in Stewartstown but it was three hours up and three hours back, so we didn't use it that much. My son and I were fishing here one day and he told me that the land was for sale and we should try and buy it. It's hard to believe but by the end of the week we had sold our camp and bought it.'' says Padula.
With only 50 feet of frontage, the property was too small for even a small shed that Padula had wanted to build near Weirs Boulevard, so he ended up buying a second-hand houseboat which was used for several years before he decided to upgrade.
''I looked at the prices and thought maybe I could build one and save some money. I went first to the Manchester Voc Tech but they said they couldn't do it. So I called Matt (Matt Towle at the Huot Center) and he said 'show me your plans.' When he saw them he said 'we can do this. It's a piece of cake.' ''
Padula said that the houseboat is something like half of a ranch house and that he was very impressed with the way Towle provided hands-on leadership for his students.
''He gives directions for the whole day and then straps on his tool belt and works right alongside them,'' said Padula, who said that after the houseboat was moved to Boulia-Gorrell some of the students like Brandon Martin of Laconia would come by and help out with some of the work he was doing.
''It was really fun to see how much the kids liked this project, and how much enthusiasm they had for the work'' said Padula.
He said that he had priced out similar boats and couldn't have afforded them. As it was, counting the money he paid for the Huot Center project and other expenses after that, he estimates the total cost was less than $30,000.
He said that while the boat has a holding tank for the shower, there is no on board toilet and an on-shore porta potty is used instead. He has electrical power right at the dock and installed a large gas barbecue grill on the shore end of the boat, which will see a lot of use on the upcoming hot weather.
''We love it here. We'll be spending a lot of time on the party deck this summer,''
Padula said he is grateful to Boulia-Gorrell for allowing him to work on the boat on their property as well as to Irwin Marine, where he took the boat for launching.
''It was 4,000 pounds heavier than we expected it to be but they were able to use their big lift and get in the water for us,'' said Padula.
The boat has no motor and was towed to the dock by a small Boston Whaler. Padula isn't sure whether he'll have a bubbler installed and keep it in the lake year-round or have it pulled out of the water and trucked to his home for winter storage.