December 16, 2003
Tift County-- Some people go to great lengths to make gifts for special people, spending a lot of time creating just the right one.
Those really special gifts take hours to make, and Woody Flythe realized that 40 years ago. “That was my starting point,” says Woody Flythe as he unrolls a pencil drawing.
A plan on paper to build a wooden boat. “It’s been 40-something years of survival,” says Woody.
Family priorities delayed his building it. “I just wish I could have afforded kids and a boat at the same time,” says Woody with a laugh. The children came before the boat, but his pride and joy would finally go from paper to wood, with workdays often lasting 10 hours with even more time pinching pennies to buy wood and paint.
“I think that should do it,” says Woody as he finished applying blue paint to the upside-down boat. Now, his attention turned to figuring out a way to turn the boat, 19 feet three inches long and eight feet wide, over, so he could finish it.
He took a big risk since he is a self-proclaimed “Engineer without a degree,” and used homemade, untested supports to hold something he didn’t know how much it would weigh.
The big moving day came. Church friends came to help. Family members watched. The ropes groaned under the heavy weight. Men held the ropes tightly until the boat rose about three feet. “Let off on your ropes,” shouted Woody to his friends.
The boat was high enough and the supports held, but he didn’t know for how long. They had to turn the boat over quickly. Slowly, they pulled more ropes and the boat rolled gently to the upright position.
It needed stabilizing now. Two men literally reached under the bow and lifted the front of it, straining under the weight while Woody placed concrete blocks and a piece of carpet underneath. “I was concerned about it,” says Woody.
He had finished the bottom of the boat, called the hull, and need to finish the inside. More hours, more days, more weeks passed as he finished it. He had a few setbacks. First, the price of plywood almost doubled there toward the end of the construction, and, then, on the day he wanted to float it for the first time, it was too windy and cold to do it.
The delay didn’t matter to the 77 year-old craftsman. The day finally arrived and questions. Would it float?
“Feels wonderful,” says Woody as the water held his creation. But, Woody wondered if it had a leak down below that he couldn’t see that would sink his dream? “I don’t see any water gushing in,” says Woody after inspecting under the boat’s floor.
Then came the maiden voyage with his two grandsons. He had spent nine months of his life, “It’s all right. It’s OK,” says Woody as he paddles the boat away from the dock. He had 2,500 hours of time building a dream to give it away. “I have this to leave my kids. Don’t have much of anything else to leave them, but I can leave them something of myself,” says Woody.
His gift won't fit under a Christmas tree, but he has another plan. “I might just tie a big ole Christmas ribbon on the bow.”
Proof that a dream can be delayed, but not denied. Woody Flythe hasn’t decided on a name for his boat, and he doesn’t have a working motor either.
He hopes to buy a good used motor, since he can’t afford a new one, to push his dreamboat wherever his family wants to go-- with or without him.
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