Mike Schneiderhan of Hastings, Missouri found his ultimate waterfowl hunting boat in early June of 2007. With a bit of imagination and plenty of elbow grease, he transformed an old pontoon boat into a stable, comfortable gunning blind.
Mike Schneiderhan used an old pontoon boat as the basis for a comfortable, shallow-draft waterfowl blind. He didn't divulge the cost of the fixer-upper project.
"It is a complete 16-foot pontoon boat with a bunk style trailer," Schneiderhan said. "My wife and our two daughters were thrilled at the thought of spending the summer sunbathing on our new boat. But little did they know what I had in store for the boat. After 20 years of hunting out of small johnboats, canoes and other homemade contraptions, which often left me wet and cold, I felt it was finally time for me to be able to hunt in comfort and style."
The first order of business was stripping and painting the boat. Schneiderhan began the process by sanding all the aluminum surfaces with 300-grit sandpaper. After all of the aluminum superstructure and hull components were sanded and cleaned of sanding dust, they were spray painted with a coating of aluminum etch primer.
"The etch primer was recommended by a local auto body shop and was a crucial step in having the final coat of paint stick to the aluminum," he said. "Once the etch dried, I applied two coats of Parkers Marsh Green paint. My family's enthusiasm soon disappeared as the boat's shiny silver pontoons became marsh green."
The boat's wooden steering console was rotten. Therefore it was removed, along with the side rails, the Bimini top and the carpeting. A new steering console was built of 3?4-inch treated plywood. The console was equipped with halogen floor lights, a waterproof storage box, a gun rack, a new steering wheel and dash lights. A coating of Bondo auto body compound was added to all of the corners and end grain surfaces to seal out moisture. Once the console construction was completed, it was also painted green.
The aluminum Bimini top, which originally folded toward the back of the boat, was redesigned to fold along the length of the boat to allow unobstructed shooting from one side.
"To get the Bimini top to fit properly, I first cut it in half and lengthened each of its five aluminum poles by 27 inches," Schneiderhan said. "Next, I cut the vertical support poles down in height so the canopy would be highest on the shooting side, at approximately 6 feet high, and touch the side rails on the opposite side. After checking the price of having a new canopy made, I decided to build my own canopy because it was less expensive."
Schneiderhan made the new canopy top from a 10- by 12-foot canvas tarp. He attached strips of Velcro using pop rivets and fender washers, positioning the Velcro so it would attach to the aluminum poles on the underside of the Bimini top. The canvas was then painted with green spray paint and a piece of camouflage netting was fastened with zip ties to the grommets along the top of the canvas.
"The canopy blind goes up with ease once you are in your hunting location and folds completely flat on top of the rails of the boat when the boat is being transported," Schneiderhan said. "Not only does the Bimini canopy blind keep birds from seeing us, it also provides excellent shelter from rain, wind and snow."
The next problem that needed to be resolved was providing a way for Schneiderhan's two-year-old Lab, Harley, to enter the boat after making retrieves. The first attempt at creating a folding ladder from one-inch PVC pipe, hinges and aluminum aircraft cable proved a total failure. The ramp was too narrow and not long enough to allow the dog to swim onto the boarding platform.
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