Hard work pays off on this fixer-upper

November 2013 Feature

There's something about buying a fixer-upper that Clint Weidert enjoys and he's able to work on all of his projects from his home in Urbana, Ill. As a firefighter, he still finds time to do many projects, including his latest, a fixer-upper 1989 Bass Buggy from Tracker Marine. Clint had been around boats most of his life, but didn't consider himself an avid boater. He had family friends and buddies that had boats growing up, but never one on his own, so he thought it was about time.

Making Changes

Clint bought the 18-foot Bass Buggy in April 2012 from a private owner. Within three to four weeks, he had completely rewired the boat and added many interesting features. He did all the LED lighting, added new switches, built a diamond plate console, added a stereo, stripped the old deck and unbolted the railing and re-decked the whole boat and trailer. The boat now fits six people comfortably, and is more luxurious and spacious than a small speedboat and that's what he loves about it.

The boat came with van seats. The former owners stripped out the old seating and added Chevy van benches because they wanted to be able to move the seats around as they pleased. Everyone who sits on them absolutely loves them and comments on how comfortable they are. Who knew van seats could be the best seating invention on a boat? To be organized they store the life jackets, buoys and bumpers in black duffel bags under the van seats to keep the boat tidy and organized.

Added Touches

He also built a box step for the swim ladder that he made from his leftover red cedar wood from his deck. Before the box step was there it was an awkward step down from the swim ladder. This step makes it easy so people don't have to straddle the railing. "Underneath the step is where the battery and tons of wiring is anyways, so it covers that up extremely well," says Clint. "I have two batteries, one for the engine and one for everything else, so I don't have to worry about a dead battery and rowing the boat back by hand."

The stereo Clint installed allows for CD/MP3 capability and came with a booster, amp, and four speakers (two of which are portable.) To make the boat "water safety-ready" he installed LED lighting in the interior, courtesy lights and navigation lights.

Clint also got a piece of steel from a local supplier, and with the help of a friend, spent a day rebuilding the front of the trailer.

His girlfriend, Lori Stewart, helped clean and purchase stuff from the store that the boat needed.

"I enjoy the fruits of his labor," says Lori with a smile. "We hope to be completely finished with the remodeling process by next summer."

All In A Name

The couple is looking into upgrading the engine and since Lori is artistic, and into design, she is making the boat's sign. The boat's name is The Cottonwood Drifter. They live on Cottonwood Road, and they've dubbed their homestead The Cottonwood Casa and their garden is The Cottonwood Garden of Eatin, so it was bound to have Cottonwood somewhere in the name. One day they were racking their brains trying to figure out a name for the boat. They finally gave up, deciding one would come to them.

"The day we launched the boat it didn't start at first," remembers Lori. "We had to run into town to find a spark plug, and then once we did manage to get it in the middle of the lake, it sputtered and died. Clint smiled and said `We're drifting.' Clint began reminiscing about a local honky-tonk band called Sonny Norman and The Driftin' Playboys back in the day and all that `driftin' talk turned a light bulb on for us, and The Cottonwood Drifter was named."

Lucky Winner

Clint considers himself very lucky that no one else wanted the old pontoon and feels he got a lot more than what he paid for. And he could technically still sell it and make money if he wanted to.

"Since it was my first boat I didn't want to spend more that $2,000 and that's where I capped it," says Clint.

The couple now love taking leisurely, slow rides and so they can enjoy the water. They will take it out and find a spot to anchor and just relax. Since living out in the country comes with hard work and there is always some project to be done, the only time they can fully relax is on the boat.

Pontoon Love

The top two places they take their Bass Buggy is Mill Creek Lake or Clinton. Mill Creek has a campground and so for a long weekend they will take their pontoon there with the camper. Lori recently just learned how to pull the boat forward.

"We're still working on backwards, but that will take a little longer," Clint chuckles. When they take the boat out they like to be on the lake at about 10 am and stay until dusk. Lori is currently learning to streamline the packing, for both food and general supplies, so it's the least amount of work.

"When we first got the boat, it seemed like I was preparing for days before going out, and cleaning up for days after," recalls Lori. "Now we have a box with sunscreen, bug spray, hairbrush, etc. that stays on the boat, and a bag of towels."  

A Good Cause

Clint and Lori have known each other most of their lives and began dating six years ago.

Lori has a 26-year-old sergeant son in the Army. When he enlisted, Lori started a not-for-profit organization, www.toys-for-troops.com, that sends care packages to deployed troops, and, if they want them, beanie babies to hand out to the kids they meet.
They have been living up the fun on their `toon and can't see any reason to get rid of it, "Unless we find the deal of the century and who knows when that will come around again?" says Clint.

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