Boatbuilder of the Month - Buddy Slack

by Margaret M. Lamb, Columbia Metro Magazine

Buddy ordered the plans for a "ZIP" from Glen-L, a California build-it-yourself boat company, bought mahogany from Massachusetts and white oak from Roy's Wood Products in Lugoff, South Carolina, and set to work.

After all, how daunting could boat-building be for a man who flew helicopters in Vietnam? "I really worked by trial and error," Buddy says. "There's not a lot of help for people who build boats, because not many people build boats," except for heaps of help from Glen-L.

Buddy practiced with plywood first to avoid making a mistake with the more expensive wood. The project has been a labor of love, and a team effort. To bend the wood for the box, Buddy boiled water in Susan's All-Clad pans and poured it over the wood, then clamped it and covered it with hot towels.

"At first it raised my eyebrows, but I realized it takes a good pan to make a good boat," says Susan, a published food author and gourmet cook.

Buddy says the effort has been his "weekend and weeknight project." When completed the 15-foot long, 300-pound boat had eight coats of varnish and six coats of Epoxy and is a replica of the F-Service racing boats that dotted the rivers and lakes in the Southeast, drawing crowds of up to 30,000 for racing events.

Buddy launched the boat on July 4 at Douglas Lake, near the Tennessee River where Tom Slack began his own boat-racing hobby.

Buddy's other labor of love, what he calls his "winter hobby," is 500 feet of train track in his garage that replicates the three railroads of eastern Tennessee: the Southern Railroad, for which his grandfather was a boiler maker; the L&N, for Louisville and Nashville; and the Clinchfield Railroad.

A train-lover's delight, the tracks wind through at least 20 tunnels, across a trestle, around a lake, past saw mills, coal mines and over the mountains, recreated by Buddy from plaster of Paris. A Rite-Aid store, a logging camp, a 1950's train station, old cars, even a movie marquee advertising a showing of "Gone With The Wind" are among the miniature structures Buddy has chosen to line the tracks, which are made of silver nickel.

The trains sit atop a red oak cabinet, also an example of Buddy's handiwork. Three drawers contain the complete layout of the tracks, with fifty-four switches and three mechanisms.

The former pilot says he also would like to build an airplane, an even more ambitious task for a man who just started building part by part. But we know that whatever project he takes on, whether it roils, floats or soars, it will be fashioned with devotion, craftsmanship and a can-do spirit.

Buddy's final words on finishing his Zip? "I could not have completed this project without Barry's (at Glen-L) advice, and I used Glen-L's products and frame kit."

"I plan on starting a new Glen-L boat soon!"

Editor's Note: See more pictures of Buddy's Zip in Customer Photos