DIY Boat Bar | Lake Geneva, WI

It’s always flattering when people compliment me for being creative, but you guys, I am clearly surrounded by equally as awesome people who have equally crazy ideas that they execute into one-of-a-kind projects that will just BLOW your mind.  Case-in-point, my sister Naomi and her husband Ryan who live in picturesque Lake Geneva, WI.  They literally put a BOAT in their basement and turned it into a fully functioning bar…I mean seriously, how cool is that?!  That ultimate DIY boat bar project is coming your way, with a lovely interview from the couple themselves on how this dream ever came to be, and the journey along the way.

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Where did you come up with the idea to build a boat bar in your house?  
Good question.  I guess it’s a lifestyle I would love to have: to be on a boat, with a bar, little care in regard to the ‘real world’, sun in our faces with my wife by my side. (Either that or simply a dreamer with a drinking problem).  Kenny Chesney or Jimmy Buffett may have a song or two about just this.

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Where did you find the boat that you purchased and how long were you looking before you found the one you wanted? (What were your requirements for the boat?).  
I looked for months on Craigslist (aka the greatest website ever founded).  I wanted a 16-18 foot wood boat from the 1960’s (dimensions based on basement limitations).  I found one in Oshkosh, WI – a 1962 Carve, which bonus, was originally built in Wisconsin.  We didn’t own a vehicle with a hitch except our Class-A RV, so we took a ride in October (with all 3 kids) to Oshkosh and after maneuvering the RV through a storage area, we met our boat.  The owner had started the restoration and it was fully original.  He had wanted to put it on a lake in Wisconsin but didn’t have the time or money to keep up the storage.  So, with a passion & a vision, we bought the boat and trailered it home behind our 36’ RV.

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Talk about some of the personal touches you added to the boat bar and their meaning.
The top of the boat was covered with a blue canvas.  So I completely gutted the boat, stripped all the canvas and got down to the bare wood (all being done in my unheated pole building in the dead of winter in Wisconsin). I sanded, stained, varnished, installed stripping, and cut the opening for the walk behind bar.  Cutting the boat was scary.  I thought the back of the boat would fold out and fracture with the side removed (luckily it did not).  Once the boat was successfully cut, we moved the boat into our basement on the trailer (we had to remove a 9’ doorway for access).  We installed the boat on a frame I had built to lift the boat to “bar height”.

After the boat was in the basement, I added a the name “Nowhere to Go” (because every boat needs a name), numerous family photos and nautical elements given to me from family members, each detail and piece has a story and lots of love behind it.  I will also share that my wife bought me a “kegerator” to modify (aka: tear apart) and install that on the boat as well, so we always have fresh tap beer flowing.  I’d say that’s true love right there to just agree with some crazy guys’ dreams of a boat bar in their basement.

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Talk about some of the materials used. 
We tried to use things that reminded us of Lake Geneva.  We took old pier posts from our family’s pier and used that as a tie up for the rear transom (aka the door to behind the bar).  We added other items such as the fishing pole from the movie “Grumpy Old Men” from Minnesota (where my wife is from), an old lobster buoy from Maine (where my wife and I lived after we were married), a photo of my grandfather behind a bar, and several other old pictures and decor of Geneva Lake.  We made a liquor cabinet and topped the cabinet with a “zip sled” design from our childhood.

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What was the most challenging part of the boat bar project?
Cutting the boat after I restored it.  I’ll never forget sharing with my wife that the boat was restored and we should sell it to someone to enjoy and NOT cut it.  She told me she refused to listen to me scour Craigslist for another boat.  So, after lunch I went to the pole barn and cut the boat. Scary, but luckily, it all worked out.

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What is your favorite part of the boat bar?   
Having our family and friends over to enjoy the boat bar is by far my favorite part.  We love that it is unique, fun, and functional- and always a good conversation piece.  Thanks for sharing our story!  We love how it turned out, it was truly a labor of love.

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3 Comments on DIY Boat Bar | Lake Geneva, WI

  1. Ryan
    May 13, 2015 at 11:07 am (4 years ago)

    Mal,
    So talented. Unbelievable.

    Reply
    • Mallory
      May 13, 2015 at 11:40 am (4 years ago)

      Well clearly YOU are the talented guy 🙂

      Reply
  2. Pam jensen
    May 20, 2015 at 5:01 pm (4 years ago)

    When is the party? I’ll bring the Kettle

    Reply

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