Sunday, 27 Sep 2020

Winnipeg man’s giant boat pool deck making a splash in Charleswood

When Doug Cook needed to build a fence around his backyard pool, he decided to go a little overboard.

The Winnipeg senior has constructed a full-sized boat around the above-ground pool that sits on his sprawling property near the edge of the city in Charleswood.

Standing 4.5 metres at its highest point, the massive wooden vessel is hard to miss for those travelling past Cook’s Wilkes Avenue home, and he’s become used to curious questions from neighbours and onlookers.

“The typical line is ‘What do you know that we don’t know – are you building Noah’s Ark?” laughed Cook, 70, who started work on what he calls a fence and pool deck last August.

Doug Cook has built a boat around his backyard pool in Winnipeg.

No, says Cook, he isn’t preparing for a flood of biblical proportions; it all started when he decided to build a backyard pool for his grandchildren to enjoy in the summer.

But doing things the easy way clearly isn’t Cook’s style.

“If you build a pool you have to have a fence around it, and if you’re going to have a fence around it you might as well make it high enough, and build a deck around it, and if you’re going to do that you might as well make it interesting.”

“And because my last name is Cook, I started researching Captain Cook’s ships … thinking I would build something like that, but they were all a little too boring and I thought I would go the more pirate ship idea.”

Cook’s original plan was to build a replica of the HMS Endeavour, the more than 30 metre long ship that 18th century British explorer Captain James Cook sailed to record the 1769 transit of Venus.

But when the price tag for that build came in at $100,000, Cook scaled back, slightly.

The boat he built is 7 metres wide, stretches 23 metres in length, and surrounds his pool to provide plenty of deck space for pool-goers. It also includes a play space for his seven grandchildren and holes on the poop deck for cannons.

Because yes, he plans on adding cannons.

Cook built the elaborate deck and pool for his grandchildren.

Swimmers walk the plank from Cook’s more traditional backyard deck to get pool side.

The poop deck has room for the cannons Cook plans to add.

Cook says drivers who have noticed his boat from Wilkes Avenue have been stopping by to ask about the structure.

Cook’s design includes plenty of space for his grandchildren to play around the pool.

As well as the artillery, Cook said he wants to add a working rudder, a captain’s wheel, and eventually, masts and sails.

Exactly how much he’s spent on his project isn’t clear – Cook says he doesn’t want to know – but the newly minted pool-boat captain admits he’s spent around $2,000 on screws alone.

The recent retiree has never built a boat before and didn’t use blue prints (he checked online, but he appears to be the first person to build a backyard sailing ship designed to hold water).

“I didn’t have a plan for it, I just built as I went,” said Cook, who plans to continue adding onto the project over the next five years.

“I lay awake at night and make my plans. I think it out, but I didn’t have anything on paper.”

And it’s not just neighbours swinging by to see what he’s been up to.

Cook says an official from the city also recently knocked on his door to inquire about permitting – something he says had decided to apply for after the build.

He says the city is now working with him to make sure the boat fits into the requirements for a pool deck, and Cook has hired engineer to help write up plans for the unique project after the fact.

The city official was more than a little surprised to see what he built, admits Cook.

“Well, he kind of chucked,” laughed Cook of the official’s initial response.

“You don’t need a permit to build a fence, and you know, the fact that the fence looks in the shape of a sea ship, well, they don’t have a marine department and I couldn’t go and get a ship permit. So what are you going to do?

“I mean this is unique. This is something.”

– With files from Amber McGuckin

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