The name, “A Slice of Life,” was his wife, Cheryl’s idea, but the painstaking construction of the one-of-a-kind houseboat on Smith Mountain Lake has been a longtime project of Guy Bergloff.
A member of the Smith Mountain Lake Antique Outboard Club, Bergloff has always enjoyed tinkering with boats. “I’ve had half a dozen fixer-uppers over the years,” he said.
He said the idea came to him when he considered a more comfortable way to travel from Gills Creek to visit friends above the bridge, go to Boat Church and the Fourth of July fireworks, or just lounge in a secluded cove at the foot of Smith Mountain. Because of Bergloff’s years of experience as a builder (he’s a lifelong carpenter who’s currently the construction supervisor for Meadow View Elementary School in Martinsville), he decided to just do it himself.
It started with a pair of 1969 vintage pontoons he saw offered on Craigslist. Bergloff went to Lenoir, North Carolina to have a look. After declaring them seaworthy, he brought them home.
Bergloff connected the pontoons with a deck structure of 12-gauge metal studs and marine plywood in next-door neighbor John Ambielli’s driveway.
“He’s been been my companion on this project from day one,” Bergloff said. “He’s 80, but he’s always there to help.”
During the early stages of construction, Bergloff said a friend suggested adding a center pontoon to improve buoyancy and performance. He located a shorter tube that would leave room for the boat’s motor mount. Instantly, the project became a tritoon.
The project continued with cabin framing as well as insulation in the roof, floor and walls. Installing windows and doors, including a 5-foot patio slider obtained through son Reed, who works at Neathawk Window and Door Gallery in Roanoke, came next. Eventually the floating 8 ½-foot by 20-foot tiny house began to take shape.
With fore and aft railings scavenged from junked pontoon boats, handicap bathroom bars for deck handholds, complete helm station and running lights, the boat has passed its first annual United States Coast Guard vessel inspection.
Interior comforts include a microwave, a refrigerator, a propane stove, a galley sink, re-purposed cabinetry, an enclosed bathroom, air conditioning, LED lighting, a futon sofa bed and a small dining table. Powered by a rebuilt 1987 120-horsepower Evinrude V4 long-shaft outboard, the floating tiny house cruises along comfortably at 6 to 7 mph. A back-up 1972 25-horsepower Johnson engine hangs alongside just in case the main power should falter.
“All in all, probably $20K in materials,” Bergloff said. “And a lot of hours of planning, procurement and construction.”
Bergloff admitted that building is in his blood, and projects like this one are how he spends his spare time.
“It’s his stress reliever,” Cheryl Romeo said. “He’ll never declare it ‘finished.’ He can always find something more that needs doing.”