Tom Beatty kept it under wraps for nine long months, wouldn't let even his daughter see what he was working day and night on for his nearly 3-year-old grandson, who calls Beatty not granddaddy, but "Captain."
Finally, two weeks ago, his wife, Linda, had had enough of her husband's incessant tinkering on the project.
"I finally said, 'Stop!'" she said.
On Oct. 29, the Beattys' daughter and son-in-law drove little Alex from their South Charlotte home, near South Mecklenburg High School, to see what Tom created in his East Lincoln garage on the shores of Lake Norman:
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A boat-bed, complete with real boat steering wheel, horn, lights and instrument panels.
Tom, 67, fashioned the 9-foot-long, 4-foot-wide piece, named "Alex Bundy's Dream Boat," from his mind, without plans. He made the 2-foot-high bed to resemble a Chris Craft, like the kind of classic power boat his late father had back in the 1940s.
When Beatty unveiled it, Alex took immediately to the boat-bed's control panel. He pressed the button that honks the horn and flipped the switch that turns the lights on and off. He pretended to throw a rope overboard.
Last week, Linda Beatty's brother, Huntersville contractor Donnie Reid, delivered the boat-bed in a truck to the Bundys' home. Reid used a construction lift to hoist the bed over a second-floor rail and then a dolly to roll it to Alex's bedroom.
Tom Beatty is a Coast Guard-licensed boat captain whose grandson calls out "Captain! Captain!" to him when he can't find him in the house.
Alex likes to sit on his grandfather's lap as Beatty takes to Lake Norman on his 31-foot Tiara cruiser.
The Beattys have lived on the Lucky Creek section of the lake for 25 years, across from Lake Norman Sailing Club. They lived elsewhere on the lake for years before that.
They retired four years ago, after selling the two Hallmark stores they owned and operated at Interstate 77 Huntersville Exit 25 and Cornelius Exit 28 and The Gift Tree store at Huntersville Exit 23.
Tom Beatty built the bed from scratch after he couldn't find a good plan. He soon found himself "way out of my comfort zone."
"I'm an ordinary do-it-yourselfer," he said. "I'm not a carpenter."
He drove to Lowe's Home Improvement Warehouse on N.C. 73, bought 16 8-foot 2-by-4s, laid them in his garage and built the bed "inch by inch."
"It consumed me," he said.
Beatty added teak decking with black caulk joints, rub rail with white rope inlay, a gear and throttle control, speedometer and volt meter.
When their daughter, Jennifer, was born 38 years ago, Tom and Linda didn't want their son, Brad, to suddenly feel left out. Tom built him a bed shaped like a race car.
Jennifer had decorated Alex's room in a nautical theme. When Alex was ready to leave his crib, Tom thought, "I should build him a bed."
Tom used the same table saw he did to build his son's race car bed 38 years ago. He credits "luck, God and my dad" for the gift of working with his hands. Two nights before presenting the boat to Alex, Jennifer and her husband, Mike Bundy, the Beattys christened the boat with about 15 fellow members of Davidson United Methodist Church and the Rev. Jody Seymour.
"For the love of a grandson, what you wouldn't do," Jennifer told her dad after she saw the boat for the first time.
"I wanted something for him to remember me by," Tom replied.
He included a plaque on the bed that reads, "With Love and Pride this Boat-Bed Custom Built for Alex by 'Captain' 2010."