When Tom Riti retired to Portobago Bay Virginia in 2019 with his wife Lori, it was a chance for them to get out of the house and reconnect with nature, especially on the water. But rather than buy a ready-made craft to explore the surrounding bay and back channels, he found a great starting point to suit their needs in an unexpected place: a 1948 issue of Popular Science. It was there that Riti, a longtime engineering enthusiast, found the perfect inspiration to construct a DIY pontoon boat of his very own.
Tom and Lori Riti on their maiden voyage aboard their DIY pontoon boat.
Photo by Tom Riti
Riti and his wife love nature, especially getting out on the water. They enjoyed kayaking together throughout the years, but as they got older, it became more challenging.
“We both love kayaking, but sometimes the wind and currents get the best of us and we’re not getting any younger,” Riti says. “It’s also hard to talk about things you see when you’re paddling two different boats. You’re trying to point a bird out to each other, but it flies away by the time you call out! And if you’re familiar with kayaks, you’d know that they aren’t the most stable.”
So, he set out to find a motorized craft with the stability of a pontoon that would allow him to sit side by side with his wife.
“I couldn’t find anything I liked that was already made,” Riti says. “That’s when I had the idea to make the pontoon boat myself.”
The Enterprise NX-01 pontoon boat, unpainted. Photo by Tom Riti
“I was the kind of kid who always read Popular Science growing up.” Riti says. “My parents worried I might take my lawn mower apart and build a hovercraft out of it or something.”
It was in Popular Science that Riti found the inspiration for a design that would work for his needs to be able to brave Virginia’s winter temperatures and ocean waters. When he saw the original design for “A Bicycle Built for Two”, he realized that, with just a few modifications, he could construct a motorized sea craft that could seat both he and his wife comfortably.
Using plywood, some two-by-fours, a bucket full of clamps, and a bit of grit and determination, he got right to work.
The Enterprise NX-01 on the water. Photo by Tom Riti
The great outdoors can give your wood crafts a thrashing, so when it came to waterproofing his masterpiece, he turned to the power of Flex Seal Liquid to get the job done.
“One day I saw an ad for Flex Seal,” he recalls. “That’s when I remembered the other Flex Seal commercials, like the one with the boat and the screen door. After researching all the products, I decided Flex Seal Liquid would be the right product for this application. I picked some up at Lowe’s and sealed the boat, and it has perfectly done the job of waterproofing it.”
How did he do it, you ask? Riti explains he used some 3/8th paint rollers to apply the Flex Seal Liquid. And he says it could not have been easier!
Lori Riti painting the Enterprise NX-01. Photo by Tom Riti
Once the heavy lifting was done and out of the way, all that was left was to name their new vessel before its maiden voyage. And since Riti is a huge Star Trek fan, he decided to name the boat “The Enterprise NX-01” after the legendary spacecraft.
“I’ll admit, I didn’t know if I was building a boat or a submarine at first,” Riti recalls, thinking back on the original launch of the NX-01. But float she did! And 2 years later, he’s happy to report that she’s still going strong. “She’s still bone dry, no water damage. We left her out all winter and there’s no weather damage either… I’ll probably throw on another coat next year, but that Flex Seal is still holding up like a charm!”
Riti continues to find ways to upgrade the vessel. He’s added cup holders and cooler storage, perfect for an evening cruise to watch the sunset with his wife. He’s also mounting a boat Bimini top for extra comfort on the water!
The Enterprise NX-01 has been such a hit with friends and family, in fact, that Riti says his next project will be the NX-02 Columbia, yet another fitting homage.
The NX-01 boat on the water. Photo by Tom Riti
We asked what it means to him to be able to ride out onto the Rappahannock River with his wife. “It’s like our version of a rocking chair,” he beams, describing their outings on The Enterprise NX-01. It only stands to reason that this Star Trek fan’s idea of a rocking chair would have a motor!
Now, Riti and his wife spend their days boldly going where no man (and his wife) has gone before, enjoying their birdwatching in comfort and style.
“It’s fun because The Enterprise NX-01 turns heads. We see people pulling out their phones all the time to take pictures. Thanks Flex Seal!”