From Ink to Water

One cool, spring day in 2012, Jyon Corbett Jr. had summer on the brain. With warm, school-free days fast approaching, he began daydreaming of skimming across the waves near his Gulf Shores home. However, the 12-year-old sixth grader, whom his family calls Jyon Jyon, didn’t have a boat; that’s when he decided to build his own.

“I got bored in school one day and started thinking about a boat to use to go fishing and have fun in the summer, ” he recalls. “I had the plans in my head so I started sketching designs. When I came up with one I liked, I drew it out on graph paper.”

The Only One Like It

Jyon Jyon sought to create something uniquely original, drawing inspiration from another boat, but tweaking the design with his own ideas. He envisioned building a 17-foot boat from marine plywood that would accommodate at least three people. He planned to cover the wood in epoxy to make it seaworthy and strategically add fiberglass strips for strength.  That April, Jyon Jyon began work on the dream craft. Hoping to launch it as soon as school ended, progress ran slower than anticipated. In May, spring training for the young football player interrupted his work schedule. Nevertheless, the junior craftsman pressed forward. His father cut the wood with the saw, and friends even occasionally helped.

“I’m not very patient, so I tried to build it as quickly as I could for the summer, ” Jyon Jyon confesses. “I worked whenever I could find time. The hardest part was bending the sides and front to meet. We pulled it all together with a come-along. When we finally got the sides on and it started looking like a boat, I thought it was almost ready to go, but we still had a lot of work to do.”

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A Long, Slow Process

Weeks passed quickly, preventing Jyon Jyon from enjoying his vessel that summer, but the boat eventually came together. In mid-August, he finalized the finishing touches, just in time for another school year to begin. As completion neared, his parents, DeLacee and Jyon Corbett Sr., bought a 30-horsepower outboard for the boat.

“On the day we got the motor, I had some friends over after football practice. I walked right past the motor to the shower and never even saw it, ” the offensive lineman recalls. “Everyone wanted me to come back outside, but I was really tired and thought they were going to play a joke on me.”  As the summertime waned, the family still couldn’t put the boat in the water just yet; it had to be registered with the state. “The Alabama Marine Police had to inspect it first to make sure it was seaworthy and safe, ” the elder Jyon explains. “Within two weeks, the inspector came out and passed the boat. We got the registration numbers for it about a week later so it was finally legal.”

Into the Water

Soon afterward, the Corbetts gathered with high anticipation at the lagoon near their home to watch the first launch. The boat gently floated off the trailer and culminated a long, arduous process full of satisfaction, pride, memories and lessons learned.

“I’m really proud of him, ” DeLacee gushes. “I think it’s phenomenal what Jyon Jyon and his dad did. They spent many, many hours on that boat. I don’t think Jyon Jyon realized how much work it was going to take. When I finally took photos of them steering across the lagoon, we all knew that they had really done something together.”

This summer, the now 13-year-old builder spent long hours fishing and crabbing from his boat before entering eighth grade at Gulf Shores Middle School.

“It’s been a wonderful experience, ” he says. “I learned patience when I had to build parts over and over. Next time will be easier because we learned how to do things on this boat. I often think about building boats and selling them, but I’ll enjoy this one for a while before I do that!”

text and photos by John N. Felsher

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