- Associated Press - Saturday, August 13, 2016

LITITZ, Pa. (AP) - Like many young couples, Caleb and Meagan Keller enjoy having dinner with friends.

They also enjoy boating.

What’s unique about them is that they’ve found a way to do both at the same time.

Caleb built a picnic boat.

Drawing inspiration from a photo he’d seen a few years ago, the amateur craftsman attached an Amish-crafted picnic table to a wooden platform. Four empty 55-gallon barrels provide floatation.

Up to six people can ride at a time.

“A few years ago, there was a picture going around of something like it,” Caleb said during an outing on the boat at Speedwell Forge Lake on Sunday. “I thought to myself that it would be great to do if we ever lived on a lake.”

The Kellers moved to a property adjacent to Speedwell Forge Lake a few years ago, but the lake was drained while workers repaired a dam that was damaged by Tropical Storm Lee in 2011.

With the repairs finished and the lake again full of water this spring, it seemed like the perfect time for Caleb to get to launch his project.

Working mainly on weekends, Keller finished the boat in about four weeks.

“The platform was something I designed,” he said. “Then with the barrels, I just had to figure out how much weight they’d hold and how many I would need.”

The Kellers and some friends took the boat for its maiden voyage on Speedwell Forge Lake in June.

When they put it in the water, a crowd of kayakers, fisherman and other fascinated onlookers quickly gathered around to take photos of the unique craft.

The same thing has happened each time since.

“When we pull it on the boat ramp, people just drop what they’re doing and run up to get a picture,” Caleb Keller said.

On Sunday, an officer with the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission even grabbed a picture for himself.

“There’s no problem here,” the officer said as he stepped forward. “I just want a picture. I’ve seen a lot of stuff on the job, but never anything like this.”

Because the boat is powered by paddles, the Kellers only need a launch permit to sail it on Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission waters.

Adding a gas or electric motor would require them to register it with the state.

Keller has a motor for the boat and has registered his craft, but hasn’t gotten his permit in the mail yet.

So when the Kellers took a few friends on the boat with them on Sunday, they were still using oars to move it around.

“There’s a learning curve,” Caleb Keller said. “It’s not easy to paddle.”

Once they got it out to the middle of the lake, though, it was a pleasant way to while away an afternoon. Guests on the boat enjoyed pizza and watermelon slices.

“It’s a little scary getting on sometimes,” said Meagan Keller. “But once you’re out here, it’s very relaxing. It’s fun.”

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Information from: LNP, https://lancasteronline.com

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