Local artist brings pirate ship out of the woodwork

Beaumont resident Grant Tolley, top right, spent the better part of six weeks building a life-sized pirate ship in his backyard for the benefit of his grandchildren. He said it was all worthwhile seeing the sheer joy his grandchildren derive from playing on the ship. (Omar Mosleh/La Nouvelle Beaumont News)

Beaumont resident Grant Tolley, top right, spent the better part of six weeks building a life-sized pirate ship in his backyard for the benefit of his grandchildren. He said it was all worthwhile seeing the sheer joy his grandchildren derive from playing on the ship. (Omar Mosleh/La Nouvelle Beaumont News)

It’s safe to say Grant Tolley is likely the only Beaumont resident with a life-sized pirate ship in his backyard.

And he built it from scratch, with almost no help at all, for the sake of his grandchildren.
Standing at the helm of ship, his grandkids (whom he refers to as pi-rats) scurrying about, Tolley recalls how he spent the better part of six weeks building the ship about two years ago.
“All of the materials were scrounged from packing crates and theatre sets and that kind of thing,” he said. “It was mostly a personal challenge.”
A daughter of his helped him salvage materials, such as pallet planks, while one of his sons, who is an engineer, contributed to the design.
The long-time Beaumont resident estimates he spent about 100 hours working on the project and about the same number of dollars (mostly for nails and screws).
It all came up subsequent to a challenging blood disorder Tolley has suffered. His doctor recommended that he leave the hospital, get some fresh air and exercise.
As a hobby wood-worker for the better part of his life, Tolley had worked a lot with wood, but never on this scale.
He was trying to think of a project to embark on when he remembered a man that sold pirate ships on the side of the road near Airdie.

“He figured if he could build a pirate ship, I could build a pirate ship,” recalled Tolley’s wife Diane.

A large group of Grant Tolley’s grandchildren prepare to set sail in the Beaumont resident’s backyard. Tolley decided to build the life-sized ship in his back yard for his grandchildren. (Omar Mosleh/La Nouvelle Beaumont News)

A large group of Grant Tolley’s grandchildren prepare to set sail in the Beaumont resident’s backyard. Tolley decided to build the life-sized ship in his back yard for his grandchildren. (Omar Mosleh/La Nouvelle Beaumont News)

Leaving the hospital and building a life-sized pirate ship may not have been the doctor’s prescription Tolley was expecting, but it worked. He spent a few hours on the project each evening, dedicating more time on weekends.
“It was just what I needed … the exercise did me good,” Tolley said.
In fact, Diane thinks it did him more than good.
“I think it saved his life,” she said.
Tolley is most proud of the fact that the ship is safe. That can partly be attributed to the fact that all the rope work was done by Tolley’s son, who is an engineer.
“The ropes we have there were designed with safety in mind,” Tolley said.
“So it’s a unique playhouse, but safe for the kids.”
Tolley built the ship so they can see inside for safety reasons, and there’s also a wooden plank for the kids to dive off into a nearby pool.
The ship has received some interesting comments from neighbours and those passing by.
“When he was building it, our neighbours would look over the fence and say ‘Do you know something I don’t know?’” Diane recalled.
Thus far, the Tolley residence has not received any unexpected animal visitors.
Tolley is now considering a project which would be closer to his wife’s Scandanavian roots, as he still has a lot of excess wood.
“I’m contemplating now building a viking longship,” Tolley said.
“And we could build catapults so they could throw water balloons at each other from the two ships.”
And while he’s certainly proud of having a pirate ship in his yard, Tolley said what gives him the most satisfaction witnessing all the fun his grandchildren have utilizing the ship.
He’s even extending the opportunity to experience that to other Beaumont residents.
“If anyone wants to stop by to let their kids give it a try, come on by,” he said. “We’re in the phone book.”
This story originally appeared in La Nouvelle Beaumont News
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