VIVIAN, Louisiana – Crafting a boat from start to finish isn’t something for the faint of heart and it probably should be left to Noah, or to the talented folks at Epic Boats in Vivian.
Usually starting their day at 2 a.m. to avoid the heat in the open-air facility, located just off the main thoroughfare bisecting downtown Vivian, the 50-plus employees are a dedicated bunch turning out some high quality Wake and Bay boats for Louisianans and others across the country.
Epic Boats — Amber Hodges of Vivian buffs out the side of a Wake Boat at the plant in Vivian. Jimmy Watson/The Times
“The optimal weather temperature for what we’re trying to accomplish is at 2 a.m., but we’re done by 1 p.m. so the employees can go enjoy Oprah or whatever they enjoy doing,” said lamination manager Steve Hutchins.
On a recent tour of the plant through Louisiana North, a consortium of 29 North Louisiana parishes, Hutchins took a group of five visitors through the paces of creating a watercraft from start to finish. It’s a daunting task, but the northern Caddo facility can turn out two hand-crafted, sleek boats, priced in the $50,000-range per day.
“We don’t want to exceed our production level, so we’re cautious on how far we branch out,” Hutchins said. “We hope to be producing four per day by the end of November.”
Epic Boats — applying lacquer Jimmy Watson/The Times
DeQuarias Clinton of Shreveport, Eric Carter (Vivian), Linda Monroe (Vivian) and Jarika Davis (Shreveport) spent their morning cleaning the mold of a console unit that would eventually house the electrical components. Amber Hodges and Leon Brown employed buffers to work the side of a fiberglass hull, ever vigilant for defects.
“Everyone in the back area watches for the smallest of flaws,” Hutchins said. “If we find any, we sand them out and fix them.”
The plant uses a “vacuum bagging” system to infuse the laminate into the hull. Only one large bag is used for each boat and the gel time for the resin is approximately 45 minutes. A hull must cure for 12 days before it comes out of the mold or it will lose its shape.
Epic Boats — workers separate the fiberglass mold from the base at Epic Boats in Vivian, La. Jimmy Watson/The Times
Near the end of the tour, Blanchard’s Andre Brittentine was dry fitting the bottom and top sections of a new boat before applying Locktite when all the parts appeared perfectly aligned.
“If you need to take it apart after we’re finished, you’ll need a stick of dynamite,” Brittentine said.
Tracy Russell was among the employees installing electronics in the completed console, while the finishing touches on the craft’s T-top towers was handled by Patrick Boxley.
The facility recently completed an order of 10 boats for the Kentucky Wildlife Department. According to the Epic Boats office personnel, the boats are available locally at Bayou Outdoors Supercenter in Bossier and at Gregg Orr in Texarkana.
Here are a couple examples, ready for purchase, found on eBay.