WINTHROP — The first time Laura Huddy saw Lon Cameron’s floating motorized picnic tables, she knew it would be perfect for her family.

“It’s such a blast,” Huddy said. “We just love it so much.”

Right now, Huddy is part of a fairly small group who own the innovative floating craft on lakes and ponds, but a year from now, that number could grow as Cameron takes his business, Maine Float LLC, and starts to scale it up.

“I’ve grown up visiting lakes and ponds, and I’ve always loved being on the water,” Cameron, 39, said. “I’ve never been the sailor, my wife is the sailor.”

The seeds of the idea for floating picnic tables spouted several years ago when Cameron and Tyler Kidder, who are married, were taking apart an old floating dock on their property in the southwest corner of Winthrop. While the dock itself was in bad shape, the float boxes were in good condition.

When he looked to see what people were doing with float boxes on Pinterest, an online image sharing platform, he saw photos of picnic tables on blue food-grade barrels that people had built that were equipped with outboard motors.

“I was like, ‘Oh, that’s a cool idea, but I want to take it a step further,'” he said.

Using the float boxes as a platform, he built a picnic table to fit using 8-foot lengths of cedar on a pressure treated lumber frame and added a trolling motor his father-in-law gave him to pull the craft through the water.

The maiden voyage was not a success.

“We were spinning and going sideways,” he said. “We had no control over the steering on it. It was really difficult to steer, especially if the wind was up at all.”

Kidder suggested adding a center board, and they used the center board from the dingy that Kidder had built with her uncle, and that made the craft easier to handle.

Cameron and Kidder lived with that table — complete with an umbrella, cup holders and a swim ladder — for two years, while friends and family encouraged him to build and sell more of them.

When they listed it for sale on Facebook Marketplace at the start of Memorial Day weekend,  Cameron had already been thinking about how the craft could be improved and was ready to work on version 2.0. He had estimated he could have four done by the start of summer.

The ad caught the attention of WJBQ and WCSH, which aired pieces on Cameron and his creation within days of one another in June, which in turn caught the attention of people across Maine.

“I just got bombarded,” he said.

He called a brief halt to advertising while he prepared a patent application and set up his LLC. He submitted his application last week, a week after the U.S. Coast Guard sent out someone to do an inspection of the craft.

Now he has his own manufacturer’s identification number, so he can create his own unique hull numbers and issue them with each craft. With these numbers buyers can register their floating picnic tables with their towns as they would any other water craft.

In the next month, he’ll launch his website, mainefloat.com, but his email, [email protected] is expected to go live before that.

“I don’t do any advertising; they advertise themselves,” he said. “It’s not something I readily saw happening.”

But that’s how it has worked out. One camp owner on Pickerel Pond in Limington bought one. The pond is too small for the really big motor boats, and they wanted something quiet. That prompted a second camp owner to buy one. Now a third camp owner has pre-ordered one for the spring.

Huddy was one of the people to contact him as soon as she saw the piece on TV and reached out on Facebook. As relatively new camp owners, Huddy said her family doesn’t have a boat, but they wanted something they could handle easily.

“I was thinking the chances of me getting this are pretty low, because it’s probably popular,” she said. “And I got one.”

Huddy said Cameron offered to have her family come out and try it out, but she took a leap of faith and committed to buy one, after messaging with Cameron, asking him a lot of questions and watching a video.

The table was delivered just before mid-July to the Huddy camp in Poland, where it was christened Big Walter. They take it out for a spin when they are at camp, or just use it as an extension of their dock where they can spend time on the water and play games.

“I can’t tell you how many people have stopped us on the lake,” she said. “I’ve seen a ton of boats come up to it when it’s docked and take pictures.”

To date, one table is in New York, one is in Massachusetts and the rest are in Maine.

Developing the table has fed Cameron’s creative drive.

Cameron earned a degree in anthropology originally, and spent some time working for the state of Maine until he was ready to try something different.

“I felt like I was at a dead end in terms of income and flexibility to pursue other creative stuff,” he said. “I really love design and dabbling with things.”

He went back to school at the University of New England and is now a physician assistant at MaineGeneral’s Express Care clinic in Winthrop.

Even as he was pursuing that, he had another business, Portland Pallet Works. He built fixtures for businesses and restaurants in the Old Port from reclaimed materials. He’s also built tiny houses, including Two Cedar Tiny House, which he operates in Winthrop as an AirBnB with its own waterfront access.

Even as he’s building version 2.0, he’s thinking about version 3.0 and what modifications that might come with, including extending the length from 8 feet to 12 feet. The tables, which currently cost $2,800, come with an electric motor that can be charged either via a solar panel or an electric outlet, as well as oars. If he adds a hibachi (a Japanese heating device), it will come with a fire extinguisher.

“So far, it’s really brought a lot of smiles to people. People love this, people who don’t want a boat and don’t know how to use a motorboat,” he said. “It’s very user-friendly.”

While he’s able to build the vehicles at his home with the help of another builder, he may move the operation to a warehouse space if demand dictates, and he’s already had some offers from people who have space to lease. That, as well as the cost of materials, will drive the price of the watercraft.

“I think there’s definitely a market for this,” he said. “I don’t know how many; I don’t know where it’s going, but I’m gonna put it out there in the world and just see what happens.”


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