Hoola Hut is a familiar site on the water

Jody Conrad | Special to the Press Gazette
Paul Gallant sits behind the wheel of his houseboat, the Hoola Hut.

What do you do when you’ve spent your whole life around boats, and you just can’t find the one you want when you’re ready to settle down and cruise? 

If you are Paul Gallant, you build your own.

Gallant, who is affectionately known as “Hooligan,” is a South Florida native who spent 20 years in the Navy as a mechanic. In 1970 he was stationed at Whiting Field, and when he retired, he came back to settle in these parts.

“I’ve messed around with boats all of my life,” Gallant said. “As a boy, I was always on the water. Then I bought my first sailboat, and sailed Catalina 22s for many years.”

Gallant transitioned from sail to power several years ago.

And that’s how the Hoola Hut came into existence.

The Hoola Hut hits the water recently.

“I wanted the ease of a pontoon boat, but the comfort of a houseboat,” he said. “There is no such thing, so I built my own.”

Known as shanty boats on the Mississippi River, the owner begins with a pontoon boat, strips it to the frame, then builds up whatever they want.

“My idea was always to end up with a boat that I was comfortable being gone in for several days at a time that I could handle by myself. My ‘roughing it’ days are over” he laughed.

The bright turquoise boat features a large patio, a high roof to accommodate his height, bathroom and shower, fridge, stove, and of course an extra long bed.

“Hey, when you build it yourself, you can have whatever you want,” he said.

Gallant has stories to tell about his excursions on the water that most people only dream about.

“Back in my sailing days, I did ‘the loop’ as soon as I retired,” he said.

"The loop" is a 6,000 mile trip that began here, took him up the east coast to the Hudson River, through the Great Lakes, and then back here via several rivers, and finally the Tombigbee.

“Everywhere you go you meet friends when you make this trip,” he said.

The man with the sea in his veins also recounted the tail end of another long excursion, where he was forced to ride out Hurricane Ida in the middle of Mobile Bay.

The interior of the Hoola Hut features a spacious front deck, a bed and restroom with shower on one side, and the kitchen and driving area on the other side.

So the next time you see the bright turquoise Hoola Hut making its way around the river or bay, give a shout out to Hooligan.