There was some trepidation for Victoria “Tori” Cote, 16, about testing her handmade boat on the water. A student at Cherokee High School, she had built the boat herself from scratch with no formalized plans in her parents’ garage, and with no experience working with fiberglass or in creating floating vessels.

“I got it out, and I expected at least one small leak,” Tori said. “After all, I had no plans, and it was a boat build from scratch. But it held up strong with no leaks. The next day I took it out fishing for seven hours.”

There were learning curves during the teen’s building process. She suffered minor chemical burns after beginning to work with fiberglass, and at first did not use a proper respirator, resulting in her losing her sense of smell for several weeks.

But like most of her hand-built projects, she had an idea, dove in headfirst and made it work.

Her boat is not just a garage project, though. It has been certified legal by the Department of Natural Resources. Tori’s mother, Anthea Cote, said a DNR official told her he had never inspected a homemade boat built in a garage by a 16-year-old girl.

The “Mayfloat” boat is Tori’s latest creation in a long line of handmade projects. She has hand-crafted cutting boards, bird houses, bottle openers, tables, jewelry boxes, a charcuterie board and other creations. Some projects are gifts, others are made by request.

Some of her larger projects include an American flag golf ball holder and a complete set of outdoor furniture, including a sectional sofa, chair and table for her parent’s home.

“She’s always piddling in some kind of different woodworking,” her mother said.

The builder’s interest in creating was spurred by a woodworking class she took as a freshman at Cherokee High.

“After that first year I just started building stuff and just kept it going,” she said.

Her projects have created a following, with continual requests from neighbors, friends and family to use her skills.

Anthea Cote said recently Tori was recognized at a bank. A little while later, she had another project on her hands at the request of one of the employees.

“She’s a great kid, just so very talented,” Anthea Cote said. “She’s just a hard-working kid that makes some amazing stuff.”

Tori’s drive goes beyond saws and planks. Anthea Cote said her daughter has always been self-motivated.

“When she was about 10, she asked for a dirt bike, and I said if you save up the money for it, you can have it,” Cote said. “She started doing things around the neighborhood, and six months later, she had saved $1,200.”

It was a similar story for the “Mayfloat” project.

“At first I said no way, you’re crazy,” Anthea Cote said. “But within six weeks, she had a boat and had taken it on its maiden voyage.”

Tori has continued her entrepreneurial spirit. She does lawn maintenance, pet sits, runs errands, uses her truck to haul items, babysits and paints mailboxes. Recently, she helped a near full renovation of a friend’s home.

“I keep myself pretty busy,” Tori laughed. “I work a lot so I can afford tools for my expensive hobbies.”

While Anthea Cote and her husband, David, are proud of her daughter’s work ethic and projects, she commends her good-natured spirit. She said Tori is extremely respectful, a good student and good person. She has befriended an elderly neighbor, and the two regularly have meals together and regularly play Yahtzee together.

“I don’t know how I got blessed with such a good kid,” Anthea Cote said.

Tori is dual-enrolled at Cherokee High and Chattahoochee Tech, where she is taking welding courses. Her goal is to combine her passions for woodworking and welding and create her own business someday.

“I’m just thankful God gave me the opportunity, and he gave me the power to use my hands,” Tori said.


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