Someone who doesn't know how to build boats builds a boat.
Video is in the link. That stove and fridge look like they're from Home Depot
A retired university professor is living his dream to cruise the tropical waters in his own homemade boat. It's been a 12-year journey that is about to pay off once his trawler is sea worthy on the Tennessee River.
The 44-foot steel hulled trawler was built at the university's equestrian center in Suwanee and moved from mountain to marina on Nickajack Lake Monday.
The Santa Catherine de Guale is more than a steel-hulled trawler. She is a dream come true for Dr. Tim Keith-Lucas, who spent his career teaching psychology at the University of The South in Sewanee.
He spent the last 12-years building her, learning how to weld the heavy steel.
"It is an expression of that other side me," Keith-Lucas said.
The professor was eager to show her off by climbing a ladder with us for a tour from top, down.
First, the important stuff.
"That's the patio for drinking coffee in the morning and wine in the evening," Keith-Lucas said.
That blue thing on the top is a 6-pack sized cooler serving as the cover for the boat's GPS antennas.
"It was a matter of looking around and wondering what will do this job, and there's a lot of that on this boat," Keith-Lucas said.
On the weather deck he showed us, and rang, a big brass bell - a requirement for vessels like this one.
"This bell came off a 1944 light harbor tug that belonged to the Navy," Keith-Lucas explained.
That tug is now used by the Argentinian Navy for training.
The winches for the anchors are from an old military fire engine.
Inside, everything a professor and his wife need for touring the tropical waters. There's a full kitchen with sink, stove, fridge. There are latches on every drawer and door for days when the tide turns to tempest. A dining table converts to a queen-sized bed for guests.
Two full baths are ready to serve, as are a wine storage bin and two air conditioners.
Below we found a cozy place to sleep in queen sized comfort. The engine room boasts a diesel tank that can power a 1,500-mile trip.
The wheel house is really cool with all the gadgets to plot and steer the right course. The captains chairs are from an old, junk yard car. The wooden interior and trim are hand made too. And Keith-Lucas's old university lab table is converted into a navigation table on board.
There's plenty of work still do do like giving the trawler a few extra coats of epoxy. It's tough, grimy work for a professor who's used to wearing coat, tie and gown to class.
These days, he dresses for his new best friends, a diesel mechanic and a welder.
"I spent a whole career going to work each day in a suit and now the suits are all in storage, my life has changed," Keith-Lucas said.
The Santa Catherine de Guale will get her first test in the water in a few days. Work to rig her for the sea will take a few months.
During that time Dr. Keith-Lucas's wife Lisa will retire from her teaching job at St. Andrews School at Suwanee and by the end of July they plan on beginning their journey to the Gulf of Mexico.
SEWANEE, Tenn. -- Tim Keith-Lucas is the type of person who always has a Plan B.
He's the type of person whose plan for a black-tie dinner for 600 includes a blueprint of where every table is going to be on the floor and a number system for guests.
So when he came up with the idea of building his own boat, not many people were surprised.
"I laughed," said his wife, Lisa Keith-Lucas. "When he sets out to do something, he does it."
What surprised some, including Tim, was the amount of time it took to build the Santa Catalina de Gaule, a 44-foot trawler made of steel with a 1,100-pound engine. The boat's nickname is the Ark.
Tim, a retired psychology professor from Sewanee: The University of the South, spent the last 12 years -- almost half of his 30 years of marriage to Lisa -- and about $130,000 on the boat that finally made it down Monteagle Mountain to the Hales Bar Marina on Nickajack Lake on Monday. The 35-mile trip from Sewanee took less than seven hours on an 18-wheeler.
The boat, painted white with a dark red stripe on the top and a black stripe on the bottom, has all the amenities one can find in a home -- a dining table, two bathrooms with showers, a washer and a dryer, bookshelves, wine storage, a queen-size bed and a little deck.
At the same time, it looks homemade.
The wheelhouse includes two-thirds of his old laboratory desk from Sewanee that now will serve as a navigation table. The gray seats are from an old car. An upside-down blue cooler covers the antennas for the Global Positioning System. A lot of the parts came from junkyards.
"It's not polished," said Lisa. "There are gaps where things don't fit. It's not beautiful, but it's OK, it's ours."
Tim started to look for a boat about 13 years ago. Both he and his wife grew up around the water before landing in Tennessee in the 1970s. But he couldn't find any boats he could afford and that he considered seaworthy.
"They were very good for having parties and going up and down the river, but not good to withstand sea conditions," he said.
So he decided to build his own.
He had a 40-foot boat design blown up to 44 feet, the minimum length he considered safe, and had the steel cut with laser technology in the Netherlands. Twelve years ago in August, he was delivered 250 pieces of flat steel almost a quarter-of-an-inch thick. Some of the heaviest pieces weighed 800 pounds.
"It's been a slow, very difficult process," said the thin-framed man while staring at the spot where his boat sat carefully leveled on top of Monteagle for more than a decade.
"Every piece was flat but had to end up as a curve," he said, using his hands to explain the shape of the boat.
He completed the steel portions of the construction in six or seven years, using all of his free time when not teaching psychology, directing the Island Ecology Program on St. Catherines Island, Ga., or volunteering as a firefighter.
He studied mechanical engineering a couple of years before switching to psychology and learned the rest during the boat-building process. He learned how to weld, how to put together an engine room and how to redesign marine toilets so they could withstand water pressure.
He made a lot of mistakes, he said, "but there's always people who know and you go ask."
Tim is fantastically skilled, said Gerald Smith, his friend and colleague of close to 40 years.
"When Tim comes up with a solution, it's probably the best you are going to get," he said.
He has small cuts on his hands and fingers and a scar on his head from where he removed the ladder from the boat without realizing he had left the sea clamps on the top. He had to drive himself to the hospital applying pressure on his head with his hand. Now he's learned to wear a helmet when working on the boat.
There were times the Santa Catalina de Gaule -- or "she," when he talks about the boat -- totally scared him, he said.
"It was a huge job, and I hadn't done it before," he said.
He said he wouldn't have started the project if he had known how long it was going to take, but Smith said that's not his nature.
"He will not stop. There's nothing that will defeat him," he said.
And Lisa was there to support him, along with helping with painting and cleaning of the vessel.
"I think that was my most important job," she said. "Supporting him when he hit a wall, and there were lots and lots of walls."
Even at the end of the long journey, both Tim and Lisa acknowledge the boat never will be finished.
"It will always be a work in progress," she said. "He will be tinkering with it as long as we own it, because if he didn't have that he would build something else."
The couple will be completely free at the end of this summer when they hope to navigate the boat down to Florida. After that?
"I don't know," said Tim. "We don't really have an agenda. It's retirement."