concrete boat—The Boat

[Image above] Credit: Northwest Florida Daily News; YouTube

When you think about the many uses of concrete as a material, the first things that come to mind are roads, sidewalks, and buildings.

But concrete has been used to make some impressive things. We’ve reported on concrete wind turbine towers and a reinforced concrete bridge. We’ve even shared news about an unusual 3-D printed concrete castle.

And don’t forget about those crazy concrete toboggans that engineering students built to compete in a downhill race!

It seems like just about anything can be built with concrete—even ships.

Did you know that concrete ships were used during both world wars? In fact, concrete boats have been around since the mid-1800s. There is even a website devoted to Ferroboats.

One reinforced concrete boat in particular—named “The Boat”— will turn 100 years old in 2021. And it has a rather interesting history.

Owned by 85-year-old U.S. Army veteran Jim Tucker, who hopes to still be around for its birthday, the 600-ton boat began its life in 1921 as a U.S. Army transport on the Cape Fear River in North Carolina. Since then, it served as a ferry from South America to the U.S., transporting bananas—and then was moved to Miami, Fla. and turned into a floating casino on Biscayne Bay. In 1941, it served as housing for U.S. Coast Guard trainees in Wilmington during World War II.

Following the war, the boat provided a temporary office for the U.S. Maritime Commission. In 1951, fish merchant Eldridge Fergus purchased the boat, turned it into a floating seafood restaurant in downtown Wilmington, N.C., and called it the Fergus Ark.

After the Fergus Ark was accidentally hit by a Navy submarine and later the USS North Carolina battleship, Fergus sold it to a Florida businessman, who resurrected it as Lee’s Riverboat restaurant on Tampa’s waterfront. Subsequently, it went through two more owners before Tucker purchased it in 1978, moved it to Fort Walton Beach on the Santa Rosa Sound, and named it “The Boat.”

Tucker initially used the 150-foot ship as office space for the marina, but now it houses his Army photos and artifacts along with other memorabilia from his life. In a Northwest Florida Daily News article, Tucker says he purchased the boat because of its novelty. “It’s just one of a kind,” he says in the article. “There are other concrete ships, but none of this vintage or type.”

According to NWF Daily News, The Boat has outlasted three hurricanes and is one of only a few boats still around with a concrete hull. But exposure to salt water and air is causing its interior to degrade. And while its concrete hull may well last beyond its wooden interior, Tucker estimates it may cost up to $30,000 to repair the interior.

So we can only hope Tucker will have it spruced up and that it will stay afloat for its 100th birthday in 2021.

Tucker’s boat seems to have had more lives than a cat. Watch the video below to learn about the history of “The Boat.”

Credit: Northwest Florida Daily News; YouTube

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