Montreal

Meet the 87-year-old Quebec man who spent the pandemic building a boat

A retired naval architect, Mike Waters kept himself busy at his home in St-Bruno-de-Montarville during the last year-and-a-half by building a boat.

The boat, aptly named the Corona, measures almost 4 metres and is built of marine plywood and fibreglass

A week before his 87th birthday, Mike Waters put his creation in the water for the first time. (Dave St-Amant/Radio-Canada)

Mike Waters built his first boat when he was just 12.

After reading Arthur Ransome's beloved children's classic Swallows and Amazons, Waters embarked on a project that would spark a lifelong passion for sailing.

"I went to the library and got a book which says how to build a boat, and took it home. And, with my father's help, bought some wood and started building it. And that was at 12. I finished it at 13 and put a sail on it at 14."

Waters, who lives in St-Bruno-de-Montarville on Montreal's South Shore, said that he took to boat-building naturally.

The boat can safely accommodate two adults and two children. (Dave St-Amant/Radio-Canada)

A retired naval architect, Waters thought he had built his last boat at the age of 78.

"I wanted to build something that was really very efficient and it would make me happy for my last days. So that was really supposed to be my last boat, and if COVID had not come along, it would have been," he said.

Waters, who turns 87 next week, said that with the borders closed, he was unable to travel to Vermont to sail on Lake Champlain as he usually does each summer.

WATCH | 87-year-old's pandemic project makes maiden voyage on St. Lawrence River:

87-year-old's pandemic project makes maiden voyage on St. Lawrence River

7 months ago
Duration 2:34
Mike Waters, a retired naval architect, built the boat to keep himself busy during the pandemic. This week, he launched the Corona for its first water test.

"Without the ability to go sailing — and I've sailed every year of my life since I was 15 years old or something — I decided to get occupied with building another boat," he told CBC.

The boat he built ended up being a 3.6-metre, four seater which Waters describes as a "Swiss Army knife" because it can do almost everything.

On Wednesday, Waters put his boat in the water for the first time, taking it on a maiden voyage on the St. Lawrence River.

Mark Simons, a long-time friend of Waters, came out to watch the boat be put to the test. (Dave St-Amant/Radio-Canada)

Mark Simons, who's been friends with Waters for 30 years and shares his love of sailing, said it was special to see his friend taking on new projects in his retirement.

"It's quite inspiring to see him at that age, with that enthusiasm," said Simons. "I think he's got more energy than I have."

The boat, which is constructed of marine plywood and fibreglass, was originally designed for a friend who was interested in getting into boating.

However, that friend left the country due to the pandemic and now Waters plans to hang on to his new boat for a few years.

Mike Waters and Mark Simons took the boat out for its maiden voyage on Wednesday. Nov. 3. (Rowan Kennedy/CBC)

Waters says it's about time to take the Corona in for the winter, but he says he'll be taking it out again to set sail in the spring.

"Normally when I build a new boat, I don't give it a name right away, I wait until the boat shows character to me and then I name the boat by the character that's developed," he explained.

"But of course, in this case, it all came out of coronavirus, so it was a natural name. It had to be called Corona."

Based on a report by Rowan Kennedy

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