Nautical fan has big ideas for Storm Lake's landlocked dream schooner

Thursday, January 10, 2002

A school superintendent from Williams Bay, Wisc., is leading an effort to save a 40-year-old half-finished boat docked in a Storm Lake garage, and the caretaker of the schooner said he would welcome any effort by the Milwaukee-area resident to prevent the boat from being cut up.

Walter Stover, a native of Sheffield, Iowa, is enthusiastically trying to talk to people in Storm Lake to save the schooner, which could be dismantled if Jack Anderson, who now takes care of the vessel, cannot find a buyer willing to take the 45-foot all-oak ship out of its home at 621 Iowa Street.

Anderson's brother, Bob, began work on his dream boat in the late 1960's, but had to stop construction 20 years ago for reasons which included health-related issues.

Reluctant to raze the boat, Jack sent a letter out to a number of people and organizations in Storm Lake and around the nation several months ago in an attempt to find a new pier for the ship to dock on. He received replies from several people in Maine, Minnesota and Wisconsin, but no one chose to pursue the project beyond the initial stages.

Enter Walter Stover, who wants to help the community restore, complete and display the boat as a community attraction and an educational tool.

Stover's interest in the Storm Lake schooner springs from his participation in a similar salvaging project in Milwaukee for the past five years, where he and a group of sailing enthusiasts helped restore the 138-foot Dennis Sullivan, which now patrols the Great Lakes after being docked for numerous years on the western shore of Lake Michigan.

Stover, who attempted for two months to build a group which would transport the boat from northwest Iowa to Milwaukee, thought he had formed a coalition in November, but the effort fell apart at the last minute.

The superintendent of the Williams Bay School District has not given up hope that the boat can sail along paved highway from the Storm Lake area to the Lake Michigan area, but said he is now trying to move the boat from Iowa Street to a more visible location somewhere in The City Beautiful.

Stover visited relatives in Storm Lake the week of Dec. 27, and contacted several area businesspeople and those at the Chamber of Commerce and City Hall during the visit. He will also attempt to contact Storm Lake Superintendent Bill Kruse and other parties who may be interested in the vessel over the next few weeks.

"Right now, I'm putting my efforts into contacting other people, particularly those in Storm Lake, to see if there can be some sort of effort to preserve that boat," Stover said. "I want to help prevent this boat from being chopped up, because I think it's really a valuable object."

One of the reasons for the Milwaukee group's reluctance to take up the project centers around financial concerns. Stover estimated it would cost around $5,000 to move the boat from Storm Lake to Milwaukee, and said an effort to make the schooner seaworthy could reach a six-digit figure.

"I don't have enough of my money to finish it, or it would have been done by now," Stover said. "I can't really say for sure what it would cost to finish the boat, since I've only seen it in pictures, but knowing what the other schooner cost to repair and restore, it would probably cost around $100,000 to put that boat on the water. It's not a cheap thing at all."

However, he said it would cost significantly less to relocate the ship elsewhere in Storm Lake, and said that was part of the reason for his new focus on making the vessel part of the city's landscape.

"Again, I don't know what it would take in terms of money to get it out of there and set it on a permanent stand, but I would estimate it would take about $40,000 to $50,000 to take it to a location in Storm Lake and set it up from there," Stover said. "You could have someone do some restoration, build and put the masts up and do a minimal amount of rigging, and I would think it would be something that would really look good and be a good attraction for the city.

"Storm Lake is just a wonderful place, and I can see that boat down along any one of the parks along the lake down there," Stover continued. "I think it would be something that would really be great for the city, because it would be great advertising for the lake and the city of Storm Lake."

Jack Anderson said his brother, a skilled carpenter, had planned to build the boat for a trip from Sioux City to the Gulf of Mexico via the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers, and worked on the ship during his free time for almost two decades.

Stover said that dream is a primary reason for his concern about the boat, as he wants to make sure the list of people who gaze at the boat grows by leaps and bounds in the future.

"It would just be a crying shame if this boat was cut up," Stover said. "We're talking about a man's dream, and I think if he put all of this effort into it, we should do as much as we can to save it."

Stover said another reason for his interest in keeping the boat from becoming pieces of lumber is the educational impact the schooner could have in the classrooms of Storm Lake.

"A couple of us have sat down up here and we've decided that there are just hundreds of ways to take this boat and turn it into an educational tool," Stover said. "You could ask students to calculate the power generated by the sails, examine the physics behind the flow of the ship, figure out how fast the ship could go from point A to point B, calculate the volume of the ship and how many passengers or cargo it could hold, and you could also teach some tremendous history lessons with this as well. This is something that is an excellent learning tool for anybody's classroom."

Stover said he was most excited about the historical value of the vessel, and said that simply having students examine the boat could be the starting point for an entire unit on the birth of trade and the impact shipping had the lifestyle of those living in the Midwest during the 18th and 19th centuries.

"Once you get around to researching this kind of a project, you learn that Iowa, Wisconsin and Illinois were developed from commerce that took place on ships similar to this one in Storm Lake," Stover said. "The first Board of Trade was in Milwaukee, and barges came to the Great Lakes to pick up and drop off grains. You also had ships that moved up and down the Mississippi, the Missouri, the Ohio and so on. To a large extent, large agriculture in the Midwest got its start from some kind of ship.

"How did this country build sailing vessels before the advent of electricity?" Stover continued. "What did they look like? What tools did they use? What materials did they use? Well, there's a boat right there in the middle of Storm Lake that can help answer all of those questions. It's sitting right there in your town. It really is a living history item, and that's reason enough in my book to try to restore this and save this."

Any person interested in learning more about the schooner can contact Jack Anderson at 732-1286 or send mail to P.O. Box 955 in Storm Lake.

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