All kinds of boats can be seen in his area, but one built by a New York Mills, Minn., man has been seen by few and will likely never reach a lake.
Harry Kraft's large wooden replica of Noah's ark may not be exactly to scale, but it's pretty close to what the Biblical Noah's ark may have looked like.
Kraft is a former area resident and is the father of Becky Jessen of Linn Grove. "Just a few people have seen it, I've really never went and pushed the theory about showing it (to the public)," Kraft said.
Kraft made the replica so it can easily be taken apart to look inside and put right back together again. For that purpose he has opted not to build the entire roof. "I built it so I could take it apart for the kids, so people can see in, to visualize what it's really like," Kraft said.
More than 20 years ago Kraft was teaching Sunday School at St. Peter's Lutheran Church in New York Mills. He said the kids in that class of fourth or fifth graders, were fascinated by the story of Noah's Ark.
"I thought it would be interesting to build an ark and show it to the kids," Kraft said.
He spent many hours working on the ark for a couple of years. Later, he got busy to the point where he set it aside. He didn't touch it for 10 years. Then when he had a little more spare time, he started working on it again. He chose Minnesota brown cedar, a soft wood that's easy to work with, in putting the replica together plank by wooden plank and piece by piece.
"It turned out to be just sort of a hobby for me," Kraft said. Kraft has constructed the ark with meticulous detail from the wooden pegs, made from toothpicks, right down to ventilation holes in the sides of the boat and numerous stalls and rooms made for the animals. "I saved these two stalls for the giraffes," he says as he points to a couple stalls with high ceilings toward the center of the ark.
The three-level boat, at 9 1/2 feet long, is but a sliver of the size of the ark described in the Bible.
From reading the Bible and other books like "The Ark of Ararat" by Tim LaHaye and John Morris, Kraft surmised that the real ark was 450 feet long, 75 feet wide and 45 tall. It had more than an estimated 1.5 million square feet so it could hold about 50,000 land animals. That's about equivalent to 569 rail cars. It was estimated to have taken 120 years to build. He said before the flood trees grew much bigger than they do now, Noah and his family would have had plenty of sturdy gopher wood for the outer shell of the ark. It wasn't a pretty ship. The mammoth boat wasn't all that round like depicted in some drawings, he said. It was constructed similar to the way large sailing vessels are today to handle all the stress of the waves. "To guide the ark there was huge stones attached to one end of it, they drug in the water like a huge anchor," Kraft said.
As for the animals, he's still working on a plan for them. He has a plastic bag filled with toy plastic animals, but most of them are not the right size for the ark. Kraft is done with the ark itself except for general maintenance, but he continues to seek scale-model animals to place inside.
When reading from the Bible or other reputable Christian sources on the ark, Kraft likes to imagine what the real vessel was like. "I don't think the ark was completely leak proof, that's why I built the bottom floor," he said. Kraft's replica of the ark is built so that some water can sit in the bottom of the boat. And reinforcements can be found in the stalls for the larger animals.
"Stalls for larger animals were double planked, so if they should step on it, it would come away," Kraft said. But that wasn't really the main purpose for having double planking, he said. Ventilation was the main reason.
Critics point to the unlikelihood of it. It seems too unbelievable and how could that many animals come aboard the vessel in six days? "God gave them a sense of calm", Kraft said.
It's a nice thought, a good biblical fable, say critics. But could the story of Noah's Ark as depicted in the Bible be historically and scientifically accurate?
High up on a Russian mountain near Turkey, in an area not inhabited by human beings, is a large dark structure that's been photographed. Aerial photographs show what looks like a large vessel jutting out of the mountain. More information can be found in LaHaye and Morris' book. Many have pointed to this as evidence that the Bible is a historically accurate source. "God's creation is just what it says in the Bible. He created all things," Kraft said.