Coalville man builds boat to spend retirement in at sea

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COALVILLE, SUMMIT COUNTY — A Coalville man this week got his first good look at a project he's been working on for more than 13 years. His long-time dream is finally seeing the light of day.

Chris Berrier is about to head out to sea on a boat he's been building since 1999 inside a temporary work-shed made of blue tarps. His goal is to spend the rest of his life on the world's oceans.

"It's just always been my dream," Berrier said. "You know, you see those boats out there and the big white sails. And that's what I want to do."

As Berrier and some friends unveiled the vessel, he said, "That's the first time I've seen it, the whole boat. In the shed, you could never get back far enough to see the whole boat at the same time."

The unveiling drew a small crowd to Berrier's work area behind the state liquor store on Coalville's Main Street. Many residents have been following Berrier's project for more than a decade.

"I met him fifteen years ago," said Coalville businessman Tom Moore. "He had this dream he was going to build this boat. I never dreamed it would ever happen."

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"I think it looks pretty good," said Coalville resident Bill Rowland as the 40-foot vessel came into view emblazoned with a red, green and blue paint job. "He's been working on it a long time."

Berrier capped the unveiling by smashing a bottle of expensive champagne on the vessel's bow.

"I'm excited," Berrier said. "Finally after all these years, I can see all my labor come to fruition."

He's a retired cabinet maker and real estate investor. The workmanship on the fiberglass and wood vessel is all his. From bowsprit to stern, it's 40 feet long.

The work has been far more difficult than Berrier expected when he started in 1999. "Lots of filing and sanding," he said, "a lot more than I ever thought possible."

Making his dream into a reality has required sacrifices. "Lots of blood, sweat and tears," Berrier said. He laughed as he examined his hands that were accidentally bloodied by the broken champagne bottle. "Lots of blood, sweat and tears! And it's in the fiberglass. I can prove it."

The reward for Berrier is to live the rest of his life in tight quarters. The vessel has bunks for five people, but the cabin holding them is tiny. Berrier's only permanent companions will be his two dogs and a cat.

It's just always been my dream. You know, you see those boats out there and the big white sails. And that's what I want to do.

–Chris Berrier

He named the Estobelle Jazz after a dog he used to own.

"She's not a racer but she's a safe boat, Berrier said. "She can go anywhere in the oceans."

There's still quite a bit of work that needs to be done on the top of the boat. Berrier plans to haul the Estobelle Jazz to Florida next Tuesday for several more months of work on land. He hopes to launch from the Florida coast early next year.

"I think I'm going to go to the Bahamas for a year," Berrier said, "and then probably down to Central America first."

After that, it's the world. Once he leaves Coalville, Berrier expects he will never again have a permanent address.

He doesn't even expect to have a home port.


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