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VIDEO: Nerves of steel required

Gil Devenport has overcome hurricanes, dire economic times and even broken bones to complete what many would call a lifetime achievement. The 66-year-old Florida man single-handedly built a 52-foot, 45-ton steel trawler.

It took him nearly 10 years, a journey that began in the fall of 2002, when Devenport came up with the idea of building a steel boat after reading a book on metal-boat construction by designer Bruce Roberts-Goodson. He chose to build the 52-footer, a rugged oceangoing displacement trawler with a bottom based on solo circumnavigator Joshua Slocum's sailboat Spray.


Click play to see the home-built trawler as Chris Landry describes the boat's features.

"I've always done a lot of metal fabrication," Devenport said in an interview during the summer of 2009. "I have always had precision sheet-metal shops. I've built airplanes and stock cars - that sort of thing. [Building with metal] is not that difficult for me."

Building the boat proved easier than finding the time and money to devote to the project, but Devenport is mostly finished. A crane hoisted Sun Chaser, with her navy blue hull and bright yellow boot stripe, March 11 into the Intracoastal Waterway in Wabasso, Fla.

Devenport owns Vero Beach Fireplace & BBQ, and he built Sun Chaser in a warehouse attached to his office building. It was a tough road, and the month before the launch might have been the most difficult time.

The backside of Devenport's warehouse - a huge aluminum shed - had to be removed to extricate Sun Chaser. Then the pilothouse had to be removed so the boat could make it beneath overpasses as it was trailered about 10 miles to the water. And, of course, the house had to be reinstalled.

"The boat will eventually go down south," Devenport says. "This thing will see some weather, and that's why I built it. It's not meant for the Intracoastal."

"Gil has built many things, but he outdid himself this time," says Devenport's wife, Jean. "Gil has a pirate in him and needs to let it out with the Sun Chaser."

Look for a feature on Devenport and Sun Chaser in the June issue of Soundings.