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Hand-built boat took him 15 years to build

August 2, 2018

Steve Gubser closed a seemingly never-ending chapter of his life on July 24 at Clear Lake Park in Seabrook when he launched Sirena, a 48-foot handmade catamaran from the docks off Nasa Parkway.

It took 15 years and five to six days per week of mostly solitary work to finish building the vessel, which is named for the Spanish word for “mermaid.”

“Now things are back to normal,” Gubser said a week after he put Sirena in the water — the same week he and wife, Ann Mathis, moved back into their Meyerland home after a year of renovations due to flooding from Hurricane Harvey.

“It was a crazy week,” he said of the week before the launch. “Thursday morning we moved out of our rent house to our house, Monday night we got the boat on the road and Tuesday we launched the boat.”

The intense slog of work on the boat began in 2003 and figures into the couple’s retirement dreams — they plan to move to the Caribbean and start a charter company to ferry guests around the islands for sunset and day cruises. But that will have to wait until Mathis joins her husband in retirement. Gubser, 54, retired last fall from a career in oil and gas sales.

“That’s our dream to live in tropics and run a business,” he said

For now, Gubser said he plans to start what will likely be called “Sirena Tours” and will soon be ready to take aboard corporate groups, social outings or couples looking for a relaxing cruise along the coast.

Gubser is an avid boater but will hire a captain to run the cruises. He plans eventually to get his own captain’s license.

“It’s my 401(k),” Gubser said the day of the launch as the 13,000-pound sailboat slipped off the dock and into the water for the first time with a hired captain taking the helm to transport around 10 of the couple’s friends.

Because of the boat’s size, Gubser hired Marsh House Movers to transport and launch Sirena.

The double-hulled boat can accommodate 49 passengers aboard its 28-foot-wide frame and has two restrooms.

Gubser couldn’t estimate how much money he spent throughout the almost two decades it took him to build Sirena, but he said it’s less than the cost of buying something similar new, which he said would be around $600,000.

Gubser had help along the way from occasional hired labor and materials suppliers who he said were great sources of information regarding fiberglass construction. And, he added, around the time he started building, the internet was just beginning to offer sources of information that he found useful.

Gubser chose a U.S. Coast Guard-certified design for Sirena from Kurt Hughes Designs, a well-known multihull designer out of Seattle.

Sirena was built inside a warehouse on a piece of property Gubser bought near South Sam Houston Tollway and Texas 288.

One of the reasons Gubser chose Clear Lake Park for the vessel’s maiden voyage, he said, is because it has one of the only docks wide enough for Sirena out of the others he considered.

Despite the savings and the finished product currently docked at the Kemah Boardwalk Marina, Gubser would not do it again.

“I will never build another one, I’ll never take on another substantial project ever again. It was quite a relief, I was tired of building the boat for the last five years,” he said.

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