Man builds seaworthy small replica of Titanic

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wwltv.com

Posted on May 23, 2012 at 10:46 AM

Updated Tuesday, May 29 at 11:13 AM

Melanie Hebert / Eyewitness News
Email: mhebert@wwltv.com | Twitter: @melaniehebert

NEW ORLEANS -- A rare sight in Lake Pontchartrain caused quite a traffic issue for morning commuters Wednesday. Causeway Police say a replica of the Titanic created the delay as drivers tried to catch a glimpse.

"Wait a minute, this thing is big enough for a human being to be on?" WWL radio host Tommy Tucker asked a morning caller.

"Yes!" replied the caller identifing herself as Patricia from Metairie. "We were shocked! We were shocked to see someone get out of it, we thought it was remote controlled."

The man inside the vessel was 52-year-old owner Mark Koch, who said he was eating donuts while looking out and apparently causing the stir.

"First I got a phone call asking if I had the radio on, and it was a lady, my neighbor, telling me that people were talking about it on the radio," Koch said. "I guess there was a lot of skeptics, when they said the Titanic was out in the middle of the lake they didn't really know what to say."

The wood and fiberglass replica of the Titanic is now parked in front of Koch's Metairie house. The deep sea diver said it weighs about 2,000 pounds at 23-feet long, 5-feet wide and about 9-feet tall.

"We don't take it out that often," Koch explained. "I just completed the restoration of it, or I'm in the process of completing the restoration of it. I took it out this morning to sea-trial it, to make sure it was going to run, the engine was gonna run and all the systems were gonna function properly."

Koch's decision to sail along the Causeway was no coincidence. He wanted to see if it would attract any interest.

Koch says he bought the vessel on Ebay for $9,000 back in 2007.

"It was built in 1983 by Pat and Cecil Gates, two teachers," Koch noted. "They built six battleships and the Titanic. They then took them on a tour around the United States to the 200th anniversary celebrations in New York, with the Statue of Liberty with Ellis Island, and they wrote a book about their adventures. The name of the book is 'You Can't Go Incognito in a Battleship.'"

Koch plans to keep the boat in the area for a couple more weeks. During that time he expects to take it back out to Lake Pontchartrain before he sails it on the Potomac River in Washington D.C., and then he'll be on to the New York Harbor.

"It's really about teaching children, preserving history, educating youth and having fun. Those are our three goals with all of the ventures that we undertake," Koch said.

Koch said he doesn't have plans to make any money off of his Titanic. He owns 14 vessels. That includes one other replica of a Japanese destroyer he says was used in the movie Tora Tora Tora.

 

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