"It has been my safe haven for 40 years plus."

By Meghan Overdeep
February 20, 2019

By the time Jim Tucker purchased “The Boat” in the 1970s, barnacles had already sealed a crack in its immense concrete hull.

Today, Tucker estimates his floating home has about 1,000 years more years in it before it crumbles into dust. And he’s determined to go with it.

As the 85-year-old recently explained to the Sun-Sentinel, he plans to be laid to rest in the bow of the 150-foot vessel, specifically in a body bag encased in fiberglass inside a sealed concrete vault.

And after consulting with lawyers, Tucker expects he’ll be allowed to. "There's no law against my spending eternity in the bottom of my boat," he said.

“The Boat” is currently moored in the Santa Rosa Sound, off Miracle Strip Parkway in Fort Walton Beach, Florida, where it’s served as Tucker’s unique home for more than four decades.

"It has been my safe haven for 40 years plus," he told the Sun-Sentinel. After 22 traumatic years spent in the Army, “The Boat” has been Tucker’s refuge in more ways than one. "Most of my life, I've been scared of something,” he added. "I feel safe here."

The century-old vessel has seen its fair share too. In fact, it’s a bit of a local icon.

Originally built as an Army transport ship in 1921, “The Boat” had passed into private hands by the late 1920s, when it was used for ferrying bananas from Venezuela to the United States. After a brief return to military service in World War II, it was back in private hands by 1951. Afterwards it became a floating restaurant in Wilmington, North Carolina, and later in Tampa, until Fort Walton Beach developer A.P. Qualls bought it in 1974 and moored it at Brooks Bridge as The Showboat. Tucker purchased it a few years later.

Not surprisingly, passersby are often under the impression that "The Boat" is something more than just a boat.

“I’ve had all kinds of people who walk up and say, ‘Is this a bar?’” Tucker told Northwest Florida Daily News. He said questions like that don't bother him at all. He's even shared a drink with some of them. “I’ve met some great people,” he added.

Tucker plans to transfer ownership of the boat to his daughter after his passing.

"I have never enjoyed life more than I enjoy life right now. I wake up, I don't wear a watch,” he told the Sun-Sentinel. “I don't have any worries about an afterlife.”