Trailering The Titanic
By Pat Piper
Photos by Ted Jackson, The Times-Picayune and Mark Koch
Mark Koch is pulling his boat on a Pennsylvania expressway en route to his brother's house in Troy, New York, and talking on his cellphone. For what must be the fifth time that day, the passenger in a car next to him flashes a "thumbs up" hand signal after taking a photograph. Koch is unfazed. "I'm getting 'that look,'" he says as he waves back.
"That look" is the result of people suddenly seeing a 40:1 scale model of the Titanic traveling on a trailer along a Pennsylvania road. Some yell out to "watch out for icebergs," truckers beep their horns, and others just stare open-mouthed as they pass in the left lane. That look has shown up in every state Mark and the Titanic have traveled through.
From the Department of How It Happened
After Hurricane Katrina had screamed through the Gulf of Mexico in 2007, knocking out 46 oil rig platforms and damaging others, Koch found himself aboard the 416-foot Normand Clipper, a sub-sea construction vessel designed to make repairs to oil rigs using divers and a pair of ROVs (remote-operated vehicles). A professional diver, Mark was stationed on the vessel for months at a time and would search the Internet during down time to satisfy a hobby of boat collecting. This included a pair of lifeboats from the Andrea Doria that sank in 1956, both of which he found on eBay. Then came the day, after his team had completed a dive out in the Gulf, when he clicked on eBay and saw a photograph of a 23-foot model of the Titanic, complete with trailer, and powered by a 25-hp Johnson outboard.
"I thought about it for less than an hour," Mark remembers, and then adds that after he made the deal, he didn't tell his girlfriend Rachael ... well, not right away. "I waited until I got home," which means until he finished his work onboard the ship, came ashore and returned home to Metairie, Louisiana, where he had once entertained the idea of a maritime museum in nearby Lafitte. With this new acquisition, a museum was still the plan. The problem was, he had this job that kept him on a ship hovering over damaged oil rigs for weeks at a time.
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If the Titanic or any other boat needs help, Captain Shane O'Neal is ready to assist. He's opened TowBoatUS Lafitte along the Gulf Coast. He's available 24 hours/day at 423-326-9768. Details at www.BoatUS.com/Lafitte