Schooner bound for Atlantic docks at Cooper’s Landing

Wednesday, September 14, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 8:51 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 1, 2008

[Note: this story has been modified since its original posting.]

A 61-foot, 48-ton schooner docked Tuesday at Cooper’s Landing on the Missouri River on its way from Independence to Charleston, S.C.

“We are going to go there and start a charter business,” said J.C. Waters, owner and the builder of the Spirit of Independence.

Waters, who admitted to having no previous sailing experience, said it took 12 years to build the boat.

“It is a result of some serious part-time work,” said Waters, who said he worked mostly alone on the boat.


With no previous sailing experience, J.C. Waters spent 12 years building a schooner in his free time. Above, crew member Melvin Gosnell is visible through a porthole. (ANDREA CHILDRESS/Missourian)

“I have just been drawn to boats since a kid, and look what trouble this has got me into,” he said.

Waters, a teacher in Independence for 28 years, said he learned everything about boats himself.

“If a person sticks to it and digs out information in the books, they can do anything they want to,” he said.

The Spirit of Independence sailed out of Independence on Sept. 8 with a crew of six. His 30-year-old daughter, Joy Waters, who was a high school senior when he started planning the boat, is part of the crew.

Waters said the boat needs a crew of at least three, but it can accommodate 16. The fastest the boat can go is between 10 and 11 knots, he said.

Waters expects the trip to Charleston to take three months. Because they cannot use sails until they get to open water, the Spirit of Independence will run on engine power alone.

“If gas prices don’t increase too much, we might spend $6,000 to $8,000 on the fuel,” Waters said.

Although being on the river for three months may sound boring to many, that is not the case for the crew of the Spirit of Independence.

“It is kinda neat. I’ve been seeing a lot of birds, a lot of bald eagles,” said Linda Brink, a crew member.

The same is true for her husband, who visited Columbia on Tuesday.

“It was weird around all the people; I said, ‘I gotta get back to the river,’” said Mel Brink, also a crew member.

Waters said the schooner’s name is in honor of his hometown, and “it reflects what we are doing.”

Mike Cooper, the owner of Cooper’s Landing, said that Spirit of Independence is the largest boat that has ever docked at the Landing.

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