PEABODY, MA — If you have driven on Lowell Street in the past three decades, you may have noticed the passion project Wilson J. Lobao Jr. started working on in 1984. That was the year Lobao decided to build his own boat. But not just any boat: Lobao set out to build a 45-foot Roger Simpson Liahona Trimaran, earning him the nickname the Boat Builder of Lowell Street.
Lobao died in a freak accident last year at the age of 76 and with the boat still unfinished. Now the family is looking to give it away to anyone willing to promise to finish the boat and pay the $25,000 they estimate it will cost to remove it from the property and get it ready to sail. And the clock is ticking, Lisa Hanselman, Lobao’s daughter-in-law, said Thursday. The family has sold Lobao’s Lowell Street house; the closing on Friday starts a one-year timer included in the purchase-and-sale agreement for the boat’s removal from the property.
“If we don’t find someone, we have to send it to salvage,” Hanselman said. “We really want to find someone who will take it by this fall so it doesn’t have to spend another winter out in the weather.”
Hanselman said her father-in-law was well known in Peabody. His catch phrase was “Simply marvelous” and, she said, he was the type of guy who whistled Christmas carols year-round. The family was devastated when he was crushed by boulders while clearing brush in his yard last August. Investigators believe Lobao was working near a culvert separating his property from a neighbor’s when a retaining wall collapsed.
Since then, Lobao’s widow, Peggy, was diagnosed with brain cancer and died in January, prompting the family to put the house up for sale and wondering what to do with the boat. “We are looking for somebody with his same passion to finish the boat and sail it,” Hanselman said.
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After graduating from the University of Massachusetts at Lowell with a degree in mechanical engineering, Lobao enlisted and tested rocket engines for the Air Force during the Vietnam War. After the war, he returned to the North Shore and took a job with Ted Hood Sailmakers in Marblehead, which started his obsession with the sea and sailing.
And not long after that, the boat started to take shape in the yard of his Lowell Street home.
The family has posted ads on Craigslist, as well as Facebook groups for boat enthusiasts. Hanselman said one prospective buyer from Florida has shown interest, but no one has promised to take the boat and finish the work. The family is including a write up from Green Marine in Yarmouth with what needs to be done to finish it.
“It was his dream to sail the boat and with his passing it became our dream to see it sail,” Hanselman said.
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Photo courtesy of Lisa Hanselman. Used with permission.
Dave Copeland can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 617-433-7851. Follow him on Twitter (@CopeWrites) and Facebook (/copewrites).