Calgary man with months to live wants to give away his 10-metre long, hand-built steel boat

·3 min read
A 79-year-old Calgary man, Rudy Holik, is looking to give away his 10-metre long steel boat. (Terri Trembath/CBC - image credit)
A 79-year-old Calgary man, Rudy Holik, is looking to give away his 10-metre long steel boat. (Terri Trembath/CBC - image credit)

Rudy Holik only has a few months to live — and one of his last wishes is to give away his 10-metre long, hand-built steel boat to someone who can make use of it.

In 1994, the Calgary man started building his steel vessel, which weighs more than 4,500 kilograms, in the backyard of his small home in the city's southwest.

Now, with a terminal cancer diagnosis and his 80th birthday in October, Holik says he wants to pass the boat on to someone else's skilled hands.

"Many people are surprised," Holik said about neighbours who see the large steel boat that now sits in his front lawn.

One of those surprised neighbours was Milo Anderson, who recently helped Holik sell his house.

Terri Trembath/CBC
Terri Trembath/CBC

"I literally looked over the fence and went, 'Is that a boat in the backyard of Calgary?'" Anderson said.

Holik said he hasn't worked on the boat for about nine years, but he's willing to give it away for free if someone can transport it.

Boat building in the prairies

The steel cutter is not the first vessel Holik has built. After taking a welding course at the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT), Holik started building his first boat in 1984.

He said there used to be a backyard boat builders' association in Calgary, and members would tow their boats out to Vancouver or somewhere else on the West Coast to sail.

Holik himself has done some international sailing, making trips down to Panama, the Caribbean and even Spain.

When asked why he took on the hobby of boat-building, Holik said he mostly just wanted something to do. As a former contract worker in the oil and gas industry, he would sometimes be out of work and need to fill the time.

Terri Trembath/CBC
Terri Trembath/CBC

"I just couldn't sit on my butt, and sailing was kind of in my mind for a very long time," he said.

"I didn't have money to buy one. So when I saw the other people building, I thought, 'I can do it too.'"

Holik said he never moved to a coastal city because he could only find work in oil and gas in Alberta.

'A true hard sailor'

Anderson has been trying to help his neighbour find someone to take the boat, which was a dream of Holik's to finish.

"It's sad to see that at the end of that point that he couldn't finish that dream. But it would be so amazing to find somebody who wanted to or at least help him out," Anderson said.

Anderson describes his 79-year-old neighbour as "a true hard sailor" and "brilliant man."

"You rarely meet people, I think, that have the personality that Rudy has," he said.

"Not a braggart or anything like that, but just the skill and the talent…. He just decided I'm going to build a boat in the backyard because I can and I want to. And he did."

Terri Trembath/CBC
Terri Trembath/CBC

Holik said so far he's had trouble finding a buyer. He's tried selling it online with no luck, and reaching out to crane operators hasn't been successful either.

"This is a small fish, you know, this is a job perhaps for a couple of hours, and they prefer to take the contract for a day or two," said Holik.

"They ask me [to] send the pictures, and so do I. And then I don't hear nothing, silence."

While Holik said it will be hard to see the boat go, all he hopes is that it ends up in good hands.

"It would have to be somebody who knows what he's doing."