Stephen Sittler, AB'62, believes that "everyone should build a boat." A gastroenterologist in Chicago for more than 40 years, Sittler retired in 2006 and left Hyde Park for Sawyer, Michigan, a small town on the southern shore of Lake Michigan. Quickly he realized he would need something to occupy him. That something turned out to be a 34-foot schooner with three anchors, a generous galley, plenty of bookshelves, and enough berths for four passengers. Building the boat from scratch inside a former auto-parts shop, Sittler is 15 months into the three-year project. Last November he finished the hull and hired a crane to turn the boat right-side up (the hull is put together upside down); since then he's been working on the boat's interior spaces: the galley, chart table, berths, and a slot in the stern for a 20-horsepower motor.

His purpose, he says, is greater than just having a sailboat to skipper and live aboard; the work is meticulous and obsessive, but "fascinating and gratifying." For him, it is sometimes more metaphysical than physical. "The chair"—where he deliberates on the project—"is one of the most important tools in the workshop."


Photos: From atop a ladder Sittler sorts through the wood he'll use to build a marine bookshelf; Sittler sent away for a set of blueprints for his 34-foot schooner.

April 2, 2008