"A Most Exceptional Yacht"
Tamora - owned by Bob and Gerri Gros
A row of trophies in Tamora’s main salon testifies to the fact that wooden boat show judges have the same impression. It’s easy to imagine Katherine Hepburn sunning herself on the foredeck, with Spencer Tracy behind the wheel. Maybe Clark Gable’s nursing a drink on the aft deck, playing a hand of pinochle with Carole Lombard. Who knows? It might have happened on this fine vessel that was crafted in 1936.
The ship’s wheel still testifies to its maker, Wheeler Shipyards in Brooklyn, New York. Wheeler was founded in 1910 and according to this article in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, in the 1930’s the company was known as the “Cadillac of yacht builders.” In 1934, Wheeler was commissioned to build Ernest Hemingway’s world-famous boat, “Pilar” which provided the inspiration for Old Man in the Sea and other of the author's works.
Costing only $7,495 when it was built, Pilar was downright cheap compared to Tamora, which was built only two years later for an original cost of $60,000. Figuring inflation, in today’s currency that’s over a million dollars. Who was the original owner? That information has been lost.
According to one document Bob Gros has, “Tamora’s hull was fiber-glassed in 1986 here on the Mississippi coast by local businessman Bill Seeman (Seeman Composites), who used the C-flex fiberglass material he invented and patented.
The boat’s history after that goes into soft focus again, until a friend of Bob’s bought her at a YMCA auction around 1994. Ed Guedan worked on Tamora for nearly 15 years, restoring different parts and even building a covered wheel-house. Its home was a dock in the Rigolets where the yacht rode out the fury of Katrina’s passage directly overhead. Ed tied her across a wide canal with enough slack in her lines to allow her to rise up with the surge, which was well over twenty-feet high. She suffered only a few broken windows.
Bob Gros purchased Tamora in 2009, after Ed became ill. He had her painted soon after and since then, he’s been steadily working on getting all the yacht’s systems in good working order again. Like all boats, "she's a work in progress."
Bob grew up in New Orleans and has fond memories of spending time on the Mississippi coast with family and friends when he was a teenager. His love of boating started then and he’s owned a succession of boats most of his life, starting with a fishing boat he purchased right after his college graduation. He’s a veterinarian and still practices two days each week. For many years, Bob and Gerri split their time between their home in New Orleans and one in Jordan River Shores, in Kiln. When they decided to consolidate into one house, they chose the one in Mississippi.
The couple recently moved Tamora from their dock at home to a slip in the new Bay St. Louis Harbor. They like the Old Town neighborhood, with shops and restaurants just steps away from the dock. The family can come over during special events like the monthly Second Saturday Artwalk and use the boat as their Old Town home.
For the time being, they’ve put aside their dreams of taking Tamora on an extended cruise back up the east coast to the waters she knows so well. The prospect of spending time with their four grandchildren is more tempting. But should they want to take a trip out to the barrier islands, casting off from the harbor instead of from their home up the river cuts four hours off the round trip.
Tamora still has star power, even though she’s over 80 years old.
“She’s a lovely old girl and a steady one too,” says Gros. “She’s always gotten me where I’m going.”