Ahoy Mate! Missouri man gets stranded in Pell City with his 41-foot yacht and palm tree
by David Atchison
PELL CITY — George Morris was a long way from home when the transport trailer broke down, marooning him and his 41-foot yacht at a gas station parking lot in Pell City.

“Some customers have been asking us if we’re going to have a drawing for a boat,” said Joy Spradlin, the assistant manager of Wadsworth Oil Company’s “The Store” Shell service station. “One customer asked if we’re all going on a cruise.”

Many questions, jokes and chuckles have surfaced since the 41-foot 1965 Hatteras yacht by the name of “2nd Hand Lion,” sailed into the Pell City gas station on U.S. 231, adjacent to Interstate 20.

“I wish we got $5 for every question we’re asked about that boat, one right after the other,” Spradlin said.

The boat, which has a formal dining room, living room, kitchen and two bedrooms, appeared to be in dry dock Sunday afternoon until Morris could get the boat back onto the repaired trailer that was transporting the vessel to his hometown of Sikeston, Mo. – and yes you’re right Missouri doesn’t have a coast line.

The state does have a small pond next to a busy racing drag strip that Morris, “spelled like the cat,” owns.

“I’m doing my bucket list,” said the 65-year-old man, who drags around a metal oxygen bottle.

Morris wears a small clear plastic hose around his head and the apparatus pumps oxygen into his nose.

“Forty-four years of smoking,” he said. “But, I’m not ready to lie down on the couch and die. As long as I can drag this bottle around, I’m going to live.”

Morris, a sort of the modern-day adventurer, is very much alive, and on an adventurous quest with his 41-foot seagoing vessel.

Morris, who retired from AT&T, said he bought the boat in Talladega, but didn’t make it far before his first trailer broke down. Another trailer was brought in from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., only to break as well.

“I wasn’t aware that there was about a foot-and-a-half of water in the boat,” he said. “It was too much weight for the trailer.”

The water was pumped out, and the trailer was repaired. Morris planned to get back on the road by Monday.

“I’m not going home without my yacht, my boat,” he said.

Morris, who is a bachelor, said the boat will serve as a honeymoon suite, not for him, but for his new RV Park in Sikeston.

“I was going to live in it, but my tax guy said I couldn’t,” Morris said.

He said the yacht will sit on a small pond he built and stocked with “big ole catfish.”

While he was down south, of course, he also had to buy a palm tree to go along with his yacht.

The yacht has been at the Shell station since Wednesday, but while it was there, Morris said a local cleaning woman came in and cleaned the inside of the vessel. The yacht also got a new fresh coat of paint and a local printing company, RTL Printing & Signs, painted the name of the vessel “2nd Hand Lion,” on the bow.

The yacht was named after the movie, “Secondhand Lions,” about a young boy who is sent by his mother to live with his two eccentric uncles, who bought a lion to remind them of their adventures in Africa.

“Instead of a lion, I owned a 12-point deer,” he said.

A friend of Morris’ took him to the 2003 movie, saying the uncles and movie reminded her of him and his home. Morris used to have an old log cabin with a long front porch that he built on 47 acres.

He built a lake there, too, and invited the old men who stayed at his mother’s nursing home to go fishing there.

“They talked about how they missed fishing, so I built a lake,” he said.

Morris built a long handicapped accessible pier so the men could fish for the catfish he stocked the lake with.

He later helped match trouble youth with the older gentlemen, but that’s another story.

Morris said the short time he’s been marooned in Pell City, he has made friends.

“I’m so appreciative of the Shell station,” he said.

He stayed at the Quality Inn, next to the service station.

Morris also made friends with Joseph Bell of Wattsville, who frequents the service station.

He said they both share interests in hotrods.

Bell drove him to places around town, like Home Depot.

“Mr. Bell has been such a friend,” Morris said.

Morris finally sailed off with his yacht Sunday night, but apparently he had more trailer problems, not too far down the road.

“We had another flat tire,” he said.

Morris has inched his way to a truck stop in Brompton, just east of Birmingham.

“I’m resting right now,” he said Monday afternoon.

Workers were trying to get the trailer tire fixed. In the meantime, he is forced to stay in Brompton for the next couple of days.

Morris said he has to figure out a way to turn his boat around on the trailer. The back of the boat is facing forward.

“It can’t ride like this,” he said. “It’s got to be turned around.”

So now he has to search for help to rotate his boat around on the trailer, before he can continue his journey to Missouri.

Despite all the troubles and setbacks, Morris said he has no intentions of abandoning ship, which currently serves as his home away from home.

“I’m going to stay with my boat,” he said. “This may sound funny, but I’m not going home without the yacht. I’m not going to do it. I’m not leaving my boat behind.”

Contact David Atchison at datchison@dailyhome.com.

© 2013