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Would you set sail in a mini submarine?

Scott Waters laughs with divers as his custom-built submarine is lowered into the water at Milford Lake. – AP photos
Scott Waters laughs with divers as his custom-built submarine is lowered into the water at Milford Lake. – AP photos
Would you set sail in a mini submarine?
Associated Press
Associated Press
Ever since Scott Waters watched the Disney movie classic "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea," he's wanted to build his own submarine.

"I watched it over and over, and I got blueprints for a submarine back in the first grade," he said. "I actually knew back then how a submarine was built."

Now, at age 27, the rural Salina resident has finally fulfilled his lifelong dream. He has built an actual working submarine.

It took him five years. Waters has built, piece by piece, a 14-foot-long, 6-foot-tall, 4-foot-wide, 4,500 pound, steel-plated two-man submarine.

It's completely custom-built using boiler-grade steel and equipped with a high-pressure air system and enforced framing and bumpers. It has acrylic plastic windows, exterior mounted tanks filled with compressed air to raise and lower the sub, an exterior lighting system, global positioning system, underwater communication devices and sonar system with a 180-foot radius.

The sub is powered by eight Marine batteries placed inside sealed cylinders on the bottom half of each side of the sub.

When fully operational, the sub is designed to travel at 4 nautical knots, or 4.5 miles per hour, operated by a pilot who sits in a conning tower on the upper cylinder of the sub.

"The pilot drives it like an airplane and sits on the top so you can drive around on the surface," Waters said.

Waters, who earned his Eagle badge as a Boy Scout, decided to name his sub "Trustworthy" after the first Scout law.

"But if I had known how long it was going to take, I would have named it 'Persistence,' " said Waters, who is vice president of Waters True Value Hardware in Salina, Kansas.

Earlier this month, his persistence paid off as Waters and several volunteer workers and divers successfully launched Trustworthy from the Milford Marina at Milford Lake.

"We'll start with a pre-dive inspection of every part of the sub to see that there's nothing we've forgotten," he said. "We'll put it in the water with a trailer, like they do a motor boat. Then drive it around the surface to see if the motors are functioning properly."

Before that, Waters said, a ballast test would take place, where weight is added and subtracted so it is distributed evenly.

"The last thing we'll do is dive it with me inside, with divers hanging onto it," he said. "I can use a slate or sign language if anything goes wrong, or if I have to bail out, I have a full scuba system inside."

Similar to the NASA space shuttle launch, a single setback can delay the launch for hours, and that was the case with the sub launch. The electrical system was not grounding properly and delayed the sub's launch time from 10 a.m. to about 2 p.m.

Once the sub was put in the water, Waters said everything checked out and the launch went smoothly. Although the sub has the ability to dive as deep as 350 feet and support life for 72 hours, Waters said the sub dove just a few feet at Milford Lake.

Waters' next step is to take the sub to the Florida Keys for the annual convention of PSUBS, which stands for "personal submersibles." It's an organization of like-mined amateur submarine builders who have built and operate their own personal submarines.

"There's about 60 of these in the whole world and (this is) the only one in Kansas," he said.

Waters started on his personal sub in April 2008 at age 22 when he bought existing blueprints from PSUBS. He began building the sub with boiler-grade steel ordered from steel suppliers. He welded it together himself and with the help of willing volunteers who put in "thousands of hours" through the years, he said.

"A lot of pieces were high-pressure welded," Waters said. "It has to be perfect welds."

Waters said he doesn't know the total cost of the sub, since some of the materials were donated and all of the labor was volunteer. He guesses it's somewhere between $5,000 and $10,000.

Waters said he knew it would be hard to build a submarine, but he didn't expect it to be as difficult as it was.

"It was a fight and a struggle at times," he said. "But if something feels impossible, I keep punching at it until it's done."

Waters hopes that when his sub is fully operational, it can be utilized for underwater search and rescue operations.

One thing Waters wants to clear up is the color of the sub. Yes, it's yellow as in The Beatles' famed "Yellow Submarine," but that wasn't meant to reflect the Fab Four's famous tune.

"Actually, it was supposed to be orange, but the paint got screwed up and mixed wrong," he said. "But it worked out, because the sub has to be visible so people can see it."

So now that he's built a fully operational two-man sub, the culmination of his childhood dream, what could Waters possibly do for an encore?

"I'm working on my pilot's license," he said. "So I think I'm going to build an airplane. I just can't stop."

Critical thinking challenge: List three obstacles Scott overcame with persistence.


- Posted on September 22, 2013
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It was amazing that since he was in 1st grade he had a life long dream of building a personal submarine, with the help of one person he made that dream come true.

this was a crazy idea. anything could have happened. there lucky they survived. i would never hav the guts to go there.the sub is way to small.. i wonder if he had to like bend his body to fit.

The quiz was hard for me. This article is cool for me because this man has just made a submarine piece from piece. If you ask me i cant do that so give that man some credit.

I just picked to choose this article because it was about a submarine that was yellow . I'm a fan of the Beatles and I saw the yellow submarine and just clicked it .

"We all live in a yellow submarine" was the first thought that came to mind. I personally would love to go in this submarine. I've always wanted to go in a submarine, however I would not want to live in there because it's too small.

i don't think i could set sail in a mini submarine.i would be scared to be in it by myself.i would feel claustrophobic in the submarine.its crazy how he got the idea from a movie, imagine how many times he had to watch it to come up with the blue prints.

What I think that somebody who has big of a dream is great to actually complete it. This guy who has dreamed of building a sub his whole life is smart to fulfill his desire. I can't believe it took him 5 years. So in conclusion I believe anyone with a dream like that should use it.

I would not be able to be underwater in a tiny submarine I would get closer phobic and loose my marbles.why old he? I wonder why he did?

Wow this guy is a genius! I would have never been able to do that.I have always wanted to ride a submarine! This is my favorite article ever!

yes, if you can get paid for it then i would ride in it. and it is also scary to ride in it. because sharks can bump into to you and you scared