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Lifelong friends build boat to embark on a new journey

Art Jerry
Posted at 6:57 PM, Sep 19, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-19 19:34:22-04

LA GRANGE, Ky. (LEX 18) — Art Baltes and Jerry Steimel know something about true friendship.

They have a story to share. Much of it doesn't have to do with the boat they spent three years putting together.

"So we met as toddlers," Baltes said. "We grew up two doors from each other. Our birthdays are a day apart."

Baltes and Steimel grew up in Louisville. Steimel has since moved to New England.

"We've known each other for maybe 70 years," Baltes said.

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When you've been friends for 70 years, it's a different type of friendship.

"We've really been like brothers throughout our whole life," Steimel said.

Brotherhood and friendship is key to survival. This boat, is just another adventure.

"As kids, we did a lot of stuff," Baltes said. "Like let's close our eyes and point on a city map and lets get on our bikes and ride there."

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They're inspired by shanty boaters. They put the boat in the water in Frankfort on Sept. 8 and will arrive in Louisville on Tuesday.

"You probably need to be very good friends to get through a two-week journey," Baltes said. "It has been easy, of course, for us."

It began when they bought plans for a wooden house boat. Neither had built a boat before. They got creative as far as using re-purposed materials for some of the necessities.

"This boat is probably a symbol in a sense of our friendship," Baltes said.

Like any friendship, it comes in waves. Sometimes the water can get choppy and you hit something unexpected.

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"There was a stretch of time there where I could care less about the boat, Steimel said. "I thought I was about to lose my best friend."

Baltes was diagnosed with cancer in 2021. He went through treatment. This boat and the process of putting it together, was his form of therapy.

"I think the boat motivated Art to get through it," Steimel said. "Me, I was just worried about Art."

"It was a push to get back on my feet," Baltes said.

Putting the boat in the water was symbolic of a new beginning for this friendship. They admit they're excited to sleep in their own beds, since they've been sleeping in twin beds on the boat once they put it in the water.

Baltes and Steimel are also thankful for all the support from the people they've met along the way.