When the time came to part with his beloved motorcycle, Mark Guetre didn’t dive into a deep depression.
He sank his efforts instead into an unusual project that’s finally nearing completion 13 years after he started it in Alberta.
“I sold my nice old motorcycle because my wife and I can’t ride it any more due to health concerns,” said Guetre, who moved to Sooke in 2008. “So I started looking for other things to do besides riding an old Harley.
“I’ve always had an interest in submarines and was looking on the internet and saw that you can build one from blueprints online.”
Although he served in the Canadian Army from 1981 to 1991 before going into business for himself, Guetre had always been intrigued by the idea of serving in the navy. He rejoined the Canadian Armed Forces in 2008 and signed up for the Royal Canadian Navy to train as a submariner and finish his career on the West Coast.
“I built most of the hull in Edmonton,” said Guetre, who spent the last 18 years learning welding and machining to get parts of the project done.
“It’s trial and error. Welding and basic machining wasn’t that difficult. I had to get real tradesmen for some tasks, most of the expensive stuff. Basically everything but the hull.”
When asked what the cost has been so far, Guetre said about $30,000.
“My wife would probably differ with that total,” he added with a chuckle. “And she’d be right.”
Guetre’s submarine, which is four metres long and holds two people, is painted yellow for safety reasons. The motor is electric, the same engine that gets people around the golf course.
“It’s basically an underwater golf cart,” he said.
Guetre had planned to take the submarine to Cowichan this weekend to do some fresh watter leak tests and get comfortable getting it on and off the trailer. That’s now on hold, however, due to the situation with COVID-19.
“I hope top take it to the Lower Mainland this summer for depth tests in a pressure chamber in North Vancouver. Theoretically after that you can take it down to 100 metres if you want to go to that depth. If it passes all the tests, I’ll take it out to a depth I’m comfortable with to start.”
His wife hasn’t made any indications that she would like to accompany him so far, he said.
“I doubt if she’s interested, but I’ll try and persuade her,” Guetre said.
“There’s quite a few people doing this. There’s a guy in Osoyoos building one for 3,000 feet, and a guy in Germany who’s a wreck diver building one for five or six people for six to seven days.”
If you’re interested in finding out more, Guetre suggests diving into euronaut.org. “There’s lots of videos on YouTube as well.”
Sooke resident Bruce Hogarth spotted the sub last week when he was driving by Guetre’s house.
“It piqued my curiosity enough to knock on his door to try and figure out what’s going on,” Hogarth said. “He’s a very interesting guy, very personable.”