Skip to main content

Watch: Jonah Eaton '02 Discusses His Quixotic Quest on BBC's Big Dreams

BBC: One Man's Eight-Year Effort to Build a Wooden Ship by Hand

Like millions of Americans, Jonah Eaton '02 owns a boat. His is a bit different from the pleasure boats parked outside houses, however. Eaton's measures 42 feet, lives in an old dairy bottling works in Philadelphia, and has been built exclusively by hand. The project, which recently aired on BBC as part of the network's Big Dreams series, has taken more than eight years. Eaton sometimes worked construction jobs to help keep the project going.

Eaton, who graduated with a B.S. in engineering, built the wooden vessel with the help of scores of volunteers, including his father Robert Eaton '65, his brother Zachary Eaton '11, Alice Hershey '02, Emiliano Rodriguez '05, Brandon Silverman '02, J.B. Farley '01, and Patrick Dostel '02, who all helped build and plank the boat. Externs Anna Kastner '08 and Jean Dahlquist '11 helped build the rudder and Jen Trinh '11 helped with mounting the ballast keel.

In 2011, Eaton graduated from the University of Michigan Law School and is now a public interest legal fellow at the United Nations High Commission for Refugees. But work on the dream continues, and Eaton and his parents hope to sail it across the Atlantic Ocean and end up somewhere in the Mediterranean. 

"I'll be the happiest man in the city the day we put this into the Delaware River," Eaton told the BBC. "I like to daydream about what it'll be like when it's fully operational."

Submissions Welcome

The Communications Office invites all members of the Swarthmore community to share videos, photos, and story ideas for the College's website. Have you seen an alum in the news? Please let us know by writing