Bayou George family builds operational one-man-submarine

Bay County

BAYOU GEORGE, Fla. (WMBB) — A local family is taking quality time to another level, or to new depths.

Bayou George resident Leonard Eiland said he’s always wanted a submarine, since he loves being underwater as a diver. However, the price tag was over budget to buy a sub, so he built one himself along with his family. Of course, it’s painted yellow.

“The Beatles came out with their song, yellow submarine, so I painted it yellow,” Eiland said with a chuckle.

He’s taken the registered underwater one-man-submarine out into the water near the jetties at St. Andrews state park about a dozen times. He said he gets lots of questions about it and he has plenty of stories to tell about his adventures under the sea, but he said the best part about the project is getting to build it with his family. 

“It’s been exciting,” he said. “Having the family together is good.”

His 12 year old son, Leo III, and his partner, Patty Granger, have helped him with painting and sanding the submarine, as well as other tasks.

“It’s been special for my family,” Granger said.

She and Leo Jr. both have cerebral palsy. She said Leo was born with the disability, but over time has improved with walking and communicating. They give credit to Margaret K. Lewis school for the work they’ve done to help Leo, and he proudly wore his school shirt on Wednesday to show off during his interview with News 13. Granger said the submarine project has been helpful to both her and Leo, providing a healthy distraction from doctor’s appointments and difficult days.

Eiland said he’s proud of the work his family has put into the project.

“It helps with communication,” he said. “Family get togethers, you know, understanding each other better. Anytime you do anything together, you learn more about each other, bonds more.”

Eiland said he’s the only one who operates the one-man-sub, and it has plenty of safety features on board. He said it’s exciting to be able to explore the seafloor with the vehicle, and he’s happy to get to have quality family time in the process.

“I’ve seen sharks and all kinds of fish, you’d be surprised,” Eiland said. “Big groupers and snappers down there, everything is prettier down there. It’s just prettier down there.”

This is the third submarine he’s built, but the first successfully operated one; he said he built it seven years ago, and is currently in the process of rebuilding it with his family after taking a break from the submarine for some time.

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