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How an old cedar boat led to an unsinkable friendship for two Belleville men

WATCH: A story of how two Belleville men became friends over their shared love of an old cedar boat.

This is the story of how two men became friends over their shared love of an old cedar boat.

“I started restoring old boats and it was just passing my time,” says Doug Norman.

Doug Norman is a retired Belleville police officer of 30 years who was forced to leave his career seven years ago.

Norman suffers from severe post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD.

To keep his mind occupied, he turned to restoring wooden canoes and old boats.

That’s what led Norman to inquire about a dilapidated cedar boat posted in an online ad by Chris Anderson.

Chris Anderson’s cedar boat in it’s original state
Chris Anderson’s cedar boat in it’s original state Global News

“I went over and looked at the boat and there was no hull,” says Norman.

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“There was one big hole, with a little bit of wood around it. Nobody wanted to buy it and I looked at it — it was beautiful.”

It was Chris Anderson’s hope to restore the boat himself, but his brain cancer treatments prevented him from doing the work.

READ MORE: Canadians unite to grant Nova Scotia man his dying wish

Norman worked for a year, putting in over 1,100 hours of painstaking work to restore the 1957 Peterborough cedar.

Anderson is in the final stages of life, and his last wish is to ride in the boat he sold to his new friend for $200.

The twist to this story is the moment Norman left with that dilapidated boat from Anderson’s yard, he knew he would return the restored boat to Anderson.

READ MORE: Terminally ill N.S. man gets dying wish of marrying longtime girlfriend

Now finding it difficult to talk, Chris Anderson speaks through his wife, Jody.

“We went to visit Doug one day at the workshop and he was talking to Chris about the boat,” Jody said. “He says, ‘How do you think it looks? Are you happy with it?’

“He says, ‘because buddy, I’m going to give you this boat back when it’s finished.’ We were just overwhelmed. We could not believe that a total stranger would do that as a gift.”

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A story of how two Belleville men became friends over their shared love of an old cedar boat.
A story of how two Belleville men became friends over their shared love of an old cedar boat. Global News

On Thursday, as a surprise to Anderson, family and friends gathered at the George Street Boat Launch to celebrate the maiden launch of the newly-named boat, Chris Craft. 

“It was a dream to float into the water and when the motor kicked on and we went out into the bay, it was nice,” Chris says.

Family members who attended the launch say there are angels — like Doug Norman — who walk among us.

WATCH: (July 9, 2019) Shediac’s Able Sail offers therapeutic sailing for people with PTSD

Shediac’s Able Sail offers therapeutic sailing for people with PTSD
Shediac’s Able Sail offers therapeutic sailing for people with PTSD
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