Deep-sea diving, maritime salvage, underwater infrastructure work, constructing a luxury RV park, and running an award-winning whiskey distillery are the water of life for the owner of Defiant Marine.
Tim Ferris is no stranger to foes - and he's become quite the expert at conquering them. With 17 years in deep-sea diving and maritime salvage, he's traveled the world and just about seen it all. When Hurricane Sandy ran ashore in 2012, his company, Defiant Marine, was brought in to help pump out the New York City subways. When the Deepwater Horizon oil rig burst in 2010, the same team helped contain and repair the damage. There's no shortage of legendary tales with this man, and though he's shifted gears since starting a family, his spirit of defying all odds stands strong.
PART MAN, PART MYTH
Easily considered today's Paul Bunyan of the sea, Ferris grew up with an affinity for open waters and following the wind. "I tell people serendipity has been a factor in my life," Ferris contextualizes his story's major milestones. "Everyone is always telling me I find a golden horseshoe in everything - it's hard to articulate until you've been around long enough to see it repeat itself."
No repetition required. A quick look at his résumé reveals a life fully lived. In addition to routine success working on humankind’s most massive structures and trying challenges, Ferris also runs an award-winning whiskey distillery, Defiant Whiskey, and is in the process of converting a former Girl Scout camp into a premier family campground.
WATER OF LIFE
Though they appear as massive waves rolling in every direction, the foothills of North Carolina's Blue Ridge Mountains stand in stark contrast to Ferris' time at sea. "After all the adrenaline of a job, coming back to the quiet of the mountains was like slamming on the brakes. The crew and I had to keep ourselves busy, so we started distilling. As time goes on, you shift gears. You meet a beautiful woman, you have a gorgeous child - you have reasons to be around. I heard rumors of the camp being for sale, so I followed my nose, and here we are."
Stunning scenery aside, there's an additional beauty to this project for Ferris. "In a decade of diving, I was home for two Christmases and one birthday. Now I get to see my family four to five times a day with no commute, let alone getting on a jet or having to sail halfway around the world." As much as Ferris expresses it in words, the light in his eyes when daughter Katie is around says it all.
THERE’S NO SUCH THING AS SEA MONSTERS
Working 12-hour shifts while living in a pressurized tube breathing heliox for up to 28 days will convince most people that deep-sea salvage is not their ideal career. Keep in mind these are the expected details - and not even the surprises and mysteries of the deep have fazed Tim Ferris, owner of Defiant Marine. "You just tell yourself, 'There's no such thing as sea monsters. There's no such thing as sea monsters.' So, after you’ve been working in a 20-footdeep trench for six hours in totally calm waters, and one step later you're sent ragdolling in a torrent of rapids and silt for 50 yards, you just pick yourself up and get back to work." Ferris doesn't bat an eye. "You just told yourself, 'There's no such thing as sea monsters,' so it must have been nothing, right?"
Sitting at a desk all day isn't for everyone - and certainly not for Tim Ferris, owner of Defiant Marine. "I try to stay out of the office as much as I can. It doesn't take much to get buried in paperwork, where I just run out the door screaming. I tell my wife I need some trackhoe time. The smell of fresh-cut dirt, seat time, moving earth - it makes sense to me. I call it four-wheel-drive therapy, or track therapy." Lucky for Ferris, there's no shortage of means to release the tension. "The biggest issue I have right now is what piece of equipment I want to be in."
ALL HANDS ON DECK
While all the ingredients are present, prepping the old camp to become a luxury RV park requires some handiwork and rearranging plenty of earth. "We have about 11 different contractors here on a daily basis - they're mostly helping renovate the buildings to become more suitable cabins and common areas. My crew is responsible for the bulk of the dirt work so we can include hundreds of yards of roads and bridges, a waterpark, mini-golf course, café, lounge, store, wastewater treatment plant, and tons of other amenities."
When it comes to the heavy lifting, Ferris relies on his 250G LC Excavator. "It's just a beast. The controls, the lifting power - I put a guy in there and have no concern about getting these trucks loaded around the clock. We also have an 85G Excavator for the smaller landscaping tasks, and same story there. It's great for putting these big rocks in place because the power's there, and it also has the lighter footprint around embankments. The two help us get a lot done!"
Putting his love for machines aside, Ferris recognizes what matters most. "Picking good equipment is easier than finding good people. I've been blessed. The personnel we have right now are outstanding. The camaraderie, skill, and competency - they make the worst days not just bearable but even enjoyable."
There’s a troubling amount of infrastructure work required in this country, especially when it comes to dams and bridges. With all our experience underwater, we’re confident in our ability to serve that growing need.
While he's always up for an adventure, Ferris foresees a more landlocked future. "There's a troubling amount of infrastructure work required in this country, especially when it comes to dams and bridges. With all our experience underwater, we're confident in our ability to serve that growing need." Whichever direction Ferris chooses, it's bound to be full steam ahead - for his company and his Deere equipment.
Defiant Marine is serviced by James River Equipment, Asheville, North Carolina.