Jonathan Cooper

Passage Maker - - Contents - Jonathan Cooper Ed­i­tor-In-Chief ed­i­tor@pas­sage­maker.com

In the past year, we’ve cov­ered a wide swath of cruis­ing boats on the mar­ket. Boats built in Tai­wan and China, both coasts of the United States, Italy, and Hol­land. Boats built to ex­act­ing stan­dards from a va­ri­ety of ma­te­ri­als: steel, alu­minum, fiber­glass, wood. We’ve cov­ered trawlers with ranges ex­ceed­ing 5,000 miles of self-sus­tained cruis­ing. And in our “green” is­sue, we dived into the ben­e­fits of liv­ing petrol-free on a sump­tu­ous, bio­fu­eled mo­tor­sailer.

The ma­jor­ity of the new boats pro­filed in these pages are su­perb (most would call them yachts), and an over­whelm­ing num­ber of them are well-en­gi­neered, flaw­less to the naked eye, and ut­terly re­li­able. Step­ping on one in its full boat show glory is not un­like stum­bling into a high-end cloth­ing store. Ev­ery­thing is per­fect, right down to that faint waft given off by mul­ti­ple coats of satin var­nish. But there is great ap­peal, too, in the bou­tique shops. And that is ex­actly where we found a be-san­daled fel­low by the name of Kerry El­wood, man­ning his float­ing art in­stal­la­tion/cruiser, the WaterWoody.

An artist and de­signer, El­wood spent four days ex­plain­ing his craft—dou­ble mean­ing in­tended—at this year’s Wooden Boat Fes­ti­val in Port Townsend, Wash­ing­ton. This fes­ti­val is one of the best of its kind in the world, so it never lacks for star power. But even among the con­verted fish­ing trawlers, gleam­ing sail­boats, and a pris­tine New Eng­land lob­ster boat, the show­stop­per was this unique house­boat-cruiser built in Salem, Ore­gon.

“The ini­tial de­sign was a nav­i­ga­ble house­boat con­cept that ex­panded, as they of­ten do, to ac­com­mo­date a wider range of wa­ter con­di­tions and a more com­modi­ous in­te­rior lay­out,” says El­wood. “Elec­tric boat con­cepts have been around for many years, but bat­tery tech­nol­ogy has im­proved dra­mat­i­cally of late, and so­lar pan­els and LED light­ing are be­com­ing com­mon­place and pro­vide greater sus­tain­abil­ity than ever.”

With his new 36, El­wood takes sus­tain­abil­ity to an artis­tic place, and then pushes it a notch fur­ther. It is cus­tom to its fullest de­gree, as ev­ery WaterWoody is a unique piece. Steps up to the wheel­house are plucked and shaped from fallen hard­wood. The sa­loon ta­ble is like­wise fash­ioned from sal­vaged wood, and re­claimed brass fix­tures (com­pass, clock, fit­tings, port­lights, and even a ship’s wheel con­verted to an LED chan­de­lier) round out the on­board trim­mings. If that weren’t enough, the at­mos­phere in­side is as cozy as a fleece blan­ket, with heaps of nat­u­ral wood and a real wood-burn­ing stove to keep your ex­trem­i­ties warm.

Pow­ered by an Elco elec­tric mo­tor linked to a lithi­u­mion bat­tery bank, the 36-footer also in­cludes a bow thruster, wind­lass, and even comes with a cus­tom, air­brushed mu­ral by the boat­builder. The def­i­ni­tion of orig­i­nal. More at: www.waterwoody.com


Top: The WaterWoody 36 un­der con­struc­tion near Salem, Ore­gon. Above: A ship’s wheel that was once des­tined for the helm, ended up as an LED chan­de­lier on hull #1.

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