Email This Page to a FriendA Sneak Peek Into the World’s First Houseboat Design Contest
February 25, 2016
NOTE: The entries for the Houseboat Design Contest are in! As we gather them together and go through the judging process, we thought you'd enjoy a sneak peek at a few of the entries.
When the OCH Houseboat Design Contest was conceived, I was already an armchair disciple of Harlan Hubbard, who along with his wife Anna, built a shantyboat on the banks of the Ohio River as a means to escape the industrial juggernaut grinding across the face of post-WWII America.
The Hubbards constructed their houseboat partly out of stuff they gathered along the river and then, over the next decade or so, they perfected techniques of living on the cheap so effectively that they essentially did away with a need for money.
With this model in mind as a lifestyle, I flipped through some (but no-where-near all) of our entries. The first one that caught my eye was the back-of-the-envelope pen-and-wash drawings of Martin Herbert, perhaps because they were so much like Harlan Hubbard's renderings.
What if you could pack the whole houseboat neatly onto a pickup truck and take it home to store for the winter. Or, since it's already packed up and ready to go, why not winter aboard in Baja? Or anywhere for that matter.
But soon, I realized my affinity for all-things Harlan Hubbard needed to broaden out if I was to drill deeply into the splendid houseboat designs that have turned up on the flood tide of entries to the OCH contest. There are just too many carefully rendered designs, too much good thinking, too much basic enthusiasm, too much variety to be limited to a single templet of life on the water.
Going back to the entries, I came upon Patrick Beck's TURTLE design — it appealed to me because it looked like a boat that would be both good to be aboard and good to take me places.
One of two designs that came in from home-builder Terry Mason gave me the feeling that someone might just ring Terry up later this morning to get about building one of these gems for the coming season — and wouldn't we all be jealous?
Several model houseboats have been submitted and are floating around in OCH headquarters. I bet Scott Mathis took a few fantasy voyages while building this model.
A 7 year-old local waterman named Bear built this fine model with a "bendy wood" roof. Note the bench for fishing, and the "diving board for when nothin's bitin'".
The Blake family couldn't wait to get their houseboat models overboard, so they headed down to Naskaeg Point this afternoon to catch the magic hour of last-light. Here's the model from Cyrus (age 10). Note the "Frank Gehry windows" along the side of the hull, reminiscent of the recent sloop FOGGY built by the crew at Brooklin Boat Yard.
Eric Blake has been unable to speak about anything but houseboats for a couple months now. I wonder what he was thinking as he dunked his model overboard this afternoon?
Finally, I was drawn to two designs by William Smith and Philip Myer — both entered plans for community boathouses of the sort we imagined as "The Boathouse" on the OCH website.
Here's the layout of William Smith's design:
Philip Myer got right into the project, designing (while upside down in Tasmania) a "Boat House Boat — a place where it's not just about a house that is a boat, but it's about boats — boats that visit and stay with the houseboat.
Beyond these, there are many more designs that merit further inquiry and I look forward to the coming weeks when we all get a chance to explore houseboating in all glorious possibilities.
As we consider these designs, and our dreams of bringing children back to the water's edge for fun and learning, we're also mindful of the tradeoffs this effort may impose upon the waterfront's eco-systems — spanning from marine life and water quality, to the complex and powerful eco-cultures of local zoning boards and citizens paying waterfront tax premiums.
This world of ours seems to be tugging in two directions. Each day society seems to be further atomizing us as individuals, hooked onto our separate screens, as we travel ever-outward from the center. Even though opportunities for communication between individuals have never been richer we are still, in Robert Putnam's telling phrase, "Bowling Alone."
What is lacking in all of this, it seems, is a place to go and do stuff with other people. To learn and teach, or just plain witness, and in so doing recalibrate the instrumentation of daily life toward the idea that human life, at its best, is an exercise in collaboration.
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