I love my canoe, and I love the fact that it’s a solo canoe. But if I had my way, I would add a larger version to my fleet. Specifically, a longer solo canoe seems like it would be just fabulous, and a while back I discovered a boat designer with some of the most beautiful wooden boats I’ve seen.
Enter: Ashes Stillwater Boats
Ashes Stillwater Boats is my favorite boat design company, in large part because of the amazingly beautiful photos on their website. (And, naturally, it’s a WordPress website!)
You know the feeling of love at first sight. You might have even had the experience of falling in love with something—a person, a new piece of technology, a piece of art—just by looking at it. You want more. No, you need more.
I thus fell in love with the craftsmanship on display at the Ashes website. You may have learned from an earlier post that I built one of their paddles. I also picked out a dream canoe project, and I decided that the next canoe I build will be an Ashes Solo Quick. Compared to my current canoe (from Mac McCarthy’s Wee Lassie design), the Solo Quick is much longer and slightly narrower, which presumably increases its speed through the water while actually having a larger capacity.
But I’m not here to talk about canoes.
Somewhere along the line I realized a powerboat would be a lot of fun. It probably had something to do with Youngsters Jets YouTube channel. This guy looks like he has too much fun. After watching a sufficient number of videos involving people in little boats going fast, I decided I needed to build one. I developed several design requirements:
- It needed to have a jet drive. Who has time for propellors anyway?
- It should be small. In fact, It should fit in the back of my car.
- It must be of wooden construction, and it’s got to look like it’s supposed to be made of wood. I mean, that’s what I do.
- It needs to be battery powered. Because, of course.
It took several months of dreaming and looking things up, but I finally decided to move from the “dreaming” stage to the “planning” stage when I saw The Belle Isle.
The Belle Isle
I have to admit, what cinched the deal for me on this design was the name. I was looking through photos and drawings of classic wooden powerboats, and I started to really like the look of the barrel-back hull shape. The way the curves transition from front to back is almost magical. They don’t make boats anything like this anymore. The Belle Isle, designed by Glen-L, has it all. Designed as a 23-foot runabout, this boat has an eccentric triple-cockpit layout with clear preference to the position of the engine. The swooping mahogany rails have such beautiful curves, and the way they transition into part of the body at the stern is mesmerizing. I especially appreciated photos of a build by Bill Cunningham (Glory Days below). But, like I said, the deal was sealed with the name. Belle Isle is an iconic island park here in Detroit, and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to connect with a piece of the city’s legacy through a classic boat design.
Designing My Powerboat
Of course, I couldn’t use Glen-L’s plans off the shelf. It only met one of my design requirements. I would have to scale it down, design my own power system, and build something from scratch. Am I up to it? I think so. I already built one boat, so how hard can it be?
Here’s a few photographs that I’ve been thinking about as I put the pieces together. Apologies for not fully citing all my sources.