Contest asks for more than art in design of an ideal houseboat

BROOKLIN — It appears that 2015 is the year of online contests.

The Ellsworth American has asked area bartenders to submit their signature “American” cocktail — complete with brightly colored photograph — to an online vote by readers to choose their favorite libation.

In Brooklin, the boating website is running, perhaps unsurprisingly, an online contest of a more whimsical cast. Members and visitors to the site have been invited to submit a design for a houseboat for their own use along with the criteria for the locations where it would be used. Alternatively, the design could be for a “community boathouse” inspired by the site’s mission statement — “a thing apart – free from the anxious clutter of the rest of the world.”

The deadline for entries is Feb. 14 — a day for romantics — Valentine’s Day.

In a roundabout way, the competition was inspired a few months ago when two of the site’s five founders — WoodenBoat Magazine’s technical editor Maynard Bray and filmmaker Steve Stone — were out rowing and spied “a rustic shed” on the harbor shore.

That got them thinking, Stone said recently.

“What more does a person need but a shack and a boat?” he asked. “A place to gather with friends and family is as important as a boat itself.”

Was there some way to combine both?

“People dream about living on a houseboat,” Stone said, so the site’s “editorial board” which includes boatbuilder Eric Blake, author Bill Mayher and photographer Benjamin Medlowitz — like Bray and Stone denizens of Brooklin — to launch the contest late last year to see what some of those dream boats might look like.

So far, the response to the contest has been “great,” Stone said. As of the beginning of this week, the site has received more than 20 design submissions from all over.

“We got one from Australia the other day,” Stone said.

Some come from closer to home.

Ronnie Billings, who works at Brooklin Boat Yard, submitted a design for a floating shanty and pump-out station named Pew E -2.

The submissions, which include “everything from a trailerable ‘creek crawler’ shanty boat to actual houses on a float,” require more than just a pretty drawing. The site stresses the virtues of “simplicity,” low maintenance, a “high fun-to-cost ratio” during the building process and afterward. The designs should also produce “stable, seaworthy structures’ that can withstand the stresses of local conditions, moving and hauling out.

Perhaps the most important factors to be considered will be each entrant’s statement of how and where the boat is to be used and how well the design fulfills those criteria.

“What’s the why,” Stone said. “The deeper a person goes, the higher we’re going to rank” the entry.

The site’s five founders will winnow the designs, then “seek counsel” from the maritime experts who contribute to the site to make the final decisions and award $500 prizes for the best community houseboat, the best personal use houseboat and the best “out of this world” entry.

Winners will be announced sometime in March.

Stephen Rappaport

Stephen Rappaport

Waterfront Editor at The Ellsworth American
Stephen Rappaport has lived in Maine for nearly 30 years. A lifelong sailor, he spends as much time as possible messing about in boats. [email protected]

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