Tiny homes are all the rage these days, but one man decided to take it to the next level: the sea.
Kerry Elwood, an airbrush artist from Salem, Oregon, build his own tiny houseboat. The 160-square-foot boat is so small, but so practical and efficient, that it left visitors to the annual Wooden Boat Festival in Port Townsend, Washington — where it debuted — dumbfounded.
But Elwood knew what he was doing, designing and handcrafting every last detail according to experience, as he has spent the last three years living on the WaterWoody, travelling through the Northwest waterways and perfecting it bit by bit.
We talked to Elwood about what it’s like to build such an efficiently small space.
'I've been interested in ships and sailing and design for as long as I can remember,' said Elwood. 'When I first started making the boat, I just had to pool all the information I knew into something visual and concrete.'
The amateur woodworker wanted to keep the houseboat simple, and thus avoided lavish furnishings, instead opting for local woods such as Oregon myrtlewood, black walnut, and Port Orford cedar.
'When people step on board and see the interior, their eyes wander around and you can just watch the expression on their faces because they are surrounded by all this natural wood and beauty,' said Elwood.
The WaterWoody has one bathroom, one bedroom, and a living room with a dining table that doubles as a second bed.
'A common comment I get all the time is 'I can live on this!'' said Elwood. 'They certainly could.'
When Elwood isn't living on the boat, he stores it in his shed, where it doubles as a guest room.
The WaterWoody is able to travel for up to a week at a time, thanks to the amount of food and water it holds. Two wood-fire stoves makes it perfect for any season.
In the wintertime, heat is supplied by two small, wood-burning stoves. In the summer, the boat stays cool since the interior is made almost completely out of wood, and features big, breezy windows.
'One of the unique things about (the boat) is that it has two small outboard motors that are powered by propane,' said Elwood. 'Propane also fuels the stove, oven, and a barbecue in the back.'
Not only is this less expensive than other fuels, but it's also better for the environment.
The boat also is also equipped with LED lights that are powered by solar panels.
The WaterWoody carries up to 32 gallons of freshwater, has two foot-pump sinks, and collects rainwater that flows directly from the deck into a water tank.
'We also use a solar shower,' said Elwood. 'It's a bag that you fill up and hang on the top of the roof next to the solar panels. People can take warm showers right on the swim platform.'
Perhaps one of the most burning questions of living in a tiny, floating home is that of waste management.
The WaterWoody has one conventional toilet. 'Sanitation is done by a composting head so it doesn't require a lot of pump outs all the time,' said Elwood. 'I only have to empty it at the end of the season.'
'The biggest struggle is just the clutter that happens in the boat. It's a small space so it's difficult to store things,' said Elwood. Despite the boat being designed to be multi-functional and compact, Elwood says that storage is an issue because people bring too much stuff.
'People think they need to bring bag after bag when they come on the boat, when really all you need is a small little sack,' said Elwood. 'Everything you need is already on the boat.'
'There's a big focus on simplicity here,' said Elwood. 'The boat is appealing because people realise they don't need much to live in (the WaterWoody).'
Even though the boat is a mere 28 feet long, Elwood said living in the houseboat has been nothing but comfortable.
'It's like living in a big, beautiful wooden chest to me -- like living inside a work of art.'
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