New-style houseboat has plenty of room

SMH – Saturday, 22 Mar 2014 – Page 94

They arrive with their puny outboard engines whirring like a couple of stick blenders, carrying a team of football players chanting ‘‘ there’s a mooring, there’s a mooring’’ , as the driver struggles to see from the internal helm, jams the throttles in reverse, and the bowman with the boathook lunges for the loop to secure the houseboat.

When the engines are killed, they sit there looking like a floating brick, as nautically inspiring as a barracks barge, and they’ve remained that way for far too long.

Enter a whole new concept set to inspire the dissonant world of houseboats. The MotherShip is a clever, Aussie-designed-and-built floating holiday abode, designed to swallow a typical nuclear family or two and all their must-have , watersports kit.

‘‘ She’s never going to be built in China,’’ says the managing partner behind the MotherShip project, Tim Knox. ‘‘ To be honest, I’m fed up with folk saying we can’t manufacture here in Australia. It’s defeatist and just plain wrong. We have to build innovative products in smart ways.’’

Knox says his Eureka moment happened some years ago when he saw that most boats on Sydney’s waterways were hardly used. Why? After research, he believes he found the problem. Women. Or, to be more precise, men buying boats that women didn’t like and that didn’t suit the ongoing needs of their family.

The upper north shore resident, who lives not far from houseboat central on the Hawkesbury, set about creating a contemporary Aussie craft that does things better, in a more environmentally and family-friendly way.

The MotherShip’s styling draws on timeless Aussie architecture: the rustic tin-house cladding and deep  glazing, while the first-class timber joinery imparts a natural aesthetic. Melamine, Hawaiian lounge print and fluoro dunny lights are noticeable by their absence.

The MotherShip is a holistic design conceived to perform under way and at rest. Top naval architect Andy Dovell, the pen behind a raft of successful yachts and retro motorcruisers, including the award-winning Palm Beach, applied his nous to the project.

‘‘ I immediately felt Tim was on to something. Spending time on the water is great for families, but you do need space,’’ Dovell says. ‘‘ Then the brief got really interesting, as Tim wanted the boat to be ecofriendly and solar-powered .’’

Needing space and stability, a catamaran was the obvious choice. Dovell had a working relationship with Kanga Birtles, a boatbuilder with more than 40 years’ experience, so it was natural to have the MotherShip started at its Nowra yard. Last Easter work began on the prototype by a crew of ‘‘ supremely skilled’ ’ shipwrights. The project is near completion. The first one should hit the water in May, costing $799,000.

The MotherShip is 45-feet long and will sleep 12 in comfort in four cabins. There are two bathrooms, each with a shower, and abundant living room for another family, friends and children’s friends.

Each hull is powered by a 20kW electric motor, producing equivalent grunt to twin 40hp diesel motors, it is claimed. The electric motors are quiet, producing no fumes or greenhouse gasses, and with the efficient lowdrag hulls it is hoped top speed is about 10 knots.

Solar panels charge the batteries to power the motors. As a back-up there is a 12kva diesel generator. When fully charged, the batteries provide enough power to cruise at 6-7 knots for six hours.

See more at www.mothershipmarine.com

Author: David Lockwood