Sunday, 28 March 2010

Living Minimal in a Toronto condo - there is a Zen to reducing possessions


Zen and Now. Designing for nothing at all!
Minimalist movement takes root in urban centres

By Stephen Weir

I recently pitched the Toronto Star on an update of this story which I wrote for the PDRA magazine in the US 5-years ago. After digging the story out archives I decided to post it, story is as relevant then as it is now

It’s a designer’s worst nightmare -- a wealthy client with no possessions and no desire to acquire any. But, wait, as both Seinfield and Sheila Doris know, there is real money to be made when comes to the Zen of nothing!
“North Americans are over-run with stuff,” exclaimed
Sheila Doris “ We are junkies for stimulation, we don’t lightly give up on our toys.”
But, as the Canadian educator and decorator told a large group of interior decorators, the times are changing! Speaking at a standing-room-only PDRA sponsored series lecture in Toronto, Ontario during the Canadian Hardware and Building Materials Show (CHS) she said that many urban centres are simply running out of living space!
“It used to be, in Toronto, that everyone lived in three bedroom homes, with basements and garages,” she said. “Now? We are seeing here what has happened already in New York, Chicago and LA. Living space is all of a sudden very very expensive – people just can’t afford to display everything they own.”
As a designer, Ms Doris is now being challenged by clients who embrace the smallness of it all. She has found that there is a new generation of people who want to incorporate both Feng Shui and Zen into the design and decoration of their living space.
“Zen is not a design trend as such, it is a way of life -- both a philosophy and a religion,” she continued. “However Zen (like Feng Shui) is having an influence on our industry. Zen demands a simpler approach to living but with a much deeper meaning for every single aspect of a person’s living space.”
Zen, short for Zen Buddhism, originates in the 2,500-year-old teachings of Siddhartha Gautama an Indian philosopher prince. The Buddhism movement has spread from India to China and Japan and now to North America’s condo markets.
The Zen approach to design can best be described as reducing a living space to its simplest components. Given the influx of space-challenged lofts, Zen design, by necessity is taking root.

“ Zen instructs you to cast out your possessions, to contemplate rather than collect (stuff),” said Ms. Doris. “ That means using very little furniture and wall decorations. However, what pieces you do find, have to have significance. An antique wooden stool wins out over a couch made of synthetic material. Bamboo beats out laminates every time.”
“ Zen calls for restful colors,” she continued. “Think taupes, grays and rust reds. Plants have their place, but not the indoor jungles that North Americans seem to prefer. One or two oddly shaped flowering plants say so much more.”
The biggest change is in the bathrooms and the bedrooms. Candles, stones and flowing water created a healing atmosphere in the bathroom. The big bed with the requisite side tables, lamps and nearby entertainment centre has no place in a Zen environment.
“Low beds, Futons or just sleeping on a mat keep us grounded to the real world,” she said. “ With a movement away from furniture that bedroom sptace can become a more public space simply by rolling away the futon in the morning and bringing in a chair.”
Sheila Doris readily admits that Zen is not the only answer to designing for small spaces. In fact, at the CHS, she gave two other lectures on designing for the new urban home, which take into account society’s love affair with “stuff”.
At a Decorating and Design for the Urban Environment lecture, she noted that there are four other common design styles that are now taking root in the condo, loft and townhouse environments.
“As designers we should study the Modern (overscale & minimalist) movement, Retro-International Style (leather, chrome & glass), Retro-Scandinavian (cubist upholstery pieces) and, one of my favourites, Italian Contemporary (clean lines, light, minimalist). Minimalism is the key!”
Multi-purpose furniture, bedrooms that include work-at-home offices -- Minimalism allows you to do that. In today’s lofts, less is truly more because it keeps the space open.
Just because a designer has to think small doesn’t mean a loss of business. The new consumer is looking for advice on how to reduce the stuff in his or her life. Creativity is the Zen to it all!
EDITOR'S NOTE: No, the Star did not go for the pitch. Why? They liked the idea so much they already had done the story. I keep tabs on all the papers but missed the Star piece. Blush.
CUTLINE: Minimalist style in a NYC loft. Statue of the Budah. Bottom: Sheila Doris from her Facebook page.

Monday, 22 March 2010

Stephen Weir Writes a Story so that he can get a Guinness Book of World Records' Listing (most scuba record stories by a writer in an attic on a Mac)


.... For writing about the things that divers do to get publicity for their causes (and themselves). PART ONE

How to generate press for a non-event? Set a world’s record. Build the world’s first or the world’s biggest. Do something that no one has done before, or set a record for doing it over and over again. Hold your breath. Hold all your neighbours' toes. You can even make the world’s smelliest Taleggio (stinky cheese) and attract reporters willing to take a sniff.
No one knows this better than scuba and skin divers. There is a certain amount of implied danger in anything you do underwater and as result the media sits up and takes note when there is a potential underwater accident. Hold your breath for 10 minutes and no one will care. Do it underwater? CNN will be knocking on your door. Play bad billiards in the rec room and no one, not even your family will watch. Do it underwater? Headline news.
No matter how obscure your record is, announcing it generates publicity in print, on the airwaves and on the web. Record attempts, no matter how silly, outdraw important medical announcements, scholarly reports, art gallery openings and just about anything else that really matters … but isn’t news. The Guinness Book of World’s Record is the Bible of firsts and records. The privately owned publisher put out its first volume in 1955 and the annually updated book is now available in over 100 countries, with over 3 million copies sold each year. Many record seekers have a goal of making it onto Guinness’ record log, others are happy simply declaring that they have set or tried to set a record.
One of the hardest categories in the many subsets of underwater records involves the sport of free diving. There are many different associations that claim world records, based on different criteria on how a free-diver conducts the dive. There are Constant Weight, Free Immersion and constant weight without fins competitions. As well there are records for people with monofins and records for standard fins. It is confusing, and, the records recorded in this article just scratch the surface on milestones made in the past 24-months.
I have been writing on a casual basis about underwater records for Diver Magazine, and this website. A colleague of mine at Diver Magazine,Quebec based diver/explorer/film maker/ record keeper Jeffrey Gallant, has set up a website to keep track of the many underwater records set – some are Guinness records, others are simply proclaimed by individuals (who may have had a record amount of Guinness).!/pages/Drummondville-QC/The-Diving-Almanac-Book-of-Records/303917838845?ref=ss
Since I last wrote about underwater record attempts in 2008 I have received emails and clippings about over 30 new underwater feats of daring and foolishness including in no particular order:

Record: Guinness: Inaugural 'Longest open, cold saltwater SCUBA dive'. Pending

Details: Irish brothers, Declan and Paul Devane raised over €35,000.00 euros, for the St Raphael’s Children Ward at Beaumont Hospital, Dublin, Ireland for staying underwater in the cold waters off the west coast of Galway, Ireland on October 10th, 2009. The brothers were doing this in memory of Declan Devane’s two-year-old son, Cillian, who died in February ‘09. They had hoped to stay underwater for 40 hours without surfacing (not even for pee breaks). According to their website, Paul Devane had to withdraw due to a malfunction of his diving p-valve. Declan Devane withdrew after 12 hours, when hypothermia set in. Guinness told the divers they would have to stay underwater for at least 24 hours to earn the inaugural award. The Devanes have suggested to Guinness that it is unrealistic to demand the same 24-hour qualifying limit for a coldwater record. Guinness is considering their request of a 12- hour inaugural record.

Record: First Underwater Santa Claus to listen to Christmas wishes from gamblers! Self Proclaimed.

Details: Silverton Casino Lodge in Las Vegas has an 117,000-gallon reef aquarium complete with 4,000 tropical fish, and three species each of stingrays, sharks and swimming mermaids. During the Christmas season in 2008 the aquarium also had a scuba diving Santa and a submerged throne. Scuba Santa had an underwater communication mask which allowed him to talk to gamblers about what they wanted for Christmas (eg – “ A Royal Flush please”). The Silverton breath-holding mermaids were Claus’ special helpers. According to the Hotel, Underwater Santa took breaks every 30 minutes to get out of the water and “feed the reindeer.”

Record: World’s largest mass dive. Guinness

Details: In 2009 an Indonesian admiral and, reportedly, an official from the Guinness World Records watched as 2,562 divers went into the seas off North Sulawesa and stayed underwater long enough to breathe for a few minutes off their scuba tanks. The record event marked Indonesia’s Independence Day. According to the Jakarta Times the dive broke the previous record of 958 scuba divers set in the Maldives in 2006.

Record: World’s largest number of divers sharing air underwater at the same time. Pending

Details: Members of the 40-year old Bingham Sub Aqua Club in England spent the winter practicing in the local pool to make the attempt. It hasn’t happened yet. The club wants to do it to mark the 40th anniversary of their club and to “raise money for charity”.

Record: Youngest person to become a “master diver”. Company Record.

Top: Underwater Casino Santa. Photo Liza Bishton - Flickr.
Second from top: Left to right, Paul Devane, Declan Devane and in-water dive co-ordinator Gary Jennings. The trio attempted the longest coldwater world record dive at ScubaDive West, Killary, Co Galway, Ireland. Photo Irish Times.
Second from bottom: Indonesia Record Dive photo from Indo-Asia Dive Club
Bottom: Mee Rae Firkins - photo from Aquaviews, Online SCUBA Magazine


And the Beat Goes On: Part Two of Recent Underwater Records

Stephen Weir Writes a Story so that he can get a Guinness Book of World Records' Listing (most scuba record stories by a writer in an attic on a Mac) PART TWO

Dive Record Story continues from
I have been writing on a casual basis about underwater records for Diver Magazine, and this website. A colleague of mine at Diver Magazine, Quebec based diver/explorer/film maker/ record keeper Jeffrey Gallant, has set up a website to keep track of the many underwater records set – some are Guinness records, others are simply proclaimed by individuals (who may have had a record amount of Guinness).!/pages/Drummondville-QC/The-Diving-Almanac-Book-of-Records/303917838845?ref=ss
Since I last wrote about underwater record attempts in 2008 I have received emails and clippings about over 30 new underwater feats of daring and foolishness. This is the second posting on my website to note these new world records. These scuba acheivements, Par Two include in no particular order:

Record: The Longest Open Saltwater Scuba Dive. Guinness

Details: On September 19th 2009 35-year old Irishman Sean McGahern broke the record for Longest Open Saltwater Scuba Dive. McGahern stayed underwater, near the Westin Dragonara Resort (Malta), for 25 hours and 10 minutes. The previous record was 24 hrs. McGahern, a bouncer at a bar when he isn’t diving, stayed at 15 meters in a dry-suit and full-face mask. This was his second attempt.
When contacted by this website in late March about his record he said “Yes I am still the holder of the Guinness World Record … not the World Record … as the World Record dive is set at 6 meters while the Guinness World Record is set at a minimum of 11meters.” In 2011 the diver plans to go back underwater to set three Guinness World Record including the first underwater circumnavigation of Gozo (a Maltese island).
According to British news sources, around the time that McGahern made his dive, British diver Will Goodman claimed he was the record holder with a 33 hour 34 minute dive in Gili Trawangan; Lombok, Indonesia made April 15 2008. There is an 8-minute video of his dive at:
As well, a year before McGahern’s dive, Brazilian Robert Silva claimed to have set a record with an uninterrupted dive of 48hr 3min. Guinness has not recognized the claim.

Record: Longest Scuba Dive in a controlled environment. Guinness

Details: A Guinness World Record was set in an Istanbul parking lot back on September 4th, 2009. That is when Cem Karabay set the Longest Scuba Dive in a controlled environment (a large fresh water tank with a glass window). The 37-year old diver stayed under water for five days

Record: 100 meters in Constant Weight, Free Diving. AIDA (International Association for the Development of Free Diving) certified

Details: Russian free diver Natalia Molchanova, became the first woman in the world to make the AIDA (International Association for the Development of Free Diving) 100 meters in Constant Weight. The 47-year old set a mark of 101 meters at Sharm el Sheik, Egypt in the Ruler of the Deep competition. Her total dive time was 3 minutes and 50 seconds. Her record dive can be seen at:
According to a press release issued by the sponsoring Underwater Channel TV, this is the 25th diving record set by Mochanova.

Record: Swimming to depth with fin while breath holding. United States Apnea Association National Free Diving certified

Detail: In early December the United States Apnea Association (USAA) is announced that Robert King, had set a new national record for swimming to depth with a fin while holding his breath. According to the USAA King reached a depth of 84 meters (275 feet) on December 1, 2009 at Dean’s Blue Hole on Long Island in the Bahamas during the AIDA Individual Depth Free diving World Championship. “This dive ties the existing Continental Record held by William Winram of Canada,” reads a press release issued by the USAA. King has broken his own record of 83 meters / 272 feet that was set earlier in the year.

Record: Best Male Free Diver in the World. Presented by ICARE (International Center for Apnea Recognition and Education)

Martin Stepanek is a world-class free diver. In 2009 he set a world record in the constant weight discipline becoming the first man to dive 400 feet on one breath of air in 3 minutes and 36 seconds. For that win and many other records made by the Czech free diver over the past six years, the International Center for Apnea Recognition and Education named him the Best Male Free Diver in the World … for 2009. Stepanek also spent an afternoon in Pompano Beach showing Stephen Weir ( / Diver Magazine) how to hold his breath underwater, increasing his bottom time by 10% - from 60 seconds to 66-seconds (which must also be some sort of underwater record).

Record: Being one of the most popular Guinness Book of World Record Holders. Guinness

Details: The votes are in and the public has chosen their top Guinness World Records of the decade! There is an underwater feat included in the top ten. Tom Sietas (Germany) held his breath underwater for 17 minutes and 33 seconds. Sietas finished 5th behind Ashrita Fuman (Balancing a Pool Cue while Walking the Longest Distance at the Pyramids), Gary Dushci (Longest Chewing Gum-wrapper Chain - 17,760 meters or 58,266 feet), Jamaica’s Usian Bolt (Fastest 100 meter run) and Homer Simpson (Longest Running Sitcom). Siesta has already discovered that Guinness fame is fleeting -- see next item.

Record: Breath holding underwater. Guinness

Details According to a Swiss news agency, free diver Peter Colat has set a new Guinness World Record for holding a breath underwater. The 38-year old had a recorded breath hold (oxygen assisted static apnea) of 19 minutes and 21 seconds. “ Under the Guinness Book rules,” reported the Swiss news agency, “ Colat was allowed to inhale pure oxygen ten minutes before his attempt.”

Record: World’s Largest Partially Submerged Underwater Museum. Self Proclaimed.

Details: In late Spring 2009 the Baiheliang Museum was opened in the famed Three Gorges Dam area (Yangtze River) Fuling City, China. The museum is built 40 meters below the surface of the river. The building protects a reef created 1,200 years ago to measure the changes in the water level. The museum also protects a number of cultural heritage artifacts that were in danger of being destroyed by river water when the Three Gorges Dam was built. Visitors enter the underwater museum at the top of the Gorge.

Record First Game of Billiards to be played underwater. Self Proclaimed.

Details: Sabir Bux, a well-known Indian musician and diver, wants to hold an underwater billiards tournament with some of the world’s best players. Earlier this year he played Ahsan ul-Haque (a national-level) underwater in the Bay of Bengal.
The two played for over an hour at a depth of 7-meters on a large iron table weighing 62 kg. Special weighted balls were used. Even though the date for the world’s first underwater tourney has not been set, Bux figures that his warm-up match qualified him for some sort of record since no one has ever played a billiards match underwater, at least as far as he can tell.

Record: World’s longest running underwater chess tournament. Self Proclaimed

Chess playing Certified divers in Formby, England, lined up to compete in an underwater tournament in a local pool last September 2009. The event started at 9am when the first two divers descended to commence the first round of chess and the divers rotated in pairs throughout the day -- completing the matches at around 5pm. The tourney was done to “raise money for charity.” No winner was announced, however it is known that some players were disqualified because of buoyancy problems. In 2008 two grand masters competed in an underwater chess match in Curacao. There is a video on YouTube of the match.
There is also a You Tube spoof about underwater chess at:

Record: World’s Largest Fully Submerged Underwater Museum. Pending.
Details: Mexico says that it is building the world’s largest underwater museum. Work has already begun on the Subaquatic Sculpture Museum, which is located, underwater, at the West Coast National Park in Quintana Roo, on the Yucatan Peninsula. Over 400 concrete statues are being sunk on the site. The Museum hopes that coral will grow on the art pieces, changing the look of the collection over time. Underwater artist Jason Taylor, who created the world’s first underwater sculpture park, is overseeing this future scuba tourism attraction.
Record: World’s biggest underwater birthday gift. Self proclaimed.
Details: The Miami-Dade Reef Guard Association sank a 210 ft long freighter on December 30th 2009 near Key Biscayne. This is the largest ship ever purposely sunk as an artificial reef in the region by and for sport diving. The association was able to purchase the 35-year old German built freighter thanks to a donation from the Brian and Lavinia Snyder Foundation. They have chosen to rename the wreck after their daughter, Ophelia, for her eighteenth birthday next year – hence the new underwater record. Prior to being the MS Ophelia Brian the ship was called the Sea Taxi and prior to that the Hoheburg.

Record: World’s strangest scuba jewelry. Designated by Stephen Weir & Associates

Details: Kate is a Missouri barista who works in a coffee shop in the town of Columbia. She is also a jewelry maker who likes to make things out of vintage buttons and Lego scuba diver mini figurines. She has made dangling earrings out of Lego figures, which she sells on her online shop - Ahlai! – at

Record: World’s Sexiest and best snorkeling and top wreck diving and novice dive beach (and country). Various

Long Bay Beach Resort, Tortola's only full service dive resort is built adjacent to one of the “ 2009 World’s Sexiest Beaches”, at least according to the Tortola is part of the British Virgin Islands. In the same year BVI was also named the "Top Wreck Diving," spot in the world, was in the Top Ten for "Top Snorkeling" for world’s best snorkeling and the World’s "Top Beginner Diving” locale. One suspects that Guinness took a pass on accepting these World Titles.


Top: Sean McGahern holds his Guinness certificate
Second from Top: Cem Karabay in the tank. Karabay publicity photo.
Natalia Molchanova: Photo by Mark Harris Flickr
Fourth from Top: Martin Stepanek demonstrating to Stephen Weir how to hold one's breath.
Third From Bottom: Surface entrance to China's underwater museum in the fame Three Gorges region
Second from Bottom: Statue has been put on the bottom of the Sea of Mexico's coast
Bottom: Lego Diver Earrings!

Sunday, 14 March 2010

Canadian Queen City (Toronto Island) sailors compete in Miami - Bacardi Cup


Good ship(s) Canada sail in the week long Bacardi Cup. Queen City Star Class boat finishes 73rd, another Canadian team finishes 4th

A pair of sailors from the Queen City Yacht Club took part in 5-days of Star Class races in the Miami's Bacardi Cup. Skipper Greg Poole and crew Jeff Imai took part in the 83rd running of the venerable regatta.
Poole and Imai were not the only Canadians in the race, according to our correspondent/photographer Pat Whetung (and commodore of the QCYC) reported from the races that " there are boats from the Royal Hamilton Yacht Club in Ontario, and entries from Quebec and British Columbia."
"There were 84 entries in total this year." she continued. "That makes for a very long start line filled with skilled boatmen. There were 10-12 Canadians on the start line each day."
The race schedule was hampered by bad weather, organizers called it a "vicious storm system which lurked north of Miami." As a result some races were cancelled.
Poole and Imai placed 73rd in the field of 84. Top Canadians were skipper Richard Clark and crew Tyler Bjorn who placed 4th. Clark, from Victoria, is a member of the Canadian Yachting Association's 2010 Canadian Sailing Team.
American Skipper Rick Merriman and Crew Phil Trinter took the victory on the final day of Star Class sailing,(March 13th),taking home their first Bacardi Cup win.
With gusty wind conditions puffing up to 24 knots on a sunny day, at least five Star Class masts were snapped trying to navigate strong winds.
The wind become an increasing concern in the afternoon of the last day of the regatta, the decision was made to not hold an additional Star Class race to make-up for a previous day cancellation due to windy weather. In its final day, the regatta settled for five instead of six total sessions.With Merriman-Trinter taking the win, the end of the day found Irish Skipper Peter O'Leary second overall, and American Skipper Andy Horton taking third.
What started out as a three-day event with less than 10 boats in 1927, the Bacardi Cup now attracts more than 200 sailors each year from some 23 countries and the attention of national and international media. The tradition of camaraderie and competition surrounding the Trofeo Bacardi began in Havana, Cuba where it was first sailed as part of the Mid-Winter Championship known as the Cup of Cuba.
In 1962, the regatta found a new home in Coconut Grove/Miami at the Coral Reef Yacht Club, where it has continued to sail the Star Class from every year since.
The International Star (or Starboat)is the designation for a 6.9 m (22.7 ft) Olympic keel boat. It is designed for two people - skipper and crew - and has been raced for over a 100 years.
According to Wikepedia "the boat must weigh at least 671 kg (1479.3 lb) with a maximum total sail area of 26.5 m2 (285 ft2). It is sloop-rigged, with a mainsail larger in proportional size than any other boat of its length. Unlike most modern racing boats, it does not use a spinnaker when sailing downwind. Instead, when running downwind a whisker pole is used to hold the jib out to windward for correct wind flow. Early Stars were built from wood, but modern boats are generally made of fiberglass."
TOP: Poole (left) and Imai (right). Photograph by Pat Whetung
BOTTOM: On the starting line 84 Star Class boats get ready for the final day of the Miami Sailing Week. In the background also competing: the Melges 20, Melges 24, Viper 640 and J/24 Classes for a total of 135 boats sailing in the e waters of Biscayne Bay. (C) Cory Silken/BACARDI - (PRNewsFoto/BACARDI, Cory Silken)

Sunday, 7 March 2010



Vacationing Large in a Five Star Houseboat
Canadian boats let Lake Powell visitors put on the Ritz

First class on Lake Powell
Posh pampering on board Canadian-built luxury houseboats

Sun, June 4 / 06 If the plush deep padding of the houseboat sofa wasn't already absorbing your Speedo covered derriere; you'd probably be on your keester anyway. The shocking beauty of the sword-edge cliffs that line the famous Utah/Arizona watercourse will stagger even the most jaded holiday boater.
There are places along the Lake Powell Canyon system that are so narrow you can lean out from either side of the upper deck of the rented five-star houseboat and touch the smooth 200 metre tall walls. So abrupt are the sandstone cliffs it is only at noon that the sun will light the flybridge of your $10,000 US a-week-floating condo.
A super-sized Bald Eagle lazily circles above in the scorching desert updrafts; hungrily eyeing the Canadian tourists stewing in the upper deck hot tub. Reclusive desert bighorn sheep look down at the boat and shake their massive curved horns in derision at the sheer decadence of your slowly drifting aluminum Taj Mahal.
"Sorry to disturb your commune with nature sir," whispered the chef dressed in Man from Glad whites and wearing a heavily starched foot tall toque. "The lake trout has been cleaned and will soon be served. The wine has to come out of the cellar to breathe. Have you had the time to decide what vintage you will want uncorked?"
Decisions. Decisions. Decisions. What French wine goes with blue-corn-and-pumpkin-seed-crusted Arizona rainbow trout anyway? Even though there is no basement in the boat, the chrome edged galley does have a deck-high wine cellar, and the chef, flown in from Las Vegas for the weekend was prepared to stand in 30 C heat as long as it took to choose the wine du jour!
Lake Powell meanders 230 km south from Utah to Arizona. Situated at the top of the Grand Canyon, the man-made lake with its 3,220 km coastline, is the world's number one houseboat destination. In fact, the breath-taking beauty and the relative ease of boating on Lake Powell are credited with kick starting both the concept of five-star American houseboating vacations and the luxury houseboat building industry in British Columbia.
Imagine an on-the-water vacation aboard a 25 metre long houseboat that comes complete with central air, a corporate sized hot tub, a wine cellar and a theatre-style entertainment centre. Hire a captain, fly in the aforementioned Las Vegas chef and let them mollycoddle you as you fish, wakeboard, and take in the stunning scenery of America's desert frontier.
It is safe pampered adventure travel from the comfort of a craft that is more opulent than a rock star's suite at the Ritz. Lake Powell Resorts & Marinas rent most of the houseboats on the waterway, and the best craft in their inventory are built here in Canada.
In 2005 the marina took delivery of a fleet of luxury aluminum houseboats built by British Columbia's Twin Anchors Marine (Canada's largest houseboat builder). Each unit has a fireplace, waterslide, wet bar, 17-bottle wine cooler and six staterooms. Even though an "Odyssey" rents for about $10,000 US a week -- about $11,400 Cdn. (fuel, Seadoos, insurance, crew, taxes, food and French wines are extra), the Canadian boats are in constant demand.
"About 70% of what we build each year goes to Lake Powell, but you will see a lot of our boats in California, Oregon and Washington States," said Twin Anchors President Greg Kyllo. " The demand for quality in houseboat has really evolved over the last 20 years -- In the beginning it was the guys seeing the houseboat as a floating trailer to fish and party on. Now, with the luxury craft you are getting cruise appeal, families or groups of friends willing to spend a thousand to two thousand dollars a day to live large out on the water."
And, while the big boat sure beats a week on Gilligan's Minnow, it is the vista outside that makes it all worthwhile. Up until 1963 the Colorado River was a big stream at the bottom of the Glen Canyon (a stripped down Grand Canyon). With a growing demand for both power and drinking water the US government created Powell by blocking the canyon with a giant dam. After it was built it took a dozen years to fill the new lake to the edge of the cliffs.

This century the lake levels are way down due to a seven year drought and the unquenchable thirst of southwestern USA. Still the lake's main channel is 100 metre deep allowing boaters to see balancing rocks, the famed Rainbow Bridge (the planet's largest natural bridge), pinnacles, buttes, arches and stone amphitheaters. The cold clean waters, the clear blue desert skies and the red sandstone rock formations means that there a million Kodak moments out on the water.
Of course the boating liveries know that not every tourist wants to sell the farm for six nights on a floating mansion. There are large houseboats that rent for hundreds rather than thousands of dollars a day. Best yet, when you are onboard a bargain boat and the chef asks you what goes well with blue-corn-and-pumpkin-seed-crusted trout tell your husband it's Canadian beer!


-Lake Powell Resorts & Marina, Aramark Region Office, 602-331-5200 or
-Twin Anchors Marine, 250-836-3028 or

CUTLINES: Top - We found a hidden canyon off the main channel - the perfect private spot to anchor and spend the night
Bottom - The deckhand brings coffee to couple in hot tub
Photos by Stephen Weir

Living Large on Lake Powell - World's Number One Houseboat Destination


Living Large on Lake Powell aboard a Canadian built mini-cruise ship

By Stephen Weir

BOATING BUSINESS MAGAZINE 3.24.06… There are sections of canyon lining Arizona’s Lake Powell where the direct light of day only reaches the deck of passing luxury built Canadian houseboats at high noon. Looking like Mother Nature’s T-square, the sandstone walls soar 200 feet straight up from the blue cool waters of the waterway.
Situated at the top of the Grand Canyon system, the man-made lake, with its 2,000 mile coastline, is the world’s number one houseboat destination. In fact, the breath-taking beauty and the relative ease of boating on Lake Powell are credited with kick starting both the concept of five-star American house boating vacations and the luxury houseboat building industry in British Columbia.
Imagine an on-the-water vacation aboard a 75 ft long houseboat that comes complete with central air, a corporate sized hot tub, a wine cellar and a theatre-style entertainment centre. Hire a captain and fly in a Las Vegas chef and let them pamper you as you fish, wakeboard, and take in the stunning scenery of America’s desert frontier.
It is safe adventure travel in the comfort of a boat that is more luxurious than the presidential suite at the Ritz. Lake Powell Resorts & Marinas rent most of the houseboats on the waterway, and the best craft in their inventory are built in Canada.
In 2005 Aramark, the marina management company, took delivery of a fleet of 75-foot luxury aluminum houseboats built by British Columbia’s Twin Anchors Marine. Each houseboat has a fireplace, waterslide, wet bar, 17-bottle wine cooler and six staterooms. Even though an “Odyssey” rents for about $10,000 US a week (fuel, insurance, crew, taxes, food and French wines are extra), the Canadian boats are in constant demand.

Twin Anchors is one of three companies in British Columbia who build and export houseboats to the growing US market. Twin Anchors is also the largest houseboat builder in the province and Canada.
“About 70% of what we build goes to Lake Powell, but, you will see a lot of our boats on lakes in California, Oregon and Washington States,” said Twin Anchors President Greg Kyllo. “Twin Anchors is currently the manufacturer of choice for 18 houseboat rental marinas throughout North America – we have shipped as far south as Puerto Rico.”
For the past 42-years, the family-run company has been based east of Kamloops in Sicamous, British Columbia. Originally set-up as strictly a houseboat rental company servicing Shuswap Lake, Twin Anchors began building its own boats to service its expanding business. It currently has 100 houseboats in its fleet and has two marinas on the Lake.
Twin Anchors has a 50,000 square foot factory where it builds 18 different aluminum boats ranging in size from 16 to 75 ft in length, many of which will sell in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. The factory includes interior design and engineering departments as well as a full complement of trades people skilled in welding, electrical, plumbing, cabinet and millwork, furniture manufacturing and upholstery. Since it is located on the shores of Shuswap Lake, it has a test pond right on site.
“We build on average, 1 houseboat a week, but, often we will build as many as 6 in a month. Our production isn’t year round, we build for 9 to 10 months a year,” continued the president. “ Business is very good and we have been extremely busy. The rental demand is increasing and we are boosting our market share -- 65% to 75% in the Pacific Northwest region.”
The company is currently manufacturing about 50 boats a year. 90% of the factory’s output are used as rental craft, either at Twin Anchor’s two marinas (operated by Greg’s brother Todd) or at outfitters in the United States. Only about half a dozen boats are sold each year to private owners.
“The market has really changed over the past 20 years,” explained the president. “In the beginning it was the guys seeing the houseboat as a floating trailer to fish and party on. Now, with the luxury craft you are getting cruise appeal, people willing to spend thousands of dollars a week for a vacation. We actually hold a 3-day conference each fall at our factory to look at the changing business of house boating.”
In an era of rising fuel prices, the houseboating industry, so far at least, continues to be strong. Since many of the Twin Anchor boats go right from production into the company’s rental fleet, there is a built-in cushion against any decline in new customer orders.
“The price of gas really isn’t a big part of the houseboating equation. If you can afford to pay a $4,000 rental fee a 50 cent increase in the price of a gallon of gas isn’t going to make that much of a difference,” said Blake Tidsbury president of sales and investor relations with Waterways Houseboat Builders Limited. “ Most of our boats are powered by Mercruisers and burn 3 to 4 gallons an hour. For much of a person’s vacation, the boat is anchored anyway.”

Waterways Houseboat Builders Inc is also located on the shores of Shuswap Lake. The family owned business has 100 employees, a rental operation and a factory; it has been designing and building houseboats in central British Columbia since 1968.
“We build houseboats year round,” continued Mr. Tidsbury. “We have anywhere from 20 to 30 people on staff building 20 to 24 aluminum boats a year. Our year starts in September and our (2006) order book is pretty well all filled up.”
“Our predominant source of sales is California. You will see our boats on the lakes and the deltas all the way up the west coast,” he said. “ I would say that between ourselves and Twin Anchors, we own the Pacific coast.”
“There are Waterway houseboats on Lake Powell, but, for the most part, they are resells – used boats bought by individuals. “ continued Mr. Tidsbury. “We really maintain our own fleet of rentals and when we do take them out of inventory they are bought up quite quickly and often find their way to Utah and Arizona.”
Like Twin Anchors, Waterway continues to have a full order book despite the rising value of the Canadian dollar and the increasing cost of gas. The Waterway president reported that while some rental companies are cutting back on the number of boats they are buying from the company, new clients are coming online and picking up the sales slack.
“Our biggest market and the resulting most revenue is in the custom houseboat market,” said Mr. Tidsbury. “We will sit down with clients and help them design the boat that best fits their needs. Custom boats are our niche and we are one of the few companies that do that!”
The Houseboat building success story is little known outside the province of British Columbia. Because the industry exports more than it sells domestically and because their manufacturers do not market heavily in Ontario or Quebec, the houseboat builders have flown under the radar of the Oakville, Ontario based Canadian Marine Manufacturing Association (CMMA).
“The houseboat industry is a small sector unto itself. CMMA has no members who build these boats and to my knowledge little is known about the industry from a statistical point of view,” said Mr. Sandy Currie, the CMMA executive director. “ Certainly there are no known Canadian stats on sales.”

There are in fact, three manufacturers in British Columbia – Twin Anchors, Waterways and Vancouver’s Orca Houseboats. All three look to the US for sales and have exhibit and sell at trade shows in Washington, California, Utah and Arizona. The Vancouver Boat Show is about the only major Canadian consumer event that your are likely to see the Canadian built boats.
“We do try to make inroads into the Ontario market, but, there are different forces at play. Certainly there isn’t a wholesale willingness, yet, for Eastern consumers to buy into (five star Houseboating),” explained Mr. Tidsbury. “ As well, you must consider the shipping costs too. The maximum size we can build to meet our local highway act is 16ft. In the East, our major competitors in Kentucky can build up to 20 ft wide and it they don’t have to drive over the Rockies to make a delivery!”
Twin Anchors would also like to crack the Ontario market. But, company president Greg Kyllo takes solace in the fact that a million people a year visit Lake Powell every year and loudly lust after his aluminum houseboats. It is a safe bet that his 75ft Odyssey will continue to be king of the canyons for years and years to come.

CUTLINES: Top: After a day on the Lake Powell we parked our houseboat on a sand dune at the end a small bend off the lake. Photograph by Stephen Weir.
Second from Top: Stock Photo from Twin Anchor Marina
Second from Bottom: I grabbed my underwater camera and swam out into the lake while our houseboat steamed by (they came back and picked me up.
Bottom - We parked the boat and explored the desert canyon. Photo by Stephen Weir

What you need to know about Canadian Houseboating on Lake Powell



Contact Information for companies mentioned in this houseboat feature

Orca Houseboats Ltd.
304-1488 Hornby St.
Vancouver, BC
V6Z 1X3
Phone: 604.646.0484
Fax: 604.646.0408

Twin Anchors Marine

675 Old Town Road,
P.O. Box 318
Sicamous, BC
V0E 2V0,
Phone: 250.836-3028
Fax: 250.836-3038

Waterway Houseboat Builders Ltd.
Box 728,
Sicamous, BC,
V0E 2V0
Phone: 250.836.2595
Fax: 250.836.2535

Lake Powell Resorts & Marina
Aramark Region Office
2233 Dunlap Ave #400
Phoenix AZ
USA 85021
Phone: 602.331.5200
Fax: 602.331.5294

Selected Ontario Houseboat Builders


(custom built steel hulled houseboats)
511 1000 Island Parkway
K0E 1L0
Attn: David Williams
Phone: 613.659.3159
Fax: 613.659.3183

U-Fab Boats
(houseboat kits)
459 Highway 29, R.R. #4
Smiths Falls,ON,
K7A 4S5
Tel: 613.283.1888
Fax: 613.284.2267

CUTLINE: Twin Anchor Houseboat