|Row & Sail Boat Builder Canada|
Boats Bring Builder
|The result is Freebooter, a 14-foot fiberglass row/sailboat that Kelly makes in a small building surrounded by the rolling farmland of the South Cowichan Valley.|
"I like to think this is the perfect blend of New World materials in an Old World package," Kelly says. The hull is made of hand laid fibreglass with a smooth gelcoat exterior and a waxed gelcoat interior that makes it easy to maintain. The Australian gumwood he uses on the gunnels is not only beautiful to look at but also adds strength and durability because of its extreme density. Seats are made of oak and all the wood is protected from moisture and sun damage with Cetol Marine finish.
Options for the 14-foot boat include a forward deck and large forward hatch. The sailing model includes a centreboard and slot, rudder, mast, mast step and rigging.
When it comes to added power, Kelly "wanted something that would be quiet and efficient." The optional electric tiller has five forward speeds and three reverse speeds for easier docking. The 12-volt batteries are installed in the forward compartment to distribute ballast. "you could modify it for solar power too," Kelly says. "Or on the other hand the boat can be designed to take an outboard motor."
Kelly even makes the canvas boat covers himself. "My mother was a sewer and as a kid I used to sit on her knee and fill bobbins and stuff," he says.
Although Kelly still takes the occasional advertising assignment, he's content to "just fly east, do the job and get out," he says adding that many of his Toronto colleagues who first thought he was nuts to leave that life, are now envious of his decision. "They all say that they'll move here when they retire. But I figured, why wait?"
Aside from appreciating the less hectic lifestyle, Kelly says he gets much more satisfaction from boat building. "For the agency you'd take days to create these huge sets. Then - click click - you take the picture, and it's all gone. But these boats are going to outlast me."
|Ironically, Kelly is shying away from any major advertising campaign or media attention, hoping to rely on word-of-mouth to sell the dozen boats he builds each year.|
I'm not looking to build 100 boats a year or get into a factory set-up with lots of workers. I left all that craziness. I'd just like to keep it small, build them in winter and enjoy them in summer." he laughs. In this first year of production, the plan seems to be working.
A floating resort near Campbell River also purchased a couple of Freebooters, and reports have come back to Kelly that the staff liked them so much they claimed them for their own use rather that letting tourists take them out.
But Kelly's real dream is to share his love of boating within his community.
"I'd like to set up a sort of club with a small fleet of boats for local people and visitor," he says. "So many people who live in the area don't have access to a boat or docks, and the cost of buying a boat to use only a handful of times a year doesn't make sense for a lot of families. But it'd still be great if they could take the kids out on the lake a few times a summer."
His goal now is to find a lakefront access and storage facility on Shawnigan Lake. For an annual fee families could sign out boats for and hour, an afternoon or a day.
"I remember as a kid spending my whole summer exploring in a little dinghy. I guess I'd like to give that chance to other kids, and adults, too," Kelly says.