A Revived Boathouse is an Elegant Multitasker
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A Revived Boathouse is an Elegant Multitasker

Saltwater fun is always in season on Puget Sound. Kayaking, water-skiing, and shellfishing are among the favorite pastimes of a Tacoma couple and their young son who vacation here year-round.
    The family purchased their Hood Canal haven 10 years ago. A mere 11?2-hour drive from the city, the 80-acre property is actually quite remote, with the nearest grocery 45 minutes away.
    The owners planned to replace the derelict boathouse, set off from the beach and about a hundred yards from the main cabin.
The 1960s cement block boathouse was dark and musty, recalls Hoedemaker. No sunlight penetrated it. A boat door opened to the canal; one “man door” provided side access.
    Regulations stipulated that the structure could not be enlarged or elevated higher than one story. Electricity was permitted; plumbing was not. (Does your area permit plumbing in a boathouse? If so, it’s easily installed. Consider running a cold-water supply from the cabin and adding an on-demand water heater. Wastewater needs to empty into a septic tank or a mains drain.)
“Technically, it’s not a building for habitation,” explains Hoedemaker. The place needed to be vandal-proof when the owners were back home, so a metal and concrete exterior fit the bill.
    After considering various ideas for the boat doors – “we wanted them to do more than just close the building,” says Hoedemaker – he decided on a conventional barn-door rail system. Custom brackets support the extension of the doors beyond.
     The design also called for opening the back wall and equipping it with the same barn-door system. When both front and back panels are slid open, the boathouse becomes an airy pavilion. Ingeniously, the extended doors create two outdoor “rooms” on each side, sheltered from the wind. “It kind of inverts the building,” notes Hoedemaker.
With the back doors open, folks can carry food from the cabin – about a 1-minute walk away – and set down trays atop a long cabinet that doubles as a buffet. The family loves to picnic on the beach. But if sun gives way to showers (this is the Pacific Northwest, remember), diners can duck inside.
    The boathouse retains its original east and west walls, but a man door was added opposite the existing one. Rugged nautical fixtures with wire cages shed light on the new marine-grade plywood interior. Electric heat takes the chill off stalwart sailors.
“Even if it’s raining, we still go out shrimping,” says the wife.
    On such rainy nights, the kids can retire to the cozy loft while the grown-ups are occupied outside. And when the family reverts to landlubbers, they can rest easy in the city knowing all is safe on Sound.

Fran Sigurdsson’s favorite boathouse – besides this one – is writer Dylan Thomas’ getaway on the Taf estuary in Laugharne,Wales.

Puget Sound, an island-studded estuary separating the Olympic peninsula from Washington’s mainland, teems with marine life and diversions. Hood Canal is a 60-mile-long inlet forming the Sound’s westernmost basin. Deep and narrow, the Hood is a sport- and shellfishing paradise. Anglers land Chinook and Coho salmon; cutthroat trout are in season spring through fall.
    Crab, oyster, shrimp, littleneck, and yes, “Big Foot” – the elusive, three-foot-long geoduck clam (say “gooey duck”) – thrive in the Hood’s brackish waters. (Note: Shellfishing is highly regulated; licenses are required.)
Scuba divers mingle with the giant Pacific octopus, colorful rockfish, and plumose anemone. Hikers and bikers can explore the area on scenic roads and mountain trails. Birders flock here for a glimpse of bald eagles, osprey, and assorted shorebirds and waders.

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The new structure would continue to store watercraft, crab pots, buoys, and other gear, but accommodate guests as well. Both the husband and wife have extended family, many living nearby. “We enjoy sharing the property with friends and family,” says the wife. “My parents come out a lot, and I have cousins in the area.”
    The owners also wanted the structure to function as a hub for waterfront activity and alfresco dining, with the majestic Olympic Mountains to the west as backdrop. But the plan ran aground when setback restrictions prohibited new construction close to the shoreline. (The high-tide line is only 15 feet from the boathouse; a winter-storm surge can come within 10.)
    Maintenance of existing buildings was allowed, however. So, in 2008, the owners sent an SOS to architect Steve Hoedemaker, principal at Bosworth Hoedemaker in Seattle. “Our directive was for something very usable and simple, sturdy, and not precious,” says the wife. “All the materials needed to be able to get wet, dirty, and be long-lasting.”
AFTER – The renovated boathouse is a picture of elegance on the shore of the Hood Canal in Puget Sound.
Alex Hayden
BEFORE – A green roof, weathered doors (on the Hood Canal side only), and old fishing nets gave the original boathouse character but not much usefulness.
Alex Hayden
Alex Hayden
BEAUTIFUL SIMPLICITY – Whether the doors are closed or open, the custom barn-door rail system gives the boathouse elegant lines.
Alex Hayden
IDEAL ENTERTAINING – A cabinet runs nearly the width of the boathouse and serves as a buffet. (The architect’s dog, Oso, demonstrates perfect sun-soaking technique.)
Alex Hayden
NO SOUND MACHINE NECESSARY – Guests can bed down in the loft near the oyster beds, visible at low tide.
Alex Hayden
GORGEOUS SCENERY – Views from the 350-square-foot main level and 165-square-foot loft are stunning.
Alex Hayden
VERSATILE SPACE – The loft is accessed by a staircase built from native madrone wood salvaged on site. It is raised by block and tackle to allow for boat storage in winter.
Alex Hayden

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