By CHUCK RUPNOW
The Leader-Telegram, Eau Claire
EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (AP) — Ian Handley is used to people stopping by, scaling the makeshift wooden stairs and touring the impressive two-story houseboat he’s developing in a driveway.
“It’s a lot of work, but it’s fun,” said Handley, a financial consultant by trade and creative houseboat renovator on the side. “How many chances do you get to do something like this? I just love it.”
Handley, 33, came to Eau Claire about eight years ago after an eight-year stint with the U.S. Army. He admits he had little training or expertise in design, but he has surrounded himself with others who specialize in engineering, design and construction, and who are helpful with his endeavor, including engineer Clayton Revelle of Elk Mound.
“Clayton is so good,” Handley said. “If you can think it, he can build it.”
“I’m taking two months off for this project,” he said, adding that he’s about six weeks into the effort and plans to have it docked soon on the St. Croix River in Stillwater, Minn.
“I’m single, have no kids, I’ve been very smart with my money and I have the time and energy to work on something like this,” Handley said. “This boat is going to be something that will stop people, and when it’s on the Mississippi (river), it is going to be pretty impressive.”
Handley renovated a houseboat last year and stationed it at Lake Holcombe. He eventually sold it to someone in Houston.
He bought this fire-damaged 50-by-14-foot houseboat and believes it will be worth $400,000 or more by the time he’s finished. He estimates investing $275,000 in improvements.
“This will have some impressive features,” he said, mentioning state-of-the art solar power, radiant heat, geothermal cooling (drawing water from the river), and a “floating” staircase, an $11,000 combination double shower, 16-jet jacuzzi and steam room that includes a TV and MP3 player.
There will be four queen-size beds and an 83-square-foot bathroom on the first level, along with a 16-foot long stainless steel kitchen area.
Each level will have an open-air look because of load-bearing beams and industrial cable.
A large glass garage door will open up to a hot tub and viewing/party deck on the back, while a similar door on the second level will open up for viewing. Across the room from that door will be a 9 1/2-foot-high projection screen.
The boat will also feature an outdoor shower, twin bar areas, 8- to 10-foot-high ceilings, reinforced and insulated hull, 2-by-4 inner construction, and a remote control system Handley can use with his cell phone.
“This will be more energy efficient than most homes,” he said.
The houseboat will have eight security cameras, all of which Handley can use and view with his phone.
“No one’s breaking into this,” Handley said, adding that he can also steer the boat via his phone.
The boat will also serve as a “floating office,” where Handley, who works for Mass Mutual Financial Group, said he will meet with clients.
“I think they will think it’s pretty neat to be meeting with their advisor on a boat like this,” Handley said. “It will be nice for me too, a nice place to work.”
Monna Clemmens said she enjoys having people stop at her residence and ask Handley about his endeavor, which is on blocks in her driveway near the intersection of Mayer and Prill roads in the town of Washington, southeast of Altoona.
Clemmens and Handley met several years ago and developed a friendship. She has a large garage and open area that is amiable with Handley’s effort.
“I just think it’s great,” Clemmens said as Handley had just completed another tour of the project. “He’s doing some really great things with this. It’s fun to watch how it changes.”
It’s typical for 15 to 20 people a day to stop and ask about the project. Handley expects that to increase as he nears completion in a couple of weeks.
The houseboat will be transported in two pieces.
“It should go pretty smooth,” Handley said. “We’ve got a lot of hustling to do to get it done, but I think we’ll make it.”
Information from: Leader-Telegram, http://www.leadertelegram.com/