Boat Designer – Chris Ashley

Throughout a career that includes engineering, operations and production management, Chris has maintained an interest in creative challenges, wooden boats and things mechanical.

As a community volunteer, Chris designed an innovative pump system to draw down Bare Hill Pond for invasive weed management, led his Church through a major renovation program and won approval for and oversaw the completion of a new municipal sewer project.

A 1952 Chris Craft, acquired shortly after college underpins Chris’ love of and involvement in wooden boats. Over 35+ years of ownership Chris has completely rebuilt and repowered “Maggie”. Other projects include a new Adirondack guide boat, restoration of a pair of St. Lawrence river skiffs and the rebuilding, with his son Hunter, of a 1954, 13’ Old Town lapstrake skiff and the 1960 Evinrude Fastwin to power it.

The vision that persisted

“Twenty-five years ago, while actively engaged in boat building and repair, I started the Westlawn Yacht Design program. Life and a young family conspired to prevent my completion of the program but the idea of marrying an air-cooled vee twin to a small boat to create a ‘water cruiser’ stuck with me.

“Some of my earliest sketches were pretty clunky. Cylinders projecting out of a jet ski body like an aquatic Frankenstein’s monster. Over time, my thinking evolved to a long, lower, more elegant hull with inboard power and an outboard mounted rudder, grander and like the old race boats.

“After years of sketching, I decided that a CAD package was needed to move forward. I purchased Solidworks® 2010 and set out to learn surface modelling before taking on all the custom mechanical components required in this design.

“Along the way a friend suggested extending the bob tail stern. Drawing on an encounter 30 years ago with the gorgeous commuter yacht “Aphrodite“, I added a tapering, rounded transom that was absolutely captivating. I distinctly remember the “Oh, sh*t” that accompanied that sketch because I knew how hard that transom would be to build.

“In December 2016 I decided to finally pursue my dream and make my vision a reality. I recall the day I started construction of the prototype. I drove home with a load of marine plywood in the truck and by the town commons where supporters and opponents of the new President picketed on inauguration day.”

The prototype

From the CAD model, it took over a year to build the gorgeous hull from wood. Revisions and adjustments were made along the way as the build progressed. Finally, the boat is complete, and we are literally underway.

The King Hell name

I discovered Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas in college. In his twisted, Gonzo, way Thompson challenges our view of reality, highlighting the strange contradictions and hypocrisies in everyday life and society and showing that the weird and bizarre lurks all around just below the surface. Building something unique forces you to let go of certain normal conventions. In naming this undertaking I liked the sense “king-hell” conveys of tremendous and terrible, ultimate and unsurpassed. The quote below resonates in its recognition that many of us mask some inner rebel or nonconformist and its invitation to embrace that and let our freak flag fly.

“In a scene where nobody with any ambition is really what he appears to be, there’s not much risk in acting like a king-hell freak.” – Hunter Stockton Thompson

Interview with PropTalk Magazine at the Bay Bridge Boat Show in Maryland, April 2019

From user inputs and feedback, the design vision has been transformed – Reward 17 is a very exciting result.