Tiki hut boats turning heads on Winnipesaukee


Tiki hut boats are surprisingly stable, and water just washes right through the decking. (Ginger Kozlowski/Laconia Daily Sun)

LACONIA — A local man has brought a touch of the tropics to Weirs Beach this year, and it is definitely catching people’s attention.
“Hulk” Gagnon is offering two versions of Greg Darby’s Cruisin’ Tiki for sale, giving people a chance to cruise the lake while enjoying a cocktail in a bamboo hut, or simply sitting dockside.
“It’s a great social event on the dock or on the water,” Gagnon said. “On a Sunday afternoon, hanging out on the boat or sitting at the dock with a drink is a lot of fun. That’s what lake life is all about.”
Darby’s trademarked motto puts it succinctly: “Why go barhopping when you can hop on the bar?”
The boat that looks like a tiki hut meets all Coast Guard specifications. It is hand-crafted, with a bamboo superstructure and manufactured thatching. The floating hut is available with an optional motor that can propel it at 5 mph, along with fuel tank, chairs, life jackets for eight people (although it can accommodate as many as 12), wet bar/sink, horn and fire extinguisher. Buyers can even include a Bose Bluetooth sound system.
Measuring 15 feet, 6 inches, the tiki hut boat is easy to maintain, Gagnon said. “I hose it off once a week, and that’s all there is to it.”
It also is very stable, he said.
“On a Sunday afternoon at The Weirs, it always gets rough,” he said, “and you’ll get your feet wet. The floor has half-inch gaps. But we were cruising alongside another boat, and the water came over their windshield and they really got soaked.”
He said that, once in a while, a big cruiser will come by and swamp the boat, but it remains stable. “No one ever tripped or fell off,” he said.
Because the tiki hut boat is so buoyant, it sits atop the waves, and Gagnon said he could place a drink on the table and it wouldn’t move during a cruise across the water.
“It’s just a nice social event,” Gagnon said, noting that he often takes 90-minute trips from his home to circle Governors Island and return. He also has taken the tiki hut boat to The Broads, Moultonborough, and Pistol Island. “It’s just 5 mph, so you’re never in a hurry. You just cruise, have a couple of cocktails, and just socialize.”
Yet it also is “fantastic as a dock extension,” he said. “You’ve got a floating bar at the end of your dock.”
Gagnon, who also owns a home in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, said he saw the original tiki hut boat on the Intercoastal Waterway, with several people on board, having a great time. He thought it had great potential for Lake Winnipesaukee, so he contacted Darby about becoming a distributor.
Darby, also a Fort Lauderdale resident, said that designing the Cruisin’ Tiki, which he describes as a cross between a dinghy and a tiki bar, came about by accident.
“I wanted to put a tiki hut in my backyard, but didn’t want to give up the backyard, so I designed it to float. Then I thought I’d add a motor, so I redesigned it.”
He decided to copyright the design, then built it and put it on the water.
“Someone took a video of us going down the river, and it went viral on Facebook,” Darby said. “We then got calls from everyone.”
Darby put the Cruisin’ Tiki into production in March 2016 and he said there are 27 of them in the water now, with five at Lake George. Besides Lake Winnipesaukee, he said there are tiki hut boats in North Carolina, California, and “all over Florida” from the Keys to Jacksonville, on both the east and west coasts.
“The demand is definitely there,” Darby said. “We’re selling all over the country, with orders out to the panhandle of Alabama, North and South Carolina, Texas, and California. ... We’re working right now with a client in Delaware. The lakes are going to be the big thing next year, in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan. There are two up in Buffalo.
“It’s definitely got that cool factor, and we say it puts smiles on people’s faces, one boat at a time.”
Darby said it take three to four weeks to build a boat. “A lot of work goes into the top and the bar, because everything’s customized,” he said. “We’re using bamboo poles, and they’re never straight, so it takes time to weave it together.”
He has three full-time people building the boats, which use polyethylene barrels for ballast.
“They’re extremely stable,” Darby said, “and we can now say they’re hurricane-tested. We had one in the Florida Keys and one on the west coast when Irma came through, and they came through flawlessly. Buildings were blown down on both sides, and the tikis withstood everything.”
The said the Cruisin’ Tiki is stable enough that he and his wife were able to do a 90-mile cruise down through Biscayne Bay when there was a 2- to 3-foot chop, and they had no problem.
“They’re the most photographed boat around,” he observed.
He said one his partners did an analysis that found that videos of the tiki hut boat have more than 50 million views and they generated 259,000 unique posts on Facebook and Instagram.
“Tourism boats come by and they’re always taking pictures,” he said. “The Weather Channel just did a little video of the tikis, and we have a link to it on cruisintikis.com. We did a photoshoot for a Hooters calendar, and that was a tough job, but I had to do it.”
Gagnon admits to being a little disappointed at the number of sales in Laconia. “Everybody wants to rent or charter them, and I get phone calls every weekend,” he said. “The price keeps them from selling. Thirty-four thousand dollars is a lot of money, but a pontoon boat is $40,000 to $50,000, and some will pay $110,000 for a party boat. Putting it into perspective, this is the same thing as a party boat, but for a lot less. This is all custom labor, rather than a prefab pontoon boat that’s slapped together.”
He said he tried to answer the demand for rentals but was unable to find an insurance company willing to provide the coverage until now, so next year he hopes to offer both rentals and charters, and he is looking to team up with some local restaurants for the charter service.
“I’d like to have one in The Weirs, one in Meredith, and one in Wolfeboro,” Gagnon said. “I’m talking with two different restaurants now.”
Capt. Timothy Dunleavy of the New Hampshire Marine Patrol said the Department of Safety has no issues with the tiki hut boats as long as people use them responsibly.
“There is a time and a place for all boats, and we just encourage users to use common sense and safe boating practices, and to be familiar with the weather forecast,” he said.
Dunleavy noted that the Coast Guard has certified them as being safe, and they have to go through the federal standards to gain that approval, so it is a question of whether they are “appropriate for all the conditions that Lake Winnipesaukee throws toward them.”
“They look like a lot of fun,” he said, “but certain water conditions would concern me with the tiki hut boats, but that’s also the case with canoes and kayaks.”
If nothing else, Gagnon said, the boats prove to be great conversation pieces.
As for Darby, “It’s been a fun project, and it still is.”
For more information about the boats, see tikihutboatsofnh.com.

  • Written by Tom Caldwell
  • Category: Lake Style
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Beatlemania strikes Laconia

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“The Cast of Beatlemania” performs the first half of the show as the Fab Four from 1964-66, and the second half covers the remaining years. They play live, with no pre-recorded elements. (Courtesy photos)

From 'Love me Do' to 'Abbey Road,' music of The Beatles coming to city on Friday


LACONIA — While most popular music acts come and go as quickly as the seasons, some have managed to hold the public's attention for much longer. No group's music has proven more persistently popular than The Beatles, whose songs continue to attract new fans more than 40 years after the group's break-up. Those who were unable to see the Fab Four perform live together before 1970 have another opportunity, as a group known as "The Cast of Beatlemania," which has been performing the Beatles' hits for longer than the original band was together, will be stopping at Laconia High School on Friday night.

Because the concert is being brought to the city by the Putnam Fund, there is no charge to atttend. The performance will begin at 7 p.m., and audience members will be seated as they arrive.

Lenie Colacino, a founding member of The Cast of Beatlemania, said that the group is more than just a tribute band. Their performances are organized into two acts, with the first act covering the music from 1964 to 1966, and the second act picks up from 1966 and continues through the final Beatles recording. Each performance includes at least 30 Beatles songs, each played live without any pre-recorded elements.

Over the course of the evening, the performers not only play the songs as die-hard Beatles fans remember them, they also act as either John, Paul, George or Ringo, including mimicing their voices and mannerisms.

"There is a theatrical element in that we're creating the characters we play," said Colacino. "The acting aspect of it is something we're proud of."

As the years tick on, The Cast of Beatlemania has realized the opportunity to introduce The Beatles to young audience members who might know one or two songs but aren't familiar with the band.

"A lot of younger people can be set in their ways or not be open to other music. We do get people who never really paid much attention to Beatles music before, we feel that's a great achievement on our part. We open this music to them, it's the greatest pop music ever made."

Other audience members, of course, are well familiar with The Beatles, whose music can carry as much resonance in 2017 as it might have a half-century ago.

"This has been my life's work, this music," said Colacino, "and I can still be struck the same way as when I first heard it – it's that good."


Where: Laconia High School

When: Friday, Sept. 22, 7 p.m.

Cost: Free

See: www.facebook.com/LaconiaPutnamFund/

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  • Written by Adam Drapcho
  • Category: Lake Style
  • Hits: 265

'Painting with wool' – reception tonight for hooked rug exhibit

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LACONIA — Fannie Caldwell, Kathi Caldwell-Hopper's mother, was a self-taught artist with many creative outlets. Although Caldwell-Hopper inherited her mother's creative streak, it wasn't until she was middle-aged, and after her mother's death, that she picked up her mother's tradition of fiber arts.

Caldwell-Hopper is currently exhibiting her hooked rugs in the Belknap Mill's Riverside Gallery. The rugs will be exhibited through Oct. 10, and an opening reception will be held on Thursday, Sept. 14, from 5 to 7 p.m.

Caldwell-Hopper, a journalist by trade, also draws and paints. While growing up in Bristol, she picked up on the arts by watching her mother, who applied her abilities to a wide range of arts, from oil painting to leatherwork. As a young woman, Caldwell-Hopper shared her mother's interest in painting but didn't connect with her interest in rug-making until she was in her early 40s and trying to figure out what to do with the wool her mother had bought to make braided rugs but never got the chance.

She knew that the wool was of good quality, and that it was her mother's, so, "I just couldn't throw it out. I thought, hey, maybe I could try rug braiding," said Caldwell-Hopper, but, "I didn't really care for it. I thought, great, now I've got all this wool," and nothing to do with it.


The solution to her problem appeared before her at the Sandwich Fair, where she happened upon a demonstration of hooked rugs, where individual scraps of colored wool are pulled through a burlap backing in order to create a design of the creator's choosing.

"Hey, I can do that," Caldwell-Hopper declared. "How hard can it be?" 

Caldwell-Hopper has now been hooking rugs for 15 years. In her exhibits are rugs that show scenes from her childhood, floral and garden designs, and rugs that play with words, such as one that asks, "Why can't you spell Winnipesaukee?"

Caldwell-Hopper draws all the designs for her rugs, then spends her evenings with her rug on her lap, looping in pieces of wool.

"I like it because it's relaxing and colorful. It's like painting with wool," she said. Unlike painting, though, she doesn't hear her art school teachers barking in her ear when she's hooking rugs. "This is freeing," she said.

She doesn't try to sell her rugs, because she has too many hours into them. A small rug takes about 20 hours of her time, and larger ones can take many more. The exhibit at the Belknap Mill is the first public viewing of her rugs, and she is thrilled to hear what people make of them.

"It's a little overwhelming, but exciting. It will be neat to see them up and get input from everyone," she said.


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  • Written by Adam Drapcho
  • Category: Lake Style
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Lakes Region Foodie — Corn and tomatoes

By Barbara Lauterbach

Perhaps the last hurrah of glorious summer produce happens around this time of year.
As “the days grow short when you reach September”, corn and tomatoes will be with us until the first frost, which could occur roughly anytime in the next 15 days. Of course, these two vegetable staples are available all year, frozen, canned, or even imported “fresh”. But nothing matches that juicy ear of “Super Sweet” corn, steaming hot and dripping with butter, or the succulent slice of a Beefsteak tomato, or one of the many varieties of Heirloom tomatoes, such as Brandywine or Striped Yellow.
There are several ways to prepare corn. One friend puts the husked ears in a pot of boiling water, cooks them for approximately 4 minutes, drains them and puts them in a sink filled with ice water for another 4 to 5 minutes. Another friend puts the ears in a pot of cold water, brings it to the boil, covers the pot and removes from the heat and lets it sit for about 5 minutes, then serves the ears accompanied by soft butter, salt and pepper. Yet another friend brings a pot of water to the boil, puts in the husked ears and once the water has returned to the boil, removes the pot from the heat and lets it sit 3 or 4 minutes.
For something different, try this recipe for curried corn custard, from my book “The Splendid Spoonful.”

Curried Corn Custard
3 cups fresh corn kernels (scraped from 5 to 6 ears)
3 large eggs, beaten
¼ cup all purpose flour
1 Tablespoon light brown sugar
1 ½ teaspoons sweet curry powder
¾ teaspoon salt -1/4 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
4 Tablespoons melted butter
2 cups light cream
1 cup salted cracker crumbs
¼ teaspoon dried thyme
Chopped curly parsley for garnish

Place the oven rack in the middle position and preheat to 350’. Spray a 12-x-8 baking dish with cooking spray.
In a large bowl combine the corn with the eggs. Stir in the flour, sugar, curry powder, salt and pepper. Add 2 tablespoons of the melted butter and all of the cream. Mix well. Pour the custard into the prepared baking dish.
At this point the dish may be covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated for up to 3 hours. If refrigerating, bring to room temperature 30 minutes before baking.
Place the custard in the oven and bake for 35 minutes.
Meanwhile, combine the cracker crumbs with thyme and remaining 2 tablespoons melted butter. Sprinkle the mixture over the custard. Bake for 10 minutes longer or until the custard is set and a knife inserted near the edge comes out clean. Garnish with the chopped parsley and serve immediately. Serves 6 to 8.
A nice accompaniment to the corn custard would be a traditional Tomato Caprese Salad from the sunny Italian isle of Capri, best when the tomatoes are at their peak and the basil is flourishing as in September.

Tomato Caprese Salad
2 large, ripe tomatoes
Salt and pepper
¾ pound fresh Mozzarella cheese
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Fresh Basil leaves

Slice the tomatoes and put on folded paper towel to drain. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper.
Slice the ball of Mozzarella into about ¼ inch slices, and arrange between slices of tomato on a platter. Tuck the fresh basil leaves between the cheese and the tomato slices.
Drizzle with the olive oil and serve. About 4 servings.

Happy end of summer !
Barbara’s cookbooks can be found on Amazon.

  • Written by Adam Drapcho
  • Category: Lake Style
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