A Millionaire Spent Years Building a Full-Scale Ark. The Inside Is What’s Truly Mindblowing

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When religion and piles of money collide, things can get pretty crazy. But fear not, this isn’t going to be a heavy op-ed about Saudi Arabia or Ted Cruz. This is the story of how one man used his wealth to realize a massively ambitious spiritual goal, with amazing results.

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Somewhere along the Merwede river in the Netherlands lies a hulking colossus. A man-made giant of literally Biblical proportions. But who built it – and why?

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The story begins in 1992. Johan Huibers, a millionaire and a hardcore creationist, had an apocalyptic dream that the low-lying Dutch coastlands would be inundated by seawater. The flood dream never left him, and he felt compelled to begin what he saw as his life’s work.

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Inspired by the Bible, and specifically God’s instructions to Noah in chapters six to nine of Genesis, Huibers set about building a real ark in 2005. It was about 230 feet long, and he used it to sail the seas around the Netherlands for three and a half years.

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But Huibers’ creationist itch, it seems, hadn’t been properly scratched. In 2009, he set about realizing his true ambition: he wanted to construct an ark the same size as the one written about in the Bible. Exactly the same size.

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The project took three years to complete, costing around $1.6 million. Money wasn’t too much of an object for Huibers, it seems.

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And when the project was finally completed, the structure was gigantic; Huibers followed the Biblical blueprint to the detail. Indeed, he converted cubits into modern measurements, and the new ark came in at a whopping 430 feet long, 100 feet wide and 75 feet high.

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Naturally, the mammoth task of creating a flood-proof, live-in ark called for a lot of materials. The finished product, then, weighs in at 2,500 tons, with the ark boasting five decks.

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And Huibers wasn’t afraid to put some hard graft in himself. After all, this dedicated Christian – who perhaps follows in the steps of his idol a little too closely – is actually a carpenter.

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When he finished the ark in 2012, though, Huibers was keen to share his awesome creation with the world. Well, it was built to hold 5,000 people, so there was plenty of space on board.

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Alas, some Biblical instructions had been impossible to follow. While in Genesis, Noah uses “gopher wood” to build his ship, Huibers combined the metal hulls of a few old barges to create his ark, before cladding it with Scandinavian pine wood.

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But how did Huibers plan to truly amaze visitors to the ark? And how did he think it best to educate people about the message of the Bible?

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Every school kid knows that in the Bible, God tells Noah to build an ark large enough to house two of every animal on earth. Well, Huibers followed that part of the plan too. Kind of.

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He filled the structure to the rafters with life-size plastic sculptures of the animals that Noah is supposed to have saved. You can’t deny that this guy is a real stickler for detail.

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The plastic animals, as you might imagine, were seriously costly. Indeed, just one of the life-size elephants that Huibers installed on the ark cost him $11,000. Ouch.

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Huibers didn’t just put plastic animals on the ark, though. It also houses a number of real animals, although nothing as big as an elephant. Most of the live creatures are birds, such as parrots, peacocks and pheasants, but there are also some rabbits on the vessel.

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In case passengers get bored of petting the bunnies during the apocalyptic deluge, however, Huibers has made room for some other diversions too. For example, the ark also houses a restaurant and two cinemas, along with plenty of information relating to the flood story.

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The awesome vessel is currently moored at the town of Dordrecht in the Netherlands, but perhaps not for much longer. Never afraid of thinking big, Huibers is planning something even more ambitious for his ark.

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In summer 2016 he wants to sail the ark some 5,000 miles over the Atlantic to Brazil, where he hopes to arrive in good time for the Olympic and Paralympic games. Once there, he aims to provide spiritual and “practical support for the underprivileged” people in the country.

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On the way, Huibers plans to stop off in the United States, dropping anchor at San Francisco and Seattle, among other places. It’s a huge undertaking, and he’s still well shy of the funding he needs to make the project happen.

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But given his amount of self-belief, it’s doubtful that this worries Huibers. In fact, he’s even said that he’d like to get Israel and the Arab states to work together to construct a water pipe between the Mediterranean and the Dead Sea. Let’s just hope he manages it before the flood hits.

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Image: James Hamilton via Country Living

Now, while Huibers’ ark is undoubtedly impressive, this quaint cottage-style houseboat is arguably just as innovative. It may not look too mighty in comparison, but one peek inside may just leave you amazed.

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Providing a fusion of the trends for tiny houses and breezy boat living, one Kentucky-based company has unveiled a charming nautical abode aptly dubbed the “Tiny.” And the little vessel packs a huge surprise. How? Well, the luxurious home is both deceptively spacious and fully kitted out with a host of sumptuous features.

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The Tiny has been crafted by Harbor Cottage Houseboats, which is located close to so-called “houseboat capital of the world” Lake Cumberland, KY. And the impressive invention has gained plenty of media attention – most notably appearing on HGTV’s Tiny House, Big Living. What’s more, the boat manufacturer claims that the Tiny is its most in-demand model to date. And it’s not hard to see why that may be.

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Jimmy Hamilton, who works as Harbor Cottage Houseboats’ general manager, opened up about the design in an interview with the Tiny House Blog. “I’m really excited about this tiny boat,” he said. “We usually build much larger floating homes and houseboats. But I convinced my dad that the tiny revolution is where it’s at.”

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And a tour of the pocket-sized property reveals just what has been packed into its 400-square-foot main space. Boasting many of the amenities of a contemporary home, the Tiny has an 11-foot by 10-foot fitted kitchen with a large sink as well as an oven, a microwave, a dishwasher and a refrigerator. Meanwhile, the breakfast bar sitting in the middle of the room makes for the perfect spot for morning meals.

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The open-plan interior makes the houseboat great for socializing too, with the living area comfortably fitting a sofa and flat-screen TV. Next to the lounge area, the houseboat also has a small utility section boasting a dishwasher and a combination washing machine and dryer.

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On the other side of the deck, the roomy bathroom has been finished with plenty of grandeur. Housing a sleek bathtub with an overhead shower and gleaming tiles, this small room certainly isn’t scrimping on luxury. But one of the biggest surprises about this humble vessel may be that six people can easily sleep here.

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There’s a master suite with a king-sized bed, for instance, as well as a guest room complete with a double bed and twin beds. Explaining the mission behind his company’s miniature houseboats to the Tiny House Blog, Hamilton said, “Our goal is to make living on the water, house-boating and recreating on our waterways affordable and accessible for all Americans.”

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And the vessel also has ample exterior space. The Tiny has porches to the front and rear, while there’s also a 400-square-foot deck on top. So, if the idea of kicking back after a long day floats your boat, then the sun deck, with its hot tub and boozy bar for nightcaps, should fit the bill.

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Justifiably proud of the company’s small but perfectly formed houseboat, Hamilton explained more about the craft’s dimensions. He told the Tiny House Blog, “The Tiny is just over 400 square foot. It is 16 foot wide and 52 foot long from bow to stern swim platform. So, it has plenty of outdoor space.”

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Hamilton added, “We can build these boats to order in as little as 90 days and ship them anywhere in the USA.” With lead times as short as that, it obviously helps that the vessels are U.S.-built. “We manufacture our boats from top to bottom in Somerset, KY, including building our own aluminum hulls which are suitable for fresh and/or saltwater applications,” Hamilton confirmed.

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As for the price? Well, the Tiny can be snapped up for $129,000. It’s worth pointing out, though, that the boat featured here has a few luxe extras. Hamilton added to the Tiny House Blog, “[The show vessel] has some super-expensive granite, a pop-up helm, [a] Murphy bed and all kinds of LED rope lighting and accent lighting.”

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Hamilton added, “[The show boat] also has a roof bar, [a] hot tub [and a] slide and diving board, and the… price is $239,000.” The base cost of $129,000 buys a floating unit; after that, each houseboat can be customized or upgraded to fit the buyer’s needs.

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But if even the lower price still seems too much to pay, then Hamilton had good news. He revealed, “We are building our second Tiny right now, and our hope is to get the base price down to $99,000 for a floater. It takes a couple iterations and scale to get making them more efficiently.” However, for anybody in the market for a floating home, there’s now yet another option.

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In September 2018 Harbor Cottage Houseboats used its Facebook to make an exciting announcement: the company had unveiled its latest design, christened the “Tiny XL.” A smidge bigger than the Tiny, the new arrival offers a few more perks than its already trailblazing sister.

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“Meet the Tiny XL, just recently launched and a first of its kind on Lake Cumberland!” Harbor Cottage Houseboats posted on the social media site. “This houseboat was modeled off our ever popular ‘tiny houseboat’ design; however, it is 8 foot longer… This beauty has heated marble floors in the bathrooms, custom kitchen cabinetry and dual wine coolers installed in the hull.”

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But Hamilton and the team behind Harbor Cottage Houseboats don’t just want to make a cool product; they actually want people to embrace the lifestyle that comes with it. In a November 2017 interview with Country Living, Hamilton explained, “What I’m trying to do is make a tiny boat that is also something that people actually want to live in.”

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If you can’t commit to the water just yet, though, then you may be happy to know that the company also rents out its houseboats. A week on the Tiny, for instance, comes in at under $2,800 for the “super saver” package. Alternatively, one Airbnb host is offering a stay on a Harbor Cottage Houseboat in Nancy for about $1,135 per night.

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And with the cost of housing still rising, a greater number of people are shunning traditional brick-and-mortar homes in favour of more unusual abodes. Misa Gidding-Chatfield and Mike Kraft are two such individuals. Back in 2007, the San Francisco couple had wanted to move in together, but they couldn’t afford to buy their own home in the Californian city. The pair chose, then, to live on the water instead.

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And ten years after making their fateful decision, the duo see no reason to move back on land. “I always wanted to live on a boat,” Kraft told Business Insider in 2017. According to his partner, though, his buddies weren’t so sure. “Our friends and family thought we were crazy,” Gidding-Chatfield said.

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However, due to the astronomical cost of buying a home in San Francisco – the median price of a house there has nearly doubled to $1.6 million since 2005 – it’s not hard to see why the savvy pair balked. Instead, they spent just $300,000 on a 58-foot fishing boat. And nowadays, Kraft and Gidding-Chatfield only have to fork out for the boat’s mortgage and pay a monthly slip fee. Life, then, is a beach for the couple.

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