Shipwright hand-builds a (beautiful) wooden boat for his disabled son

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Fox G1 – A Boat for Luke

The boat is not always (and only) a means of recreation. For some people it is a means of transportation, a necessity. For example, for those who, like Giovanni Da Ponte, live in Venice. A shipwright by profession, Giovanni Da Ponte has a son, named Luke, who was born with a rare genetic disorder, FoxG1, which involves neurological retardation and the inability to walk. Therefore, Giovanni Da Ponte decided to use his expertise and talent to build a boat capable of accommodating Luke and the rest of the family in their daily commute. It is a special hull because it is equipped with an electric platform by which people with mobility problems like Luca can get on and off the boat. Not only that. It is also a wooden handicraft and is beautiful. Today he decided to share this story with us in the hope that spreading this project will help other people in need.

“Hello, my name is Giovanni Da Ponte and I am a shipwright from Venice. I am writing to you to tell you about my latest project launched in February 2024, it is a 6.5-meter wooden built “open” type boat with a center-drive and outboard engine with the special feature of having a center-mounted platform for disabled people that helps loading and unloading of people with motor difficulties.

This need stems from the fact that their 8-year-old second son has a genetic disorder called Foxg1 that has caused him to have a severe neurological delay and therefore cannot walk. My family consisting of my wife and three children do not lose heart and we decide that we want to want to build a boat that will allow us to continue living in Venice more easily because for us the boat is essential every day to get around, carry groceries from the supermarket, go to the pediatrician, take the children to school…the classic life of a normal family.

In Venice, people often move around by boat and, especially Venetians, use the vaporetto, that is, the public transportation that connects the various islands in the Lagoon, but there are also those who like to move around by their own boat to be faster and free from the tourist chaos. We have always been used to using our boat, a small 6-meter boat with a tiller-driven 25hp outboard motor, let’s say a citycar, a hatchback for Venice.

This boat was no longer sufficient for us because it forced us to load and unload the heavy baby carriage by arm with the growing baby. This winter I set aside some time to build a boat for my family with a special feature, an electric platform to easily load and unload the wheelchair. The system is simple because it is an X-shaped or scissor-like metal structure where a hydraulic piston working in the base of the scissor raises or lowers the platform. This platform lifts up to the edge of the sickle boat to let the wheelchair board and then descends in the resting position to the cauldron floor,the platform can lift up to 500kg and is operated by a remote control positioned near the steering instruments, this system has already been in use for many years in water ambulances or in some Venetian cabs however this is the first time it has been installed in a private pleasure boat as it is a handcrafted adaptation that no one until now had attempted, it had to happen sooner or later that a disabled child was born to a shipwright to stimulate ingenuity and creativity.

We do crowdfunding on the Gofundme platform and in a few weeks we raise €30,000 which allows us to build the boat in a few months. I am writing to you not to glory in this feat, but to spread this project that could help other people with this difficulty.”

 

Giovanni Da Ponte’s boat, dad and shipwright for Luke

“The boat is 6.50cm long and 2.10cm wide weighs 800kg empty, that is, without engine and platform. It can mount a 100hp outboard or a 40/60 for the unlicensed. Constructed entirely of mahogany wood and marine plywood, the deck is teak and everything is treated with two-component polyurethane enamels to preserve the wood from moisture and external agents.
The main difficulty in this project was the choice of the most suitable hull to have a boat that is safe in navigation and stable when the platform is raised and the weights are off the center of gravity, also considering the territorial peculiarity in that a davit could not have been mounted because of the low bridges that cross Venice and not too wide otherwise one would not navigate the narrow canals of the city.
Having made these considerations, I adapted this design to a hull I had already made in 2022 that summed up all the features well-a vertical, deep bow wheel to cut softly through waves and a wide, flat stern to create shape stability that would limit heeling, open-type interior design with center rail, a bench in the stern and sundeck in the bow to please the whole crew.”

 

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