For years, the paddleboat has been the splashy good times vessel for cooing tourists in oversized swans or families trying to bond over steering privileges in a tented cruiser. The aquatic version of a Styrofoam cooler, most models are made of injection-molded plastic. “Their design, fabrication, and color are an eyesore on a lake,” says Paul Lavoie, who, along with designer Lee Kline co-founded lifestyle brand Beau Lake, as a tasteful counterpoint to the adrenaline-rush style of paddleboards.
With their just-released Runabout, the duo has staged a spectacular aesthetic revolt: a human-powered luxury vessel that wades into leisure’s uncharted waters. Crafted from navy fiberglass, Runabout has a dashing, leading-man quality. The reverse transom gives the gracious sense that the boat is already in motion. The cockpit’s side-by-side seating mean you can converse while taking turns at the black walnut tiller and glide towards the sunset a slightly slower pace than a powerboat, but this is civilized cruising. The team was also careful to engineer the Runabout to limit sound and splash.
It’s a jaunty ode to craftsmanship and the classic aesthetic of mid-20 th century wooden boats. For Beau Lake, the trick was marrying that throwback allure with performance. “In furniture there’s an elegance in how you treat function, and it’s the same thing with something nautical,” says Kline, a sailor, design veteran, and fine wood worker.
The project took 18 months to develop, and the company collaborated with Canadian yacht design legend Steve Killing for the technical particulars. Kline also looked to Italian yacht design for inspiration. “The idea of wood fiber glass and stainless steel coming together for me is just a dream,” he says. The team balanced those exquisite crafted details while ensuring the boat required no maintenance—from the wood veneer-infused fiberglass deck to the stitched nautical leather slipcovers that are easily removed and stowed in the boat house when it rains. Runabout also self-bails during a storm, so there’s no labored efforts, only the classy glissade into leisure’s civilized pastime…with a cooler.
A limited number of Runabouts are in production (starting at $20,000), and there’s already a wait-list. “Someone best summed it up by saying that we’ve turned an ugly fiberglass duckling into an elegant swan,” says Lavoie.