The Kerala type houseboats have certain features, which make them each unique in design and style.
The size of the hull or body or the framework varies, number of rooms may be one, two, or three, the superstructure designs vary, and level of comfort and luxury differs.
Some houseboats are small and some are large. Materials used for construction also differ. So, taking an average one as typical, some of the salient features are described below: -
- Basic Structure – The Hull
Hull is made by joining wooden planks with coir-ropes and coconut husk fibres, stuffed in between. Then, the sticky resin collected from cashew nut shells during processing is applied on the long-lasting coconut fibre and the binding ropes made with it, sealing the gap between the wooden planks. There are specialized artisans with this technical skill in Kerala to build a wide variety of water- crafts. Exact calculations were needed to keep balance and prevent tilting to sides and sinking.
The roof of Kerala houseboats are usually made using bamboo, cane, arecanut tree stems, and other eco-friendly natural materials. The framework can be made with bamboo poles. Split bamboo, thinned and smoothened is woven into mats and is used as roof cover. It is made water-proof, and will last for several years. The shape of the roof differs according to the design.
- Color and Texture
The usual color of the superstructure is yellowish-brown, the nature color of dry bamboo poles and the mat made with bamboo. Coir fibre also has a similar color. This warm color of the houseboats contrasts with the cool colors of greenish vegetation and bluish water, making the cruise on a houseboat an aesthetic experience. The bamboo, cane, and other woods are shaped beautifully to fit into the overall design.
Houseboats have one or two bedrooms with attached toilet and bathroom, a kitchenette, an open lounge, a balcony, etc. Some have projecting sit-outs. There are houseboats with mini conference hall. The floor is covered with coir-mats.
Interior decorations and fittings differ according to the level of luxury. There are houseboats of different categories like standard, economy, deluxe, luxury, air-conditioned, non-A/C, etc. So, there are many choices for tourists to select from.
Many houseboats have furniture made with thick cane or wood growing in the Kerala greenery. They are made in aesthetically-appealing designs by the handicraft artisans of Kerala.
Many houseboats have solar energy panels for lighting at night. Others use kerosene / hurricane lamps suspended at several places, producing a romantic ambience in the evenings.
On moonlit nights, the reflected light from the water-surface illuminates the interiors.
Solar panels are also used for refrigeration, air-conditioning, etc.
- Water Supply
Purified and bottled water is provided for drinking, besides popular soft drinks and beverages. Water for kitchen and the toilet is stored in plastic tanks placed on the top of the roof structure, with pipes leading to various places. Tank, pipes, etc. are covered with coir mats or bamboo mats, for aesthetics.
Toilet facilities also differ in various houseboats. Some have toilets attached to each bedroom. Some others with two or three bedrooms have common toilet. Some have bio-chemical toilets with W/C and hand shower. For fixing the toilet seats, shower tray and ceramic floor, finish, a concrete slab is laid at the bottom of the hull.