Below The Boat laser-cut bathymetric maps

by Tim on January 19, 2013

I wish I’d learned about this BEFORE Christmas; I would’a had a great gift for my dad. He and I have been exploring our local cruising paradise—the San Juan Islands—since the early 1970s.


Robbie and Kara Johnson, the husband and wife duo behind Below the Boat, fell in love with these framed bathymetric laser-cut wood charts when they first discovered them. They loved them so much that they contacted the manufacturer to see about creating an internet outlet for them. Et Voila! Below the Boat launched on December 9. No wonder I hadn’t heard of it before.

Rather than reinvent the wheel here, let me quote from the site itself to explain what the product is:

Starting with a bathymetric chart (the underwater equivalent of a topographic map), the contours are laser-cut into sheets of Baltic birch and glued together to create a powerful visual depth. Select layers are hand-colored blue so it’s easy to discern land from water, major byways are etched into the land, the whole thing’s framed in a custom, solid-wood frame and protected seamlessly with a sheet of durable, ultra-transparent Plexiglas.

The result is stunning. It lifts the surface of the water back like a veil, exposing the often-overlooked, under-explored, awe-inspiring world that lies below. To those familiar with the floor of the ocean or the bed of a lake, it’s a beautiful reminder of the deep channels, sharp drop-offs, and mountainous landscapes that are hidden from normal view. To the uninitiated, it’s wonderfully eye-opening; as though the world suddenly has taken on a fourth dimension.

With pieces based on the scenic Pacific Northwest’s volcanic coastline, the warm sandy shores of the Southwest and Southeast, the history-rich coastline of the Atlantic, and lakes from all around the continent, we’re betting that you’ll find one that hits home with you. If you don’t, please let us know. We’re working diligently to add more charts and we’d love to know what else you’d like to see.

Can do! I, for one, would love a super-detailed version covering Sucia Island—my favorite destination as a child, and as a parent.

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