Hawaiian transplant builds ocean boats in Idaho

Stacy Duke Akana finds that creativity flows more freely on his own terms.

Coeur d’Alene Press in the Billings Gazette

A custom boat designer and builder, Akana is the force behind a number of large boat projects that quietly carry on in Post Falls. He called combining his design ideas with hands-on boat building an art.

"It’s creative and a challenge," said Akana, a native of Honolulu with deep roots in the marine industry. "There aren’t many people doing both at this level anymore."

Akana is putting the final touches on a Makai 3300, a 33-foot aluminum offshore fishing vessel with twin Honda 225 four-stroke engines. The boat is destined for southeast Alaska, and two more Makai 3300s will follow, custom detailed for other clients.

"This is a true ocean boat," Akana said. "It’s kind of ironic building an ocean boat here in the Inland Northwest. But this boat will be able to handle the most severe ocean conditions."

Akana brings from Hawaii the Aloha spirit and maritime skills he has used for more than three decades in the islands. He has held a 100-ton U.S. Coast Guard captain’s license since he turned 20 a quarter-century ago. He came to northern Idaho in 1994 to assist an ill in-law and decided to stay for a while. This is his sixth winter in the area.

"I never get used to the cold," the owner of Boat & RV Werkes said. "I hibernate and invent in my shop. I do a lot of consulting all over the continental U.S. and in Hawaii."

Akana moved his business to Post Falls last year after several years in Coeur d’Alene. Now living in Worley, he is looking for a home in the area for his wife and their eight children, ages 8 months to 17 years.

"It’s different and very spacious in Idaho," Akana said. "Although there’s no ocean here, the scenery is incredible."

It is the inventor in Akana that adds a dash of mystery. Candid about most of his designs and projects, he admitted there were those he could not talk about.

"We can’t discuss that one yet in public, but here’s something I can talk about," said Akana as he looked through a number of ideas in his office. "Here’s a dive board I designed and produced for the University of Hawaii. They use this for reef exploration."

A lightweight fiberglass personal sled device, Akana’s dive board allows snorkelers and scuba divers to be towed slowly behind a boat while they explore the ocean floor beneath.

Water enthusiasts can reach depths of more than 50 feet yet ascend to the surface in just over three seconds with a gentle twist of the wrist.

"They loved these in Hawaii. It’s so easy and takes no effort to use. The university likes them because researchers can cover a lot of ground and take notes with one hand while steering the board with the other."

Akana grew up in the charter boat business on the island of Oahu. His father was in Pearl Harbor during the World War II bombing and was an innovator of dinner and charter cruises in Hawaii. When the business sold in 1985, Akana designed his own road to success.

A few of Akana’s inventions include a successful hull design, achieved at age 10, a vacuum cleaner concept he sold to a major corporation in 1991, and a watermaker that attracted interest from a third-world country.

Copyright 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Copyright © The Billings Gazette, a division of Lee Enterprises.

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