I’ve seen lots of cases where someone has a pickup, a fifth wheel and a boat all headed out on vacation. But what if you could combine all three, sort of, and create a single vehicle that could serve all purposes? If you’re John and Juli Giljam you have effectively done just that with the CAMI Terra Wind.
The Terra Wind is a Class A motorhome that can actually also serve as a boat. No, seriously. While the average RV builder might be flummoxed by this kind of challenge, it was just something that almost came naturally to the Giljams. Almost.
John and Julie Giljam own a company called CAMI, which stands for Cool Amphibious Manufacturers International. I’m sure you’ll guess by the word “Amphibious” that they have experience building these kinds of vehicles. You’d be spot-on with that assumption. You may have even ridden in some of their vehicles as the company might be best known for their Hydra-Terra amphibious buses.
The Giljams built the Terra Wind from scratch
It turns out that the Giljams wanted a recreational vehicle that they could use at the various trade shows that they attend. Not wanting just something off the shelf, they set about building one from scratch. Might as well make it amphibious, too, right?
So the project started and, when you’re building a boat, you start with the hull. In fact, the Terra Wind is not based on anything out there. It is a complete scratch-built vehicle. That’s even more impressive considering how beautifully done it is. Heck, there are even two slide rooms that were built into this – again, from scratch.
Once John had the hull and mechanicals where he wanted them, Julie set about working on the interior. One of the challenges of building a boat that happens to look, and perform, like a motor coach is that you have to pay particular attention to balance, said Julie.
Things got placed inside for convenience and stability
So things got placed for a combination of convenience but also based on their weight. But that doesn’t mean it has to be super light. In fact, the Terra Wind is outfitted with a residential refrigerator and induction cooktop. All the wood inside is lavishly finished teak.
Yeah, and there’s a Jacuzzi tub. No, seriously. The bathroom is actually outfitted with a Jacuzzi tub in it. You figure there won’t be any shortage of water on this rig since it’s surrounded by it part of the time, so why not take advantage of that?
Oh, and there’s a combination washer-dryer as well. The floors are marble, as is the surround for the shower. It’s quite elaborate. But the details are impressive in many ways. Those include the large custom-built electrical panel. Also, how the air conditioner ducts for the three AC units are built into the tops of the cabinets and barely visible. Details.
Rear entrance on the floaterhome is a drop-down swim platform
The main entrance is on the side, as you might expect in a motorhome. But there’s also a second rear entrance with a drop-down swim platform. Julie indicates that all their amphibious vehicles have two entrances. While this one has the “Wow” factor, as do all of CAMI’s products, the company is also very safety-oriented.
“They have to be right – our families and grandchilren ride in these things,” said Julie.
I had the pleasure of speaking with Julie, who shared the history of the couple and the company with me. When John and Julie first met, it was a coincidence in that John had flown his plane in to Hilton Head and got socked in. That’s where he met Julie.
Later, the couple decided Hilton Head was where they’d like to stay. John traded his Jeep Engine for a LARC-V, which is a military amphibious vehicle. Soon they were offering rides in the vehicle. However, it turned out having no suspension was fine for transporting troops, but not so much for paying customers.
So they started building larger amphibious vehicles to conduct tours with, and then others took note and began buying them. Pretty soon, CAMI was no longer giving tours, but only building the amphibious vehicles.
The CAMI Terra Wind made its debut on Good Morning America
Julie shared that the Terra Wind was barely finished when Good Morning America called and wanted to feature it. Not willing to ignore this opportunity, they hightailed it from San Diego to New York for the shoot. At that point, the Jacuzzi tub hadn’t yet even be filled but they gave it its inaugural test right there on camera and it passed with flying colors.
Even though it’s been several years since the video aired on Good Morning America, the Terra Wind is still recognized when John and Julie take it out. In fact, they’ve since taken all the badging off of it but they still find people standing on the swim deck if they park it somewhere long enough.
People just have to get a peek inside! But it might also be a dead giveaway what this is when you approach it from the rear and see the two large brass propellers back there.
How it’s converted from a motorhome to a motorboat
The way this works is rather interesting. To convert it from motorhome to motorboat, you have to deploy two inflatable pontoons to create a better side-to-side balance. There’s an on-board air compressor to inflate the pontoons. Then you head to the water and put the motorhome in neutral. The transmission has a power take-off, which enables you to move the twin screws in the back.
The rudders in the back are assisted by the two front wheels, so steering is a combined effort when you’re on the water. John has not only fitted this with a gauge so you can see the rudder position but also with a gauge to see the position of the steering wheels.
After all, you don’t want to come to a boat ramp to get out of the water and have the wheels turned to the side.
Will CAMI build floaterhomes for others?
I asked Julie if they had considered building these for others and, unfortunately, there’s just this one. Furthermore, it’s now been around for a number of years so it doesn’t get the use it used to. But that doesn’t make it any less impressive. That American ingenuity and the desire to go where no motorhome has gone before, to our knowledge, means that you can create something like this.
Not a motorhome, but a “floaterhome.” ‘Merica.
Tony comes to RVTravel having worked at an RV dealership and been a life long RV enthusiast. He also has written the syndicated Curbside column about cars. You can find his writing here and at StressLessCamping where he also has a podcast about the RV life with his wife.
These RV reviews are written based on information provided by the manufacturers along with our writer’s own research. We receive no money or other financial benefits from these reviews. They are intended only as a brief overview of the vehicle, not a comprehensive critique, which would require a thorough inspection and/or test drive.
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