The Shasta Queen

Couple restores Merle Haggard's old houseboat

Published online: Dec 15, 2010 Feature Brady L. Kay
Viewed 4006 time(s)

In arguably one of Merle Haggard's greatest songs he sings the lyrics, "No-one could change my mind but Mama tried." After seeing what Jack and Dee Meyer did to an old run-down houseboat that was originally built for the famous singer, you might wonder if someone should have tried to talk Haggard out of parting with it.

In 2006 the Meyers were just finishing a restoration project on an older houseboat when Haggard's boat was sold to Shasta Lake Houseboat Sales, located in Redding, Calif. The boat broker wasn't interested in restoring the old houseboat, but was just looking to sell it quickly to someone who was. Turns out the Meyers were in the right place at the right time when the boat came into dry dock.

"It was in need of a great deal of repair when we first bought it," remembers Jack. "For the next seven months, working six days a week we worked to restore the boat that Haggard originally named the Hotel Thermador when it was first built in 1982."

Haggard pushed the lake limits when he designed the three-story houseboat that was 18 feet wide, three feet wider than is allowed on Lake Shasta in northern California. His houseboat wasn't acceptable to the Forest Service that enforces the size restriction, which requires that all houseboats not exceed the 56- by 15-foot size limit. After a long battle he removed the third deck and reduced the width to 15 feet by removing the catwalks on the sides.

Famous Regulars

"This boat has quite a history with country western singers, including such stars as Dolly Parton, Johnny Cash and many others that we were told were guests of Merle Haggard," says Jack. "When we bought the boat from Robert Pas [Owner of Shasta Lake Houseboat Sales], he told us some of the stories behind the history of this boat. I guess it was an entertaining party boat and we're told there were quite a few other country western stars that would visit regularly."

The houseboat looks like a Mississippi River boat and one of the great features is the original construction work. When the boat was built in 1982 it was built like a regular house with two by four walls and R-13 insulation.

"We installed an electric fireplace and because of the two by four construction, it holds in heat like a house," says Dee. "And in the summer our boat keeps cooler as well."

A New Look

Haggard lives in Redding, Calif., still, but the couple hasn't had any contact with the singer or his family since buying the boat. Of course today he may not even recognize his old houseboat, which once included a big fishing hole inside so he could sit on the sofa and fish.

"We took out the fishing hole when we remodeled and added French doors on the front to give it a cottage feel," says Dee. "It's now really a showboat and we named it The Shasta Queen. We receive many compliments about its appearance and beauty."

Adds her husband Jack, "Merle had quite a music setup on this boat, but when we remodeled we removed all of it as well. The boat hadn't been used in quite a few years so it wasn't in great shape when we found it."

After seven long months the re-built houseboat left dry dock and was launched on June 1, of 2007, into Shasta Lake once again. The overhaul job was extensive with new V6 Chevy engines, micro-commanders and a unique steering system. The couple added two half baths in addition to the full bath and they also installed stern and bow hydraulic thrusters while the boat was out of the water.

Room For All

There is complete living quarters on the second deck that incorporates a bedroom, kitchenette, half bath, fridge, microwave as well as the helm. But it's the look and feel of the main level that the Meyers enjoy the most.

"The interior is a beautiful wood paneling with Brazilian blue granite counter tops," says Dee.  "We added the wine cooler, garbage disposal, dishwater and a new stove and we went with the blue-color granite counter tops for the water effect."

The houseboat can sleep six inside comfortably, and although it was once considered a party boat, the Meyers are quick to point out that it's now a family boat. The couple has three kids, including seven grand kids and they also enjoy the companionship of their three dogs, Suzie, Boots and Serena.

No Place Like Home

Dee refers to the boat as their cabin on the lake and there is a cottage feel to the boat. There is a standard house toilet on the main level and with the matching granite counter tops it feels more like a bathroom you'd find in your home than a typical marine head.

"There is a lot of stuff packed on a little boat," says Jack, "and we couldn't be happier with how it turned out."

The Meyers wouldn't mind meeting the famous original owner of their houseboat one day if Merle Haggard ever wanted to see what the couple has done to his boat. But even if that day never comes they're happy with how The Shasta Queen turned out and the adventures it offers them. 

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