Houseboats offer slice of the high life on Sutton Lake

June 2011 News Sandy Wells -

SUTTON, W. Va. -- The beach? Been there.

The mountains? Done that.

Camping? Never again.

The lake? Well ...

Try a houseboat.

Not just any houseboat. This one is more like a posh, personal floating hotel. Imagine stretching out on a comfy chaise chair, basking in the lap of luxury on the topside sun deck, soaking up a slice of the high life on the clear green waters of Sutton Lake.

Ah, sweet summertime.

Vacation options in West Virginia multiplied this spring when Sutton Lake Marina introduced two huge rental houseboats outfitted with every imaginable amenity -- plush carpeting, three bedrooms, full bath and powder room, canopied upper deck with a water slide and a wet bar with icemaker and fridge; a fully equipped kitchen with gas and electric refrigerators; an entertainment center; air conditioning; two giant insulated ice chests filled by the marina and scads of other niceties, your own miniature mansion on water.

The vessels are manufactured by Fun Country Marine Industries in Indiana for 12 marinas operated by Forever Resorts.

"They've been in the rental houseboat business for 20 years and have locations at prestigious, high-end lakes, like Lake Powell in Arizona, Lake Tahoe and Lake of the Ozarks," Sutton Marina owner Bill Hunt said.

"They couldn't find houseboats that worked well for them as rental boats, so they started building these. There are several hundred in operation throughout the country. When they get to be about 10 years old, they sell them."

Hunt bought two from the Lake of the Ozarks marina.

No other lake in West Virginia offers houseboat rentals, Hunt said. "We're very proud of them."

The boats, measuring 14-by-59-feet, operate with two 115-horsepower outboard engines.

"Another inch in length would require a captain's license to operate it," marina manager Karen Swiney said, "so they stop at 59."

The generator runs a three-ton air conditioner.

Renters take an hour-long orientation course to learn to maneuver the boat. Then they make a trial run with lake personnel on deck. "We take it out and let you drive it with us aboard," Swiney said. "If you're comfortable with it, we have a taxi come get us. Or we can take it out and anchor it for you so you don't have to drive it at all."

"There are a lot of dials and switches," Hunt said, "but the controls are electronic, so it's very easy to operate."


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