Who says you can't go home again? Bob Taggart grew up on Lake Shelbyville in Illinois and has always enjoyed life on the water. That love was passed on to his family when he managed the Lithia Springs Marina for over 20 years, starting when it first opened in 1973. With the support of his bride Pam of 42 years, each of their three children has worked at the marina at some point during his time as manager.
In 1995, Bob left the area to work as a financial advisor, but after his recent retirement he and his wife have once again returned to the Shelbyville area-well, sort of.
Now part-owner of the Lithia Springs Marina, Bob still officially calls Texas his home, but when he purchased a houseboat from Sunstar Houseboats, he of course had it delivered to his favorite destination spot-Lake Shelbyville.
His new Sunstar is 17 feet wide and 74 feet long, similar to his previous houseboat, which was also called Tag-a-Long.
"The Tag-a-Long name actually started with my parents with their first boats and it's been the name of our houseboats since the very first one," explains Bob. "I considered Bob-a-Long, but it got vetoed immediately."
New And Improved
When comparing the new Sunstar to his previous houseboat, the two are very similar in many ways. Both are the same size with a similar design, but the biggest difference is the fourth state room that was added. Instead of having extra storage under the master bed, a second cuddy was created that now gives the boat two more beds below.
When it came time to have the custom houseboat built, Bob was willing to listen to his family because he wanted a boat they could all enjoy.
"Everybody was able to give design input on the boat, but I won," says Bob with a smile. He may have had the final say, but it was his children and their spouses who helped create the ultimate houseboat that everyone in the family could be proud of. For example, it was his daughter Marney Oligschlaeger who came up with the idea to move the air conditioning unit to the top deck so there would be more deck space in the stern.
"When the kids are swimming and going off the slide, we felt we could use more room to watch the kids," says Marney. "Plus we have all kinds of room upstairs and now it's not as noisy so you can have a nice conversation back there."
"The fourth room was a big improvement," says Bob's other daughter Jill Milnes. "With the second cuddy below, we feel we get more value out of the boat."
"For us we also wanted gates on the stairs for the top deck so we could sit up there and not worry about the kids," adds Jill's husband Mark. "We also had them put a side gate up top that faces away from the dock so we could jump off the top while the boat was still at the dock."
Mark and Jill, who live in Springville, Ill., have two small children of their own, Lucas who is five and Kailyn who is three, and relaxing on the houseboat is where they prefer to spend their vacation time. Marney and her husband Dave, along with their two children, Allison who is nine and their five-year-old Emily, are from Shelbyville and being so close allows them to spend a lot of time onboard as well. But the list of the family members is not just limited to Bob and Pam's two daughters.
The couple's son Mark and his wife Melissa, along with their three children, all take turns as well, plus Bob's two brothers and their families all use the boat too.
"I come as often as my kids will allow me to come up," jokes Bob. "Now that my wife and I are retired we're coming up a lot more than we did before."
The Sunstar is kept on a schedule and it has become a Christmas tradition to sit down together during that time of year and reserve the boat for specific weeks throughout the year. And of course they also like to try and plan a time for everyone in the family to get together on the houseboat.
"We tried this year in July to get everyone together but it's hard," says Jill. "When my brother comes to town we try to all get together since he's coming from Vegas."
Adds Bob, "We're combining three states when we all come together-Texas, Illinois and Nevada."
Lithia Springs Marina rents out several different types of boats including four Sunstar houseboats. Working closely with Sunstar has really helped make the decision of which builder to go with an easy one.
"The company has such a good rapport with the marina in general because of all the rental boats," says Bob. "They've been buying rental boats from Sunstar for such a long time. As for our personal boat, we really enjoy working with [owner] George Roberts, Bobby [Gehring] and Paul [Decker]. The guys from Sunstar have treated us very very well."
Bob trusted those at Sunstar to include those little finishing touches like the beautiful trim accents, rope lighting and high-quality cabinetry work that he's come to expect from the Kentucky manufacturer. But when it came to decorating, there was only one person he trusted.
"We loved working with Patty Roberts; as far as the interior design she was very helpful. We needed an eye for that," says Bob. "We were able to customize the boat to our taste and Sunstar was very easy to work with. We took pictures to them to give Patty a sense of what our tastes are and she did a great job."
Besides the second lower cuddy, some additional changes were made that might not be as noticeable unless you were looking for them. The stairs leading up to the top deck were widened. And the ceiling accent with the fan in the front salon was moved forward to give the boat a longer look and feel.
"It's the little touches like the wider shower stalls and the lighted closets that Sunstar has done to this boat that make a big difference," says Bob. "Plus the trim work on this boat is magnificent."
Tag-a-Long is powered by twin 4.3L MerCruisers and Bob feels he now has the ultimate houseboat that custom fits his personal needs and he couldn't be happier. His new Sunstar keeps him and his wife closer to their family, including their seven grandchildren, and really that's what being retired is all about.
Will there be another Sunstar in this family's future? Only time will tell, but they're extremely pleased with their current boat with no immediate plans to do it again. But two things are probable if the Taggarts ever do decide to build another custom houseboat: it will most likely be a Sunstar and chances are very good the name of it will be Tag-a-Long unless Bob successfully lobbies for Bob-a-Long.