It's still early for most vacationing houseboaters on this Saturday morning, but Denis and Debbie Steiner are quickly going over the finishing touches to make sure their houseboat is show-ready. For now their 108-foot Thoroughbred is in its slip at the State Dock Marina in Jamestown, Ky., but the plan is to get it out on the open water as quickly as possible for a photo shoot. Even though the majority of the dock around them is still quiet, Denis has taken full control of the situation and is perfectly orchestrating those around him to help get this day started, including getting the wakeboard in position.
The Steiner's houseboat is due back to the On Water Houseboat Expo in just a few short hours, but with the morning lake like glass, their youngest son Cameron is anxious to get behind the wakeboard boat and do some wakeboarding. The Steiners have agreed to have their boat on display at the Houseboat show as Thoroughbred showcases its new yacht-like features, but no one is going to miss the boat at this early hour.
The plan was quite simple: get the Thoroughbred going at a nice comfortable cruising speed and then get a photo of Cameron being pulled behind the wakeboard boat doing some type of a trick. After all, this family is big into wakeboarding and the graphic outline of a boarder on the back of their houseboat is just one indication of how important it is in this family. It was their oldest son Matthew who first got into wakeboarding, but Cameron took it to a new level by competing in tournaments all over the country.
The details of the plan became a little shaky when we realized that the only way I was going to get a shot of two boats, was for me to be on a third one, which we didn't seem to have. In this case, the other craft became the Steiner's PWC. Jacob Heinen, son of Shawn Heinen who is the president of Thoroughbreds and a friend of the Steiner family was more than willing to drive the PWC so I could get my photos. It took some adjusting-including switching to the rear-facing position as I clutched my Nikon with a death grip in fear that I might either drop it or fall overboard myself-but we were able to get the photos that we needed. The houseboat returned to its position at the show before it started, which made everyone involved happy.
As beautiful as the boat looked from the water, I was ready to get off the back of the PWC and get on The Stein Way NG houseboat, for obvious reasons, after managing to keep my camera dry. The NG stands for Next Generation, which is a creative way for the family to name their second boat. Their previous houseboat, The Stein Way, helped cement their love of houseboating, but it was what Thoroughbred could offer that had the Steiners ready to upgrade.
"We had seen the Thoroughbred houseboats at previous On Water Expos and we especially liked the interiors of their boats," recalls Denis. "But it's what they can bring to the table as far as a fresh and updated overall look that we liked the most. The glass-sided design changed the look of houseboats, so they're less boxy and not like what we're used to seeing."
As the president of Denham-Blythe Company, Inc. that has been providing architectural, engineering, construction management, general contracting and start-up services since 1976, Denis has an eye for quality and construction and he liked that Thoroughbred was willing to let him be completely involved with the process.
"Shawn was very accommodating," says Denis. "Being a designer and builder myself, I worked hand-in-hand with them every step of the way."
The houseboat is 21 by 108 feet with nine-foot tall side walls with a sable brown stained maple interior. But it was how Thoroughbred was able to create a houseboat with more of a yacht-feel that sold Denis on why he needed to go with this popular builder.
"We got the idea for the soffits from a high-end yacht magazine," says Denis. "I called up Shawn and had him turn to a specific page and told him this was the look I wanted and he was able to do it. From the crown molding and the raised ceiling to the soffit over our entertainment center, the detail in the woodwork gave the interior more of a plush feel so it was more inviting and didn't look quite as square. Everything we did focused on it being more of a yacht and less of a traditional houseboat."
The 100 percent granite surfaces and all the added extra touches that went into the woodwork and craftsmanship help provide the high-end look and feel the Steiner family was going for.
Even the rails up top are powder coated white as well as all the steel with rounded corners to help it feel more like a yacht and less boxy. The top deck is actually the place where the family spends a lot of their time, which includes a full horseshoe bar that is done in blue pearl.
"The top deck layout is my favorite with the horseshoe bar and fire pit area," says Debbie. "Even in the summer, it's the top deck where everyone wants to be."
It's also up here where the family likes to perform, at least for family and friends over the Fourth of July weekend each year.
"Debbie keyboards and plays by ear, she is very talented," says Denis. "The boys play percussion and we have the Steiner family band play for our extended family each summer. Sometimes we'll have up to 30 people onboard, but with my musical talent I just emcee."
Show Stopping Features
During the three-day Expo at State Dock, couples toured the Steiners boat and took notes on the features they liked the most. The blue full mirrored glass sides attract a lot of attention, but it's the crossover "Z" hall layout and overall design that attendees seemed to like the most.
One feature in particular is the open galley that includes a deep, walk-in food pantry. Until recently, a lack of storage space in this area was one of the biggest concerns for some houseboaters.
"I designed the floorplan after walking through many boats and I wanted to include a large pantry, which my wife really likes," says Denis. "Thoroughbred allowed us to think outside the box with the design."
Another unique feature is the master stateroom with a recessed ceiling with a painted sky. The sky scene opens up the look and feel of this room and was painted by Anne Little, who has done a lot of custom work for the Steiner family at their house for years.
"We wanted to incorporate her work into our houseboat with the open sky above the master bed as well as the underwater design in the rear aft bath, says Debbie."
Well Traveled Road
Denis and Debbie have been married 31 years and have lived in Lexington, Ky., for nearly as long. After taking delivery of the boat last year they spent every weekend at State Dock on their houseboat.
"We go from late March well into November and we like to take the houseboat out in a cove and use it like the mother ship," explains Denis. "Our weekends are centered on relaxation and if the boys bring friends we'll go wakeboarding or tubing. When we use the diving board and slide, it's like having a backyard swimming pool."
With their first houseboat, the Steiners kept it across the lake at a different marina because it was a shorter drive from Lexington. But they've since relocated to State Dock, and despite the extra time in the car, they feel it's worth it.
"It now costs us an extra 12 miles so we're penalized extra time in the car when we could be at the lake, which I take very seriously," says Denis. "But because State Dock has invested a lot of money to make their facilities newer with larger walkways, more covered slips, etc., it's worth it. Plus it seems like State Dock is always having activities and events and we like that."
Denis and Debbie love their custom Thoroughbred and have no plans in the immediate future of having another one built for them. But that's not to say they don't have the "two-foot itis" that some houseboaters tend to have, meaning they'd like two more feet onboard.
"If we were to do it again I'd like to add two more feet of length," says Denis. The five bedroom design includes what we call a bunk closet that is just big enough for two beds, which is great when we have a lot of people staying with us. If I had it to do again I'd make this bunk closet a little longer as well as widen the guest bathroom. But overall we're quite please with how the boat turned out."
The Steiners like to entertain and have people onboard, but it's the closeness in their own family they appreciate the most. They credit the houseboating lifestyle for helping keep their family close over the years and now that both sons are in their 20s, they can look back and realize what it has meant to their family.
"Teenagers don't typically want to do much with their parents, but houseboating has helped keep our family close over the years," says Denis. "Kids always want to be a part of boating and it really does keep us close."