Jim and Carole Clarke began their journey into houseboating after a fun-filled day on their pontoon in the fall of 2011. They were coming back into their marina on Norris Lake in Tennessee when they started thinking 11 people on their ‘toon was a bit too crowded. They first considered building a house on the lake, but after being the contractors on their current house they didn’t want the stress of that process again. At the marina they met a friendly couple who had a for sale sign on their houseboat and invited them in to look at it.
“This is what originally got the wheel turning,” says Carole. “We saw the ad for YourNewBoat.com and quickly called and spoke to Travis Keller to see what other boats he had for sale. He was very friendly and was easily approachable.”
Of course the couple had lots of questions and said Keller was knowledgeable and helpful in answering them.
“I strongly recommend Travis or someone like him when you’re looking to buy,” says Jim. “We probably looked at 8 to 10 houseboats total with him on many occasions until we found our dream boat.”
Keller answered their questions and helped them realize what they wanted in a boat. They started looking every weekend in early October 2011 until they found the boat they wanted in December.
“It was an early Christmas present to each other, even though we didn’t officially own the boat until the end of January 2012,” says Carole.
Jim and Carole looked for houseboats for two and a half months with a budget between $200,000 and $225,000. The last boat they looked at, the asking price was $300,000, but Keller thought the owner might take less since he had been transferred more than a year ago and was motivated to sell.
“We offered $250,000 and the owner came back with $255,000, which we gladly accepted,” says Jim.
Finding the right boat was only the first step. Next the couple looked into getting a loan to purchase their first houseboat. Fortunately the couple was blessed enough to pay for their boat outright instead of going through a bank.
“Instead of communicating with the bank, we ended up paying cash,” says Jim.
Once they decided to use their savings to pay for the boat, it took about a week to get all the paperwork done. The couple is still extremely happy with their decision to jump into the houseboating lifestyle. Another reason that made the decision easy was that during the marine inspection the couple learned the boat had been appraised for $363,000, which was well over their price of $255,000.
“Travis said if we were to have that boat built today it would cost $500,000,” says Carole. “After comparing that to what we had seen, it was a no-brainer that we needed to get this boat.”
Insurance was a bit of a surprise and a little higher because they had never driven a boat like this before.
“We went with the company that insures our autos,” says Jim. “Our insurance carrier says our premium will go down considerably once we had the boat for a year.”
“We hadn't really done any research and Travis was our info, go-to guy,” recalls Carole. “We really relied on his input to learn about maintenance, different dock fees, rules, and what he didn't know he would find out promptly and get back to us.”
As far as buying a used boat, the couple didn’t have any problems with it other than the fact that they believe the prior owner didn't maintain it as well as he should have. They did the normal oil changes, changed the filters, impellors, etc., which ended up costing them around $2,900.
More Than Wanted
The Clarke’s 2006 Sumerset widebody reverse plan 90- by 20-foot houseboat gives them exactly what they were looking for. Jim and Carole wanted a boat that had multiple bedrooms, a hard top, insulation, a slide and PWC ramps, so they really felt like they lucked out when they also got a bar/fridge upstairs, washer and dryer and a big galley with two full-size refrigerators. The boat has six bedrooms, two refrigerators and they say it has all the bells and whistles anyone could ever want. The couple works six days a week so when they get to the boat every Saturday afternoon they are instantly relaxed. The children and grandkids have a complete blast on the boat as well.
Since the lake is 30 minutes from Jim and Carole’s work and home, the Clarkes occasionally go on a weekday and drive into work from there. The boat has a gangplank in the front to offload onto land in a cove if desired.
“We really love the layout and are very lucky with all the cool amenities and features we got,” says Carole.
Jim and Carole own a pawnshop so they named their vessel On Golden Pawn. They dock their boat at Waterside Marina on Norris Lake. They pay $450 per month plus electric, and get free water and trash pickup.
“It's a very clean and up-to-date marina,” says Carole. “We did originally have our pontoon at Hickory Star on Norris, but we always boated over to Waterside for lunch because they have a fantastic restaurant. Waterside often has entertainment on the weekends and we enjoy that too.”
As far as tips and advice, Jim and Carole stress that you should get someone like Keller at YourNewBoat.com to help you and ask them anything you don't know about houseboats. “Travis has stopped by several times even after we had our boat, just to make sure things are good,” says Jim.
“We knew very little, but learned a massive amount of info from Travis,” adds Carole. “Travis was so helpful that we doubt we would own a houseboat today if it weren’t for him.”