Emily Cannell has been living in Japan for the last two years for her husband’s job. Last summer she came over to the states with her two kids to visit family. While she was with her sister Dannette Cook and all the kids, they decided last-minute to be adventurous and rent a houseboat without the husbands. Dannette and her family live in Somerset, Ky., and have rented houseboats every summer for the past seven years. When Dannette told Emily about houseboating, Emily thought it was this crazy thing only people in Kentucky do.
“I didn’t find out until I wrote a blog just how popular it really is,” Emily laughs. Last summer was Emily’s first experience on a houseboat. They rented the boat from State Dock on Lake Cumberland in Kentucky and they chose the boat based on size and amenities.
“We needed enough beds for everyone and of course a slide and a hot tub. We also like a large upper deck for sitting around in the evening when the sun goes down,” says Emily.
So the two sisters with four kids to entertain decided to hoist the sails and throw them all on an 80-foot houseboat with a hot tub, slide, diving board and four bedrooms.
Dannette and Emily didn’t give much thought to the consequences of the houseboating idea, as this was all decided over a glass of wine. The hooligans were causing way too much noise and commotion in the background, so it made it hard for the moms to think straight. The idea of a floating playground for kids and mothers, all of whom were now completely wild after two months off from school, seemed flawless.
The rental process at Lake Cumberland didn’t seem to involve too many qualifications, so Dannette and Emily reasoned that the houseboats must be a solid design. Emily decided that Dannette was the obvious choice for captain. So with a hearty “aye-aye Cap`n,” Emily proceeded to the fly bridge to fire up the hot tub and prepare for the wild excursion.
“Operating the hot tub would have been so much easier if Dannette was driving in a straight line,” says Emily. “She immediately drove the boat in a circle, causing half the water to slosh out of the hot tub and another turn emptied it.”
Clearly she needed help as Emily demonstrated her captain’s skills by driving in two perfect circles at full throttle before handing the wheel back to her sister.
After 30 minutes of trying to get out of the marina, Dannette finally got the boat pointed toward the main body of Lake Cumberland, and they were on their way. Driving in a straight line was a technique neither of the moms mastered. The hooligans mistakenly thought they had input rights and started harassing their moms. One hassled Dannette to drive, one lectured Emily to re-fill the hot tub, one begged to pull over now, and the fourth lectured them on how to properly drive the boat. Emily considered earplugs while watching Dannette snake her way down the lake. They moved in a semi-forward motion like a sidewinder rattlesnake.
When they thought they were finally settled, Dannette dove into the lake with a rope with the objective to tie the huge boat to a tree. After 10-15 failed attempts, Dannette moved to the second rope on the opposite side of the boat. A successful tie-down occurred at the expense of the first rope, which promptly came untied. After Dannette swam in circles around the boat for two hours they realized the cove was too wide to tie up the boat. Emily took over and backed the boat out of the cove and into the main body of the lake to settle.
As soon as the boat was tied up and secure, the sisters opened up the slide so their young-ins could get playing. Once the slide wore the butts out of the kids’ bathing suits, they were ready for a new form of entertainment.
“Dannette announced that she found a geode during her tying excursions on the bank and challenged the kids to go find some,” recalls Emily. “The kids hopped off the boat and were focused on finding the best rock.”
After that wore off, Dannette and Emily employed a few of their ‘mother techniques for submission.’ Understanding “Monkey See, Monkey Do,” Dannette and Emily entered the hot tub. Not long after, the hooligans came running over, jumping in and filling the hot tub with water guns, toys, floats and anything else you can think of.
After dinner, the aunts couldn’t wait to tuck the kids into the bunk beds and have some alone time. The kids luckily were too exhausted to be scared or beg for another glass of water, so the sisters were set free—at least for the night. Their few final moments of that day were spent enjoying the sunset and contemplating new ways of wearing down the children.
After the two entertaining but exhausting days, they made their way back to the marina, allowing each kid to drive the boat for a stretch. They circled and zigzagged their way back, where everyone gave them lots of room to dock.
Emily and Dannette are currently planning to head back to Lake Cumberland next summer with their other sister Claire and her two kids. Emily fell in love with houseboating and plans to make it a traditional summer activity.
“I love the wide variety of activities that can be accommodated and how easy it is,” says Emily. “Also, the lake is so beautiful.”
The houseboat keeps everyone entertained with something for everyone: the gamers, the swimmers, the eaters, the fishers and the wine drinkers are all happy since everything can be done on the boat while it’s docked.
Emily enjoys houseboating so much that she is hesitant to tell too many of her friends of the wonders of houseboating because she doesn’t want the lake to get too crowded.