Can a boat’s identity be reversed as quickly as its name can be changed? The 89-foot Majestic houseboat C.C. Man III, named after previous owner John Mathews’ favorite cocktail, splashed across the cover of Houseboat’s March 2003 issue. Then 15 years later the same boat, now monikered Hope and Opportunity is a symbol of peace and sobriety for its newest owner, Chad Jansen of St. Paul, Minn.
Now Mountain Dew is Jansen’s drink of choice since he has been in recovery for over a decade.
“Throughout the bad times and the good I had hope,” shared Jansen. “I had to have hope to see the opportunities.”
In 1998 Jansen bought his first boat, a 21-foot Sea Ray, where he got his first glimpse of the Majestic houseboat he would buy 20 years later. At the time, it was the most luxurious, elite vessel on the river. That same year he first crossed paths with his friend Tom Lind, vice president of Castaways Marina, where Jansen resides in his Majestic.
At the time Jansen was sheepishly acquainted with Lind as the provider of free TV screenings through the windows of his 90-foot Sumerset houseboat. Today Jansen has negotiated to buy a slip for his houseboat from Lind.
“It kind of comes full circle,” said Jansen. “I don’t know how to explain it but I guess it’s the boating world.”
Turns out 2007 was a significant year for Jansen as it marked the birth of his son Peyton and Jansen’s second year of addiction recovery. Jansen’s dad helped him look at potential homes of various types, one of which was a houseboat. But they continued to browse more conventional options as they considered the floating abode.
While attending a prospective walk-through, the two reached their decision. He told the realtor, “I think we’re going to maybe move into a houseboat.” Although the realtor didn’t think much of the idea, it was the start of a new lifestyle for Jansen and his new son.
“My dad and I bought an old, beat-up Nautaline houseboat and it needed a lot of work—a lot more than we ever thought we’d have to do. We didn’t know a thing about boating,” admitted Jansen. “There are a lot stories from that boat and the feat it took to keep it floating.”
According to Jansen the first winter on his houseboat was challenging because he struggled to keep the temperature above 30 degrees. “In Minnesota in the winter, everybody’s got a plan in the fall, but once the snow flies, the plan doesn’t seem to work,” lamented Jansen.
However, the next year Jansen constructed a PVC frame with storm windows from Craigslist to help the boat gain increased sunlight for visibility and heat. “It was like the Taj Mahal!” beamed Jansen, “that year was like, ‘Wow this can be done—this can totally be done.’”
With Jansen’s inventive boat cover, the temperature inside the boat was about 40 degrees warmer than outside temperatures.
Beacon Of Hope
Jansen reflected on when he got his first good look at the Majestic houseboat, which had already been renamed Hope and Opportunity in 2012. He saw it tied along the dock and he felt absolutely awed by it. The boat’s owner even allowed Jansen to take a picture of his five-year-old son on the fly bridge.
After the Nautaline was worn beyond repair, Jansen tried renting a house on a dock and eventually bought a small Gibson Executive houseboat. He sold it a little over a year ago to buy a house, which he is now selling to finance the Majestic houseboat. Jansen and his son missed life on the water so much that their friends who bought the Gibson let them keep a key in order to visit. The pair never quite felt truly house-broken.
While visiting the 180-square-foot Gibson, Jansen couldn’t help but notice the towering Majestic beside it. “You can’t even see the sky, the boat is so high,” he described. Hope and Opportunity had been up for sale for about three years and Jansen was acquainted with the owner Mark Biermann through the Castaways Marina. Over the course of six months, Biermann welcomed Jansen aboard and the dreamy contemplations transitioned to a deal.
Home At Last
It was not a challenge for Jansen to get his son onboard, since once he saw the boat he immediately sat down and decided it was how he wanted to live. The boat is also a practical choice for their Maltese Shi tzu, Chip, because the Majestic has a private bathroom for canines, complete with a doggie door and tiled floor.
“It’s by far the most state-of-the-art boat that I’ve ever been in,” expressed Jansen. “It’s a beautiful boat, beautiful story and beautiful people.”
Jansen enjoys living alongside others with a deep love of the river. “It’s a different way of life, we all think it’s pretty cool,” enthused Jansen. “Once you’re initiated, it’s like a baptism: you become a river rat forever and we stick together—we really do.”
Living on the Majestic houseboat meant moving into his favorite neighborhood: Castaways Marina. Jansen explained how the marina feels like family and one of his favorite parts is that Castaways never told him he had too many boats. Before Jansen moved in, Castaways was already home to his hearty collection of vessels.
The marina itself will be revamped this summer with improved amenities, but Jansen is particularly interested in the unseen character that is already there. “There is a lot of sobriety at this marina, which is unusual,” said Jansen. He said that he knows at least six people at the marina who don’t drink. He also shares a spark of recklessness with the board of directors.
Although Jansen has had his share of injuries while waterskiing with coolers, he acknowledged that the preceding generation had a leg up on his antics as the original river rats of the 70’s. They are the original river rats of the 70’s, the stuff they tell you around the bonfires, you can’t make this stuff up.”
Jansen believes the tight-knit community will be a positive environment for his son to grow up in. Although he’s only 11, Peyton has already logged two hours of training to fly a Cessna 172. Jansen recounted how Peyton excelled to the point that his trainer said, “This kid’s going to be a pilot!” Jansen hopes the thrill of flying will be a strong incentive to avoid substance abuse.
Jansen himself had the opportunity as a teen to ride in a small plane while the pilot did gravity-defying tricks. “I remember the feeling,” said Jansen. He believes his face must have given him away, because the pilot advised him, “Remember the feeling: no drug, no high can ever give you that feeling.”
In the salon of the Hope and Opportunity there is a glass case containing a bottle of Canadian Windsor whiskey on display. But when this issue of Houseboat reaches Jansen’s address, he says it will be replaced with this story.
Photos provided by Chad Jansen
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