All For One, And One For All!

Inspired by Houseboat magazine, one family moves aboard

October 2018 Feature Vanessa Oler

“‘We could live in one of these...?’ My wife was pointing at a copy of Houseboat magazine and I didn’t think she was serious. But she was. And so was I. We were out on another Oklahoma lake on my mom and dad’s little 28-foot Bayliner,”

Dennis Daniel recounts. “We’d just gotten broken into at our house in Tulsa for the fourth time. And not to be snooty, but we lived in a pretty good neighborhood near a fancy preparatory school. It was just this rash of break-ins that year and we were fed up.”

The Daniels stopped to get gas mid-afternoon and picked up that life-changing copy of Houseboat magazine. Out at anchor that evening, Dennis and Angela took a closer look at the magazine and reality hit: they might not be able to afford a brand-new houseboat. Never to be stopped by a challenge, Dennis drew on his background in construction and professional architectural design credentials to come up with a plan. He had always wanted to live on a boat, and thought the answer might lie in refurbishing an older one.

Just a few years prior, Three Buoys/Sunseeker released a Canadian-built boat intended mostly for rental fleets. Production ceased quickly, and the resale market was flooded with baseline houseboats. Dennis picked one up for a reasonable price and the whole family moved aboard.

“We’ve spent four times as much as that on it since,” Dennis laughs, “because it’s our home. I grew up in construction and do architectural design for swimming pools, so I just can’t leave anything alone.”

The DIY Spirit

“We’ve remodeled four times and we added a second floor. I’ve got granite floors in the bathroom, and I put a Greek soaking tub in there. It has a laundry room with a stackable washer and dryer. I just finished up a mahogany awl platform on the bow. We’ve made it a real place to live.”

Listening to Dennis tick off each of his many projects, you’d expect his houseboat to be a constant construction zone. But as he lists who lives on the boat full-time, you start to think some magic is at work making it in fact bigger on the inside.

“We have a 9-year-old Newfoundland and a cat. We have three children that live at home and two others who are grown and out of the house. But one of those spent a lot of growing up time on the boat. My oldest says not to tell people this, but the two youngest children were actually born on the boat. I delivered the last one, even.”

When asked if there are any drawbacks to living on a houseboat, Dennis is quick to answer, “No!” But Angela chimes in to remind him. The 11-year-old wants a real garden. Currently, her horticultural endeavors amount to some buckets on the dock and her number one goal in life is to have a backyard.

Hurricane Harvey

“During the hurricane, our life didn’t change at all. We had to take the canoe to the car so it wouldn’t blow away, but that was it. We just kicked on the generator and watched movies. It was quite cool. On a houseboat, you know, you always have backup power.”

The aftermath was a different story. Dennis and others on Lake Conroe in Texas pitched in with extra bilge pumps and rides to shore. While their boat is tied to a floating dock, boats attached to piers didn’t fare so well.  

“Some of those docks don’t float, so some of the boats were tied down. Tied down to sink. We had to save a few boats during the storm because they were taking on water too fast. There were plenty of people who did more than me, but you help out where you can.”

Waterpoint Marina

Back in Oklahoma, Dennis and Angela owned a part share in their local marina on Keystone Lake and were the biggest boat on the lake for a long time.

“Then all of a sudden, Boom! There were all these 75- and 80-footers that showed up out of nowhere. Just recently, a 95-foot boat from Kentucky moved onto the lake. If the length wasn’t intimidating, the 12-foot ceilings and its reputation as the biggest boat by square footage in the state sure would.”

While Oklahoma isn’t world-famous for its winters, the Daniel family houseboat still managed to be cased ice for two months of the year. So when the opportunity to move south with the swimming pool industry came, they jumped on it.

“We even moved it down to Texas when my job took me out of Oklahoma. I made the second story removable when we added it, which made it easier to ship. We got it down to Conroe, so everyone would feel right at home when we got there.”

There happened to be at Waterpoint Marina, one of the premiere spots to park a boat in the Houston area. In a May 2017 interview with Voyage Houston, the manager spoke of how this waterfront oasis came to be.

“We started off with a large piece of land on Lake Conroe that was originally going to be only for a large condominium development. After teaming up with a real estate development group out of Houston, we decided to turn what we had into a multi-use development.”

That multi-use development boasts a shopping center at the front, which includes lakefront restaurants, Starbucks, a CVS, Marble Slab, and a Smoothie King, along with a gym, boutique shops, office suites, and nail and hair salons.

“On the backside of the development,” Winkler continues, “we have our marina, a beautiful Lakeside Event Venue, and we recently started construction on a 56-unit luxury mid-rise condominium project called The Shoreline at Waterpoint.”

For more than 20 years, Winkler Development, Inc. has contributed and even propelled the progress of the entire Lake Conroe area – success that has drawn residents, businesses and investors to the fourth fastest-growing county in Texas. The family motto that seems to carry through into the driving corporate vision is simple: We live here, work here and vacation here.

“The vision behind The Shoreline is to enhance the lifestyle opportunities on Lake Conroe and provide residents with unmatched quality in terms of design and amenities,” Winkler Development president and James Winkler’s father, Jim Winkler, said, announcing the development project. “The Shoreline will be a truly unique development on Lake Conroe, and there is really nothing like it anywhere on the water.”

Dennis, when asked to describe Lake Conroe to Houseboat magazine readers, says he has the best view. The boat is side docked at the end of the pier with The Shoreline condominiums right behind him, and the 74,000-gallon pool he designed. And when they’ve seen enough of that, the family still takes the boat out for overnight trips around the 22,000-acre lake nestled in the piney woods of East Texas.

 “It’s a good little boat,” he laughs. “It’ll still go 10 miles an hour, maxed out!”

What’s Next?

“Full disclosure,” Dennis says, “we’re going to be abandoning the houseboat life soon because I want a sailboat. So we’re going to be selling our boat of 16 years, which I guess will be 17 years before we’re done. We’ve loved it, though! But after 16 years, we’re ready to move to the ocean and actually travel on the water instead of just live on it.”

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