Getting To Know

Published in the April 2011 Issue April 2011 Ask The Expert Dick Gragert


In the late 80's I traded Joe Sharpe, whose family owned Somerset Houseboats at the time, a twin engine airplane to build me a 16- by 75-foot houseboat with all the latest bells and whistles. When I brought up thrusters he replied that I was a helicopter and jet pilot so I wouldn't need them. That may have been true if the wind never blew.

I knew I could do better with hydraulics; they were more powerful, and they would run all day, so I used that boat to test out my ideas


Houseboating is supposed to be a fun escape from the rat race and pressures of work, not a gut-wrenching survival test when it's time to dock the boat. To keep the total price down, boat builders, to make a sale, would tell the customers they didn't need them. The truth is they could have saved more if they didn't put engines in the boat, because without thrusters they probably will only take the boat out once.


I have enough to fill this magazine. In an anonymous boat yard in California I once observed a 75-foot houseboat without power to its thrusters pull out, turn 180 degrees, go sideways, followed by another 180-degree turn, then go wide open backwards into a 60-foot SeaRay cabin cruiser.


The elements can be a challenge. Yesterday I installed bow and stern thrusters on a Somerset at Mountain Home, Ark., in the water. The high for the day was 27 degrees and we started long before it reached its high. A week before that I was in Florida and the concern was alligators.


I'm inspired by the guy who tells the truth, does what he says he will do, when he said he would do it, for the price he said he would do it for, and pays you what he owes you, when he is supposed to pay you. I'm that guy, my dad was that guy. I wish they all were that guy.

To contact HydraNautics, visit or call 859-885-5545.

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