Restoring A Classic

Published in the May 2011 Issue May 2011 Ask The Expert Brenda Reinold

We didn't intend to buy a houseboat! We're sailors! We just needed a slip with power since the dock we were on at a marina on Lake Ouachita in Arkansas shared a 110 power source. Then a sailboat down the way would plug in an electric coffee maker and pop the breaker. What were they thinking? No sailor worth their salt would be caught dead with an electric coffeemaker! So we went from marina to marina looking for a slip with power all our own. When we arrived at Spillway Marina (now know as Echo Canyon) we saw an old houseboat at the end of the dock with a for sale sign posted in the window. We fell in love with the slip. We knew nothing about houseboats. So we made an offer to the owner who came back with reasons we should pay more for that boat, and we told him we didn't want the boat, just the slip. He took our offer so now we had two boats.

We went in and were amazed with the room. Remember we were in a small sailboat with a V-berth and tiny head. This thing had room! It's a 1972 Stardust Cruiser, steel hull, 13 by 50 and a large deck on the front. We started restoring the boat and fell in love with our new home.

Lake Ouachita is located just north of Hot Springs, Ark., and is one of the top five cleanest man-made lakes in America. There are several marinas and since it's surrounded by forest and Corps of Engineer's land, no building is allowed. You can camp anywhere along the lake or on one of the many islands the lake has to offer. It's a great houseboat lake with many coves and shoreline to tie up to and explore.

We use our boat all year long. Very seldom do we miss a weekend so we wanted it to fit our needs. We painted it with the proper paint in all white, then added the nautical shutters and painted the rails to match the color of the shudders. The enclosure added a new room for the winter with the use of an electric heater on the front deck. A box was built for the propane tanks as required by insurance and for the boat survey. Insulated windows were replaced on almost every window and helped tremendously with heat and cooling bills.

Falling Outdrives

The last time we took the boat out with our family the outdrive fell off! It only happens when you have guest. It was still attached, but only by the boot. Now I heard enough horror stories about the boots going and the boat right behind them straight to the bottom of the lake.

When we had it hauled out to replace the outdrives, we had to find two that matched. My husband David searched eBay and found one in California and one in Pennsylvania that had a buy-it-now price and we did! Bought both of them and had them delivered for under $1,000.

We removed the bunk beds and added storage for tools on one end and a pantry on the other. The cabinets are a set of upper kitchen cabinets that can be removed if the beds are ever needed. We rent our guest a cabin for their privacy and ours.

We replaced the carpets throughout the boat, and the bunk bed windows with one large insulated window.

Amy Says

Oh the projects we can get into! I didn't like the old wall board and had seen enough of Amy Mathews on DIY that I was sure we could tackle this little shower/tub area. Three weekends later with me constantly saying, "Amy says to do it this way," finally David asked, "WHERE IS THAT AMY?" But we got it done. New tile and fixtures over cement board. David said if there's ever a storm, get in the tub. It's not going anywhere!

The first thing we did in the head was to install a holding tank. Next we replaced the countertop and the big bulky medicine cabinet with two smaller ones on each side of the sink and turned the faucet behind the sink. Then we added a mirror and new lights above.

In the kitchen, we painted the cabinets and added nautical rope hardware. Soon after we moved in, we found out that the stove wasn't working. It knew one temperature-full blast! It never shut off, so that had to be replaced and we went with an apartment size that converts to propane. We replaced the countertops then saw the same countertops in a new boat at the boat show. David added the shelves under the window for more storage on both sides of the kitchen. I use the window fan to exhaust the heat and that keeps the kitchen cool even in the hottest summer.

A table in a narrow boat takes up a lot of valuable space. We replaced the 12-inch cabinet with the microwave on top with a full size cabinet and new countertop. We wrapped the kitchen with a bar under the windows that gave us extra storage and counter space. This is my favorite spot to work in the kitchen. Under the large cabinet, we added the cabinet trash container to keep the trash out of site.

See The Light

We have a variety of lighting in the area including natural light from the windows and track lights above the work space/bar area. The rope lights are around the ceiling, the work light over the sink, and of course 12-volt for when we take the boat out.

The sun damage was a problem when we bought the boat because of the lack of curtains. We added insulated liners behind the drapes, which are really shower curtains. We cleaned and oiled the walls to refresh the wood where we decided to keep the paneling.

This is now my favorite place to sit. We added a split lounge chair so that we could remove the back section when we're ready to take the boat out. After removing the old carpet, we added the laminate flooring with a rug runner through the salon and kitchen. We recently replaced the old metal windows with insulated windows; the sweating and fog covered problem was solved. We added nautical shutters outside on each side of the windows to compensate for the width the new windows needed. David built a tower for the TV and other components, then added a fireplace/heater under the tower. Rope lighting was placed all along the living room and kitchen above the trim at the ceiling.

We placed a freezer with front door on the end of the loveseat recliners that also serves as an end table.

After removing the air conditioner from the window that blocked a beautiful view, we moved it to the other side of the room over the vanity. We moved the bed under the back and replaced it with a centerline queen platform bed for storage under. Shelves were added on each side of the bed. Insulated windows and insulated curtains keep it cozy inside no matter the weather outside.

Great View

We only see lake and mountains, sky and wildlife (and not the dock kind!). We've seen deer swim across the lake, eagles almost fly into our windows and swoop down to pick out a fish, and largemouth bass under our boat corralling the shad for a meal. The shore is filled with deer and herons, geese and other types of birds. We have made some of our best friends from the dock neighbors.

We have the area under the floor to tackle next with new water heater, new fresh water tanks, larger holding tank. We also want to put a party top on for trips out in the summer, but right now we enjoy the stars.

Are we finished? No! Our marina was recently bought and new docks are being built as we write this, which means our boat will be moved in a new location in the marina with a different view. Like my husband says concerning the boat, "Mess with us and we'll adjust!"

So we're thinking about a sunroom on the front deck! This means we'll have a dining room for the winter and a living area on the front deck with a glass surround for a view in any direction we're facing. A good quality older boat is an opportunity waiting for someone to love it and to give life and beauty back. Maybe even better than it was before.

It's still a wonderful place to get away for a quiet time and retreat from the busy lifestyle we have. I'm so glad we became houseboaters!

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