Neighbor, Neighbor

From friends to dock mates

Published in the March 2012 Issue March 2012 Feature Jan Clark

No, I'm not stuttering. This story began last winter when I met our new next door neighbors.

Occasionally our neighborhood goes out for dinner to catch up on everyone and everything. The stranger sitting next to me was Robin Sorrell. She and her husband were the new neighbors on the block. I was casually talking to another friend when she overheard me say we had recently purchased a houseboat. Well, the conversation came alive then. She informed us they also had a boat on the same lake as ours, just at another marina. They had a cruiser, but what she really wanted was a houseboat. As soon as we realized we had so much in common we were finishing each other's sentences. Obviously she had read and researched everything possible about them. Her favorite pastime was to check online, Boat Trader, craigslist, newspapers and networking by word of mouth.

As months went by, Robin and her husband Gerald continuously looked for the perfect match. They wanted one with character and not modern or new. I noticed the houseboat across the dock from ours was not abused, just never used. It was very nice from the exterior, but I never saw anyone there. No one can tell a book from its cover and therefore I had no idea of its interior condition.

I asked our marina manager who owned this houseboat and if it was for sale. To make a long story short, we reached the owner and he was interested in selling it. Robin is retired from the police department and her husband Lt. Gerald Sorrell is with the Memorial Village Police Department in Houston, Texas. The owner of the houseboat was a retired officer, so this was a true sign and their omen that it was meant to be.

As soon as they took possession of their 1988 42-foot Gibson they got to work. Robin wanted it to appear as a captain's quarters. Wallpaper was applied over the water damaged paneling and they removed the original built-in seating and put in a sleeper sofa. Also, they included a comfortable leather chair and even a recliner. A wall mount television was hung above the helm, which obviously has to be in a captain's quarters for today's captain and guests. The 25-year-old carpet was removed and replaced with new flooring and of course every houseboat needs a fireplace. Robin used an electric fireplace insert and installed it into the wall which was a closet before. Trim molding was applied to give it the appearance that it was original. On winter days and nights it really puts out enough heat to warm the entire cabin and gives the ambiance of a cozy captain's quarters.

Most of the work was cosmetic, but there had been an undiagnosed water leak as it had sat in the slip so long through the winter months. A new water tank was built and installed and the old fuel needed to be pumped out as to not damage the twin Crusaders. A little tweaking, maintenance and a lot of thought and love and decorating went into Gerald and Robin's houseboat, so now they are officially HBOs (houseboat owners).

The majority of the time their grown kids are day visitors and there's not much need for many beds. They sleep in the underneath berths and have optional sleeping quarters on their hide-a-bed. After brainstorming and thinking outside the box, Robin decided to remove the full bed in the rear of the boat and transform it into a dining room. All the furniture can fold up in minutes and an air bed can be very accommodating for guests. It is an ideal solution to make the most use of a houseboat's limited space. Now they can dine and watch the boats pass by in their comfortable new air-conditioned dining room (naturally with a chandelier) or opt to dine outside on their rear deck.

Of course being in Texas the original name stayed the same. No one can say TEXAS TRADITION is being neglected now. As soon as they purchased it, the new "baby" was pampered and received a good washing and a professional polishing. It now has an under-the-cover slip and looks like it just came off the showroom floor. We can now say we have our good friends as our neighbor, neighbors!

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