Taking The Big Jump Just Got Easier

Why you don’t need $500,000 anymore

April 2016 Feature Austa Cook

If you had half a million dollars, what would you spend it on? A Colonial house? A white tiger cub? A 2016 Lamborghini Aventador?

If you’re reading this magazine's website, chances are you’d skip over any of those options and go straight to the listings for houseboats.

“After all,” you muse, “I’m not going to find a new boat for anything less.”

That, my friend, is where you are drastically wrong. Feeling skeptical? Just chat with Doug Bauknecht and Susan Kendall and they’ll tell you up front that you don’t need $500,000 to buy a new houseboat.


Doug and Susan have always considered themselves boaters, but they weren’t full-on houseboaters until they took the jump from their 22-foot pontoon to their new 45-foot houseboat. There are a lot of reasons why anyone would want to try out houseboating, but for this couple it came down to their love of overnight camping on their pontoon. Eventually thoughts started creeping in about finding nautical arrangements that come with more modern technology, such as air conditioning, bathrooms, and a compact kitchen that includes all the amenities needed for cooking and storage. They turned their attention to houseboats, and the research spree began.

“We really did a lot of research,” Doug says.

Finding Destination Yachts

After putting in time to narrow down what exactly they were looking for, Doug and Susan decided they were after an aluminum-hull boat. They started looking into the old MyYacht houseboats by Tracker Marine and that led them to Sheldon Graber, who used to build boats for this manufacturer before branching off to build his own houseboats at Destination Yachts as the company’s president.

Once they found Sheldon’s line of builds, they knew this was exactly what they had been looking for.
“We really liked their design, their price point, and how they worked with you on the boat, so that’s why we chose Destination Yachts,” explains Doug.

And working with this manufacturer on designing their dream houseboat was a very pleasant experience for both of them.

“They made it very easy,” says Doug. “Any questions we had, both Dillon Graber, the production manager, and Sheldon were very willing to work with us. Really, they made it so easy.”

From the builder point of view, Sheldon chimes in, “Doug and Susan were great during the build and it was always fun to see their reaction when they came to the plant.”

“We like the wide body, the cabinets, I mean I could go on and on. You name it, we like it on that boat,” says Doug. It even has personal touches that are functional without being over the top in cost, like the Fusion stereo, bigger generator, bigger motor and solar panels on the roof.

Smooth Operation

As you can guess, creating Doug and Susan’s houseboat was a harmonious union of the minds. Everything that Dillon and Sheldon had ideas about were the very things Doug and Susan were already on track with as well. What Sheldon thought would fit and what the couple thought they wanted were oftentimes one and the same, which made this a smooth-sailing project.

After their houseboat was finally complete, Doug and Susan had already planned exactly where they were taking it—right down to the exact slip. Edgar Evans Marina on Center Hill Lake, Tenn., would be their houseboat’s new home.

Laughing, Susan added, “We had our boxes packed and ready to move in! We were very excited.”

As Seen At The Expo

But first their new houseboat would take a detour to the annual Houseboat Expo in Kentucky so Sheldon could spread the word about his newest line. When we laid eyes on it, we couldn’t help but feel more than impressed—not only by the beautiful design, but by the surprising price tag.

The new line of affordable houseboats start around $95,995 and the new owners were on hand during the Expo to help promote their 45-foot houseboat that retails for around $140,000.

“Doug and Susan even helped answer questions to other customers at the show,” says Sheldon.

Once we all had the chance to admire Destination Yachts’ new build, the houseboat made the rest of the journey to Center Hill Lake. Conveniently roosting about an hour and a half from where Doug and Susan live, these two wasted no time in making visits at least on weekends and holidays, as well as hosting family events and overnight camping trips. Above all, Doug and Susan planned to use their new houseboat to fulfill exactly what they were looking for; as Susan puts it, “A good part of it is a retreat, yeah, but we do want to enjoy our kids and our grandkids and company and have a safe place for them to be.”


A good question to ask at this point is how Doug and Susan felt Destination Yachts has done in bringing a new entry-level, high quality houseboat to the market.

This is exactly what we asked Doug, and he didn’t hesitate in replying, “I feel like they’re right on point, because we were looking for a houseboat in this size and were really limited in what was available, and what was available was very old.”

This was the same thing the folks at Destination Yachts picked up on as well.

“Our goal was to have a price point boat that was well-built and didn’t look like the normal square box houseboat,” Sheldon says. “We feel that we have met all these objectives and continue to improve it as we move forward.”

Doug was happy to add, “They’re right on point as far as price and size. I think a lot of people don’t want a boat that’s so big that they can’t use it and get out and pull in and out of their slips, like a smaller boat can.”

“And the décor is beautiful,” adds Susan. “It’s just right.”

All throughout designing their new houseboat, both have noted how the vessel is a little more streamlined than others out on the water. With rounded corners and a smoother look all around, Doug points out, “It’s kind of high-tech-looking compared to most houseboats you see.”

And this fits exactly what they were wanting all along.

“We’re just very happy with the whole experience,” Susan says cheerfully. The time from which they made their decision to commit to Sheldon’s build to the time they stepped onboard was very quick compared to how long they found other builds would take, which Doug and Susan really appreciated.

“Through it all they have been very professional and continue to say how much they love the boat,” Sheldon says.

Story Behind The Name

Doug and Susan decided to christen their houseboat RJK in honor of Susan’s parents, who both passed away last year. Susan’s father’s name was Robert Joachim Kendall and her mother’s name was Regina June Kendall, making both of their initials RJK.

So now that Doug and Susan are happily settled onboard, what advice would they give to any first timer out there who didn’t know if they were ready to commit to a houseboat?

Start small, they both say.

“You just see all these large houseboats in the marina never leaving, and we wanted to make it easy to get out on the water,” Susan explains.

“There are so many people in every marina that take it out two or three times a summer at best, but we feel comfortable taking ours out daily,” Doug adds. “We’ll come in and get something to eat and go back out, or eat out there. That was the reason we went with that size, because of the flexibility of being able to move.”

“That’s really what we wanted,” Susan sums up. “So we could really get out there and enjoy ourselves.”

And you can bet they’ve been enjoying themselves ever since they first jumped onboard this Destination Yachts build.

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