A Work In Progress

The unfinished—but soon to be complete—project of Ben and Melissa Marsh

Published in the November 2018 Issue December 2018 Feature

Everyone has an unfinished project waiting to be finished. Sometimes it’s something as small as hanging a new set of curtains or finishing a half-written letter. However, other times unfinished projects are much more complicated than that, which is why they remain incomplete. It isn’t easy to find the discipline to finish something as annoying as caulking the bathtub or winterizing your boat.

Renovating a houseboat definitely falls on the list of the more difficult projects to finish, but Ben and Melissa Marsh have dived wholeheartedly into revamping the vessel they have named Little Marshy. Like many projects, theirs is incomplete, but their discipline and well-thought-out plan are certainly worth taking notes on.

The Beginning Of A Journey

Melissa always dreamed of living on a houseboat, and when she found an online posting advertising a free houseboat she could hardly contain herself. But, the lead was a dud. The boat was so terrifyingly out of shape that Melissa was afraid to step on it. However, she didn’t give up. Instead, she decided to keep looking.

“My dad was able to talk with and get the phone number of the owners of another houseboat, one which happened to be owned by his neighbors,” Melissa remarked. “I spoke on the phone with them that evening and off we went to go look at it. Then, some of the nicest people we have ever met, Daniel and Jessica, entered into our lives. Not to mention two of the prettiest little girls I've seen.”

Melissa’s excitement over the project grew as she learned from her father’s neighbors that their houseboat had been owned by the screenwriter of Donald Duck. The 1973 Holiday Mansion housed the screenwriter as he worked directly with Walt Disney at Disney World. Though Melissa was unable to discover many more details about the houseboat’s past, the idea that this boat had such a fun history propelled her to do it justice during the renovation process.

What’s The Damage?

The Marsh family knew that renovating a houseboat would not be an easy task, but they were still amazed by the many curve balls thrown their way. Carpenter bees, a roof in need of replacing, and interior weather damage are just some of the difficulties the family faced while completing the first half of their project.

With so much damage to their boat, Melissa and Ben had to decide where to even begin.

“It was really damaged on the inside. The top of the roof had been peeled back during a transit at one point, I guess,” Melissa explained. “And the owners had covered it with a tarp, but not very well. So the whole inside was wet and mushy. We decided we had to do the top first, because any other work would be pointless.”

Putting Everyone To Work

With so much to complete, it was necessary for everyone in the Marsh family to contribute to the renovations of Little Marshy.

“Our whole family, including our kids and even some of their friends have helped us work on it. And when we were doing the roof, a neighbor with a tractor came over to help,” Melissa shared. “And a neighbor with a backhoe came and helped us lift it, because that roof is huge. We had to flip it over to get it on.”

The roof of the Little Marshy is about 25 feet long and took some creativity to get back on top of the houseboat. Neighbors and family helped them craft a device to flip the roof, because it was so heavy it could not be moved by physical force alone.

“We had to use two tractors and this big long skill rod, screw it to this whole system that he made and just pray it didn’t break as it flipped,” Melissa emphasized. “All of the work that has been done on it we have done personally. Myself, my husband has been a huge role-player, my father-in-law, my mother-in-law, and our kids. All of the work that has been done has been done by us. We haven’t hired anybody.”

Holding Onto A Vision

The Marsh family holds onto the bright future they envision for their houseboat as they work toward completing the second half of their renovations. For the most part, the family has strived to maintain the spirit of the boat.

“We did change the whole floor plan,” Melissa said. “Originally it just had a little set of bunk beds in the back. We’ve made it more into a huge queen-sized bed in the back and then a little kitchenette and a little bathroom.”

Though these changes derive from the original floor plans of the vessel, they help to complete the vision the Marsh family have for themselves on their new vacation home. These new additions integrate their personality with that of the Donald Duck screenwriter.

“And we’re trying to incorporate – this sounds crazy – but the horse watering trout as the bathtub shower combination. We’ve already purchased it. I got this crazy Pinterest idea. Of course, my father-in-law kind of laughed at me, but that’s kind of our idea for it.”

The Future Of Little Marshy

There is still a lot of work that needs to be done on Little Marshy, but Melissa remains optimistic that the final touches will be put on the family houseboat soon. After a hard year of endurance, the easier tasks of the remodel remain.

“We need to put everything back in on the inside, like put the walls and stuff up and the floor. I’ve actually already purchased everything for the inside. We just haven’t had a chance to complete it yet,” Melissa explained. “It's been a really hot year. And working inside of it right now is like working inside of a tin can. It’s been over a hundred degrees here.”

The Marsh family expects it will take a lot less time than the year they have already spent on the project to complete Little Marshy and begin spending their vacation days in the little bay where they plan to put it. Completed pictures will soon be available for all and act as a testimony of the discipline this family has shown in tackling something so difficult. But in the meantime, Melissa has a small piece of advice for those thinking of tackling such an enormous project:

“Get your pocketbook ready,” Melissa advises. “Do it. You only live once. Why not have fun?”


Follow The Project

To keep up with the Little Marshy houseboat remodel, follow Ben and Melissa Marsh on Facebook: Houseboat Remodel Little Marshy.

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