A Stroll Down Houseboat Row

At the Helm

Published in the July 2019 Issue July 2019 Feature By Brady L. Kay

I recently took a stroll down a row of vintage houseboats at a Texas marina, but in reality it felt more like a stroll down memory lane. With my imaginary all-access media pass I admit I blow by countless warning signs on a regular basis at docks insisting I’m trespassing if I’m not accompanied by a slip owner. I get it: I despise thieves as much as the next boat owner and fully support marinas’ requests to keep gawkers from poking around. Yet with my trusty Nikon in hand I figure it’s okay for me as editor of Houseboat to look around. Does that make me a hypocrite? Yeah, probably. But I’m able to justify that I’m just doing my job, and while I’ve been confronted more times than I can count by angry boat owners wondering if I knew how to read, so far these encounters have always ended well for me.

As soon as I let people know who I am and why I’m taking photos at their marina, we usually hit it off and have a great conversation – although while I was in Texas checking out different marinas I did worry about the, “Shoot first; ask questions later,” motto that some Texans seem to live by. I’m clearly just taking photos, plus I feel it’s important to clarify that I never step so much as a pinky toe onboard a houseboat without permission. I am respectful and simply snap pics from the dock no matter how tempting it might be to get a little closer for a better photo.   

Getting back to my recent stroll at Frank’s Marina in Belton, Texas. There was a new Sailabration at the end of the dock that was too big to fit under a covered slip; it caught my eye from the launch ramp. I invited myself to take a closer look despite having to pass by some locals on the dock giving me dirty looks. Since they had no idea who I was or what I was up to, I can’t say that I blame them. As I made my way towards the Sailabration I discovered a marina full of some classic houseboats along the way. From Nauta-Lines and Holiday Mansions to quite a few Harbor Masters, there were some beautiful boats that had me reminiscing about the old days when our annual Buyer’s Guide looked more like a phone book because so many manufacturers were building boats. (If you have to ask Siri what a phone book is you’re clearly too young to appreciate this topic so you might as well turn the page now.)

We’ve been fortunate enough to see some of these houseboat lines reborn again as molds and tooling are purchased by new investors. Gibson is a great example of an iconic line coming back, but there are still several old houseboats that I daydream about seeing in business once again.

As a magazine we’re closing in on our own 30-year anniversary as a publication and even though some of the houseboats I saw that day go back even before our time, I’ve always been intrigued by them. Some of you might even remember our attempt at the Vintage Houseboat Club or VHC that we created close to 20 years ago. At our first introductory meeting in Louisville, Ky., during one of our Houseboat Expos we were hoping to get 30 or so people interested and willing to attend the meeting. When it became a fire hazard with over 100 people in a standing-room-only VHC meeting, we knew we weren’t the only ones who loved and had an appreciation for vintage houseboats. Sadly, interest faded in our club as we struggled on which direction to take the VHC. Looking back now I’m not sure why we failed, but after all these years I’ve never lost interest in these older houseboats.

If you have a vintage houseboat you’d like to share, we encourage you to post on our Facebook page, send us an email, or we still appreciate a good letter and print in the mail too. Simply put, we’d love to hear from you plus it will save me a trip to your marina to discover your houseboat myself.

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