“Welcome to the world of houseboating and the premier issue of Houseboat. If you’ve made it this far within our pages, you have an avid or curious interest in houseboating and that means you’re our kind of people.”
Former Houseboat editor Rex Thomas wrote these words in 1990 and it has been quite a ride ever since.
Harris Publishing Inc. first considered the idea of creating a magazine just for houseboat enthusiasts because founder Darryl Harris himself was an avid boater with a houseboat on Utah’s Lake Powell. It didn’t take him long to realize there was no magazine on the market just for houseboaters and this is where our journey began.
The first year as a magazine was close to ten summers before my time, but I’m told it was exciting for a several reasons, but mostly for its novelty. Take this excerpted letter for example, which was received shortly after the mailing of our premier issue:
“Just received your charter offer of Houseboat and it looks fabulous. I have been searching for houseboat books and magazines for months—to no avail. Your offer arrived like a breath of fresh air. There is no end to the features that can be written about boats, boating, recreational areas and the fun that is possible…”
The fellow was right—there seemed to be no end to what we could cover. Through trial and error and a lot of phone calls to houseboaters, however, we discovered that some topics deserved much more attention than others. Some of those discoveries were obvious: new houseboat designs, houseboat-specific accessories and travel hot spots for the rental crowd. Others were a little less tangible: lifestyle preferences, river versus lake-bound, or the inside track on the custom houseboat buying process. Of particular importance was promoting houseboating as a whole without excluding anyone by geography, water type or style of boat.
While there was no way of predicting back then the roller coaster journey we would all be in for over the next 30 years, as a staff we’ve always striven for balanced coverage and to be the publication houseboat owners could call their own.
We started the Vintage Houseboat Club in 2000 as a way of connecting those with older houseboats and similar interests. It started off with a bang with a standing-room only meeting, but sadly the interest eventually dwindled although we still get calls from time to time from others in search for that common connection for vintage houseboats.
Our National Houseboat Expo was a staple in the industry as the only show that brought all houseboat manufacturers together, yet began from humble beginnings in attempt to give the houseboat market a venue of its own to showcase houseboat-specific products.
Following the first Expo that was held in March of 1999 in Nashville, Tenn., the show ventured to other in-door locations including Louisville, Ky., for a dozen years, as well as two Houseboat Expos out west in Reno, Nev., in 2005 and 2006.
Following long and successful years in Louisville, in 2009 the show producers while searching for ways to improve on the ultimate houseboat show, decided to take the National Houseboat Expo to the water and it was an instant hit. While the intention was to offer two separate shows at two different times of year, the sudden turn in the economy led to the end of a 12 year consistent run in Louisville in 2011 as an indoor show, with the On Water Expo going strong from 2009 to 2016.
Building For Tomorrow
Today the remaining houseboat manufacturers continue to lead by innovation and design as the next generation of houseboaters evolves. While the total number of builders may be down compared to past years, the current offerings are exactly what our industry needs to grow once again.
The versatility and the ability to bring and keep families together has been the backbone of Houseboat magazine since its inception and it’s truly been an amazing 30 years and a milestone worth celebrating.