Dock Communities

September 2020 Own By Brady L. Kay

It’s not uncommon for a houseboater to admit he knows his dock neighbors a lot better than those who live on his street at home. There is no denying the power of a dock community and coming together with others who share a common interest like houseboating. I once simply asked a houseboater if he knew his neighbors. I wanted a little more than just a yes or no reply, but the response I received even surprised me a little. On this long dock with several houseboats all lined up in a row, he began to not only name every family, but he also knew specific details down to which weekends certain grandkids visited. He knew their other hobbies, occupations and just about anything else you could think of about his dock neighbors. Try doing that where you live and chances are good you don’t know your own neighbors nearly as well.


Parties and barbeques are just one example of these dock communities that bring everyone together. When was the last time you had movie night with your neighbors back home? It may seem like a funny question, but one dock in Texas has been known to shine the projector on the side of a houseboat and invite everyone over to watch a movie on any given weekend. This seems like something out of a movie, but to this dock community it’s just another summer evening well spent.

From progressive dinners to karaoke night, it’s no wonder these houseboats don’t ever seem to leave the dock. They don’t want to miss the party! But that doesn’t mean they don’t all head out together and tie up in a cove every once in awhile; it’s just another example of making long-lasting friendships.

One of my first editorial trips nearly a dozen years ago landed me in Michigan at one of the greatest dock communities I’ve seen before or since. It was a perfect balance of houseboating and getting out on the water, while still doing things together on land.

The group would take a run to the dam often, but they’d rotate houseboats and captains. This way they could still get out on the water, but everyone didn’t need to bring their houseboats. In fact, if it wasn’t for the annual Christmas light parade, I’m not sure if all the boats would ever go out at the same time. Back on shore, I enjoyed a great turkey fry and great conversation around a roaring campfire. I was too young at the time in my travels to truly realize just how unique and special this group really is.

Go-to Guy(s)

Every dock has one and if your dock doesn’t, it just means you haven’t had a problem yet or haven’t been there long enough. There is always one person you can count on day or night to have the tool you need or simply just the know-how to get you out of jam.

This go-to lifesaver comes in many forms. I witnessed firsthand last summer when a houseboater got caught by a sudden gust of wind that had him heading sideways for other houseboats in the slip. I didn’t hear any alarms or whistles, yet this docking community came out of nowhere to help (as well as to save their own boats in some cases).

While everyone jumped in to help hold the houseboat off the other boats, one neighbor quickly jumped in his secondary boat and put himself in a position to help tow the boat away from the docks. And even though this was just supposed to be a family trip, the next door slip owner sacrificed his afternoon when asked and went out with the young couple so they could make sure the boat could make it safely back in the slip despite the strong wind.

This is just one of thousands of times a dock community has come together to help one of their own and I can assure you it won’t be the last. Young or old, newbie or a seasoned captain, we all find ourselves in need of help at one time or another.  

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