All signs point to a good year ahead for the recovering houseboat market.
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This La Crosse, Wis., company spent a lot of its time in 2012 retooling its sales and marketing efforts following acquisition by a new owner. Skipperliner finished a couple of boats started by previous management and then built two houseboats for demos and boat show use. These, says the builder, feature the best furnishings and appointments ever included on a Skipperliner.
One of these is a 16-foot by 65-foot vessel with a totally customized interior, right down to the maple cabinetry, two pop-up flatscreen TVs, window treatments, bath linens and dishes. There are two main-floor staterooms and two cuddies below in the 96-inch-deep hull. On the top deck, a large wet bar, gas grill and waterslide complete the picture.
The other new boat (17 feet by 57 feet) is being decorated by a well-known design firm. The interior will be stunning, says the company, and one of the below deck cuddies will be able to convert into an office by sliding the bed into the wall. An integrated package allows the owner to control most of the electrical functions remotely from a tablet or smartphone.
Stardust Cruisers reports that its sales have returned to the pre-2008 levels, but even with a backlog, it can still schedule for early summer delivery. The company has recently built boats destined for lakes in five states and has exported several more.
Buyers can currently choose from three hull designs: standard barge type, a new displacement hull or a catamaran. One particularly nice 18-foot by 90-foot model headed to Georgia had triple decks and a unique padded ceiling, patterned fabrics and LED lighting. Like all Stardust boats, it was built with wood-free walls. In the past year, the company has also installed a number of diesel generators in boats with gas engines for owners wanting greater economy and safety.
They’re back! The rights to Sumerset Houseboats were purchased by Thoroughbred Houseboats last April, and the company has retained many former personnel, easing the transition in ownership. In fact, it has already shipped one boat to its Atlanta dealer and has three others on order.
The revitalized builder plans to deliver its first glass-look yacht later this year, featuring glistening sides, sweeping front and rear edges, and white aluminum bulwarks to give the vessel a “yacht feel.” Sumerset says it will hold over some customer favorites — LED front logo, 32-inch deep aluminum hulls and forward open bridge design — plus add new features like 8-foot, 6-inch side walls.
During the slowdown in manufacturing, Sunstar Houseboats focused its attention on houseboat transportation and can now handle shipping of all sizes coast-to-coast. But with 2012 being its best sales year since 2009, look for lots of new boats to hit the water this year.
The latest vessel to roll out of the manufacturing facility was a model-year 2013 17-foot by 80-foot platform with twin MerCruiser sterndrives, a 14-kW generator, deck bridge with radar arch, 26-foot party top and top deck bar. It went to Lake Cumberland.
In addition acquiring the rights to Sumerset Houseboats last year, Thoroughbred Houseboats also acquired the 60,000-square-foot Fantasy factory designed specifically for houseboat manufacturing.
The company had a big year with its glass-sided boats, which allow for inventive layouts and lighting to create elegant, custom designs. A new, 10-foot-long fiberglass bar is more affordable than its granite-topped predecessor but still comes with a large sink, icemaker and refrigerator and works well as a breakfast buffet. Fiberglass canopy tops on larger bridges replace stick-built or canvas tops. Low-maintenance, simulated teak exterior decking is being used more, as are underwater lights that add impressive night views.
Thoroughbred reports that sales have “taken off” in the Russian houseboat market, and with the huge waterway system there, the company looks forward to greater growth in abroad. Finally, it is now also building for saltwater applications by using a different aluminum and bottom paint.
If you, like a growing number of people, are considering the purchase of a houseboat, the place to be is the In-Water Houseboat Expo on June 7, 8 and 9 at State Dock Marina on Lake Cumberland. More than 35 exhibitors will display their wares here, including both new and used models. You might just find that the temptation to live large on the water is almost impossible to resist.
Bravada Yachts, 602-278-3536, www.bravadayachts.com
Destination Yachts, 812-486-2628, www.destinationyachts.com
MetroSHIP Modern Houseboats, 818-357-4000, www.metro-ship.com
Monticello River Yachts, 502-419-7776, www.monticelloriveryachts.com
Pluckebaum Custom Boats, 502-569-9327, www.pluckebaum.com
Sailabration Houseboats, 865-947-4234, www.sailabrationhouseboats.com
Skipperliner Industries, 608-784-5110, www.skipperliner.com
Stardust Cruisers, 606-348-8466, www.stardustcruisers.com
Sumerset Houseboats, 606-340-3191, www.sumerset.com
Sunstar Houseboats, 606-348-6648, www.sunstarhouseboats.com
Thoroughbred Houseboats, 606-340-3191, www.thoroughbredhouseboats.com