Our Pontoon Houseboat Odyssey
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About Houseboats

The definition of the word Odyssey is a never ending journey. This is our approach to life, as well as our projects.

We built this web site to share our passion for boating, as well as to offer our experiences as guidelines for shopping for boats, and related marine electronics and accessories. A lot of the things we learned during our pontoon houseboat rebuild were by trial and error, and we're hoping to help you avoid some of the expensive mistakes we made, that being said, we would not trade boating for any other type of recreation.

Like most of us we were looking for our little piece of heaven when we had some quality downtime. And though we have a lovely place to call home we still needed our get-away. At one time a nice quiet ride on the country roads was satisfaction enough. But either I'm getting older which is also a fact, or the quiet country roads are not as quiet as they used to be. But it's definitely hard to relax and enjoy the ride when you rear view is filled with someone's grill. Life is stressful enough with the day to day grind most of us have to endure as it is. We thought there has to be a better way and there is though it took us a while and some expensive lessons to find and experience it.

Our Odyssey really began about 15 years ago, when we purchased a really nice camper, which we thought we would use a lot as our "get-a-way", we love seeing new places and enjoying the serenity and beauty of nature. The reality of trying to use the camper was frustrating, you either rented a space in a crowded campground, with the related noise and congestion, or if you were able to find a more secluded type of campground (more primitive) your neighbor's would insist on using their noisy generator's to power TV's, microwave, air conditioners, so much for enjoying wilderness camping and the sounds of nature. We then thought about purchasing some land and putting something on it but that also had its drawbacks. Think about it now, there are taxes to pay and grass to mow and maintenance and upkeep. We have enough of that at home and it defeats everything we were trying to achieve and definitely kills any quality downtime.

If you are in the same situation and can pull it off may I suggest something? You should really consider boating. There are a wide variety of boats available out there and there's bound to be one that fits your needs. For us a Pontoon Boat seemed to be the perfect fit at the time. And we still really love our floating living room on the water. There's nothing more relaxing than a ride with just the 2 of us. And there's nothing more fun than a ride with 10 of our friends either. Other types of boats can get you there faster and pull water toys better. But for the exception of the very big ones you'll never be able to take as many of your friends with you when you go. And you need to run a pretty fast pace and burn a lot of fuel to keep them on plane. But Can you think of any better place to spend a relaxing afternoon with family or friends? There are just not that many places like this to escape anymore. There is just something about the tranquility of boating that's hard or impossible to find anywhere else these days. The boating experience can be anything your choice or style of boat allows. Some like the speed and excitement of the "go fast" boats and the jet skis. Others like to slowly cruise around out from the shores and observe the scenery as they pass by. It's even interesting to watch individuals and sometimes good size groups canoeing or kayaking out on the lakes and rivers. If there is there such a thing as a wrong choice I'm not aware of it. What's important is what makes you happy and closer to God so to speak. I sold my canoe some years ago and regret it sometimes to this very day. It was a wonderful quiet and somewhat relaxing way to observe new places.

For More Pictures of Our Houseboat Restoration and Rebuild

”Our pontoon houseboat as it appeared when we first purchased it or should I say bought it

Please follow through this link if you'd like to view several entries, photos, and documentation of our pontoon houseboats restoration. If you're interested in viewing more pictures of primarily homemade Pontoon Houseboats please Click Here

So the next step in our journey found us looking at boats more specifically pontoon boats.  This could be the best of both worlds, to have a getaway, as well as having a floating camper. What we really wanted was a good used boat, and we drove hundreds of miles and burned up a lot of weekends in this pursuit. At that time there was not a lot available on the Internet, so we did it the hard way, visiting marinas and the newspaper classifieds hoping to find our perfect boat. There were a lot of pontoon boats in the ads that sounded wonderful, but we drove a lot of miles only to be disappointed time after time. We then visited a boat dealer at a beautiful lake about 130 miles from our home, when we told the salesman the type of boat we were looking for and wanted and what our plans for using it was, he developed quite an insulting attitude, saying that people on that lake wouldn't dream of "camping" on a boat, they all had homes on the lake. Needless to say, after that he couldn't have sold us a boat at any price; we took our insults, and our money, and proceeded to search elsewhere. In desperation we finally decided to take a look at new boats and ordered our pontoon boat with the floor plan we wanted as well as the camper enclosure to go with it. The drawback to this approach is that we have limited storage, and the camper enclosure consumes a lot of space. By the time you get everything on board, it is very difficult to keep the boat neat and orderly. But it is a beautiful pontoon boat and a lot of people on the river like to come aboard and check it out, so we try to keep it neat and presentable at all times. We have spent a lot of happy hours on our pontoon boat, but it still didn't accomplish everything we had in mind, which leads us to next part of our Odyssey.

I've nothing but good to say or report about Pontoons in general. But our favorite waters to boat on are a little too far away to drive after a day on the water. You can camp on them and we spent many a night on ours but there's a lot of compromise to deal with to do so. Even with the side kits that are available which we also have for ours. It seems as if you have to wait till noon the next day before they are dry enough to take down, fold, and put away. So we spent many a night under the stars so we wouldn't have to deal with it. Ain't complaining about it myself but the wife was sometimes cantankerous for the experience. That's when we started thinking and talking about a houseboat and how it could provide what we were looking for. Think about it there is no longer a rush to the ramps about dark and waiting in line at the ramps to load the boat, while everyone else is rushing around frantically at the end of a wonderful day. We could be sitting back relaxing and sometimes enjoying the commotion going on around us and then enjoy a wonderful peaceful evening on the water. Life just doesn't seem to get any better than that, at least not for us. And sitting on water with a cup of morning coffee in the peaceful solitude and surroundings before the water warms up defies description or appropriate words. It's just something everyone really needs to experience sometime in their life.

 A Houseboat beached as the last rays of the setting sun with the reflection the trees on a calm still river.

So we then found ourselves looking and admiring the houseboats at our marina and others we saw on the water and began the search for one that we liked and could afford. We had specific criteria in mind for this boat also. Some of our happiest times are spend on a sand bar that we frequent, all of the boats nose into the beach side by side (the picture at the top of this page is the sandbar), and there is a lot of visiting from boat to boat, our decision was that a pontoon houseboat would give us a lot more flexibility to do this type of boating. What we really wanted a pontoon houseboat that was 8 feet wide so that we could put it on its trailer and pull it to whatever destination we wanted to travel to without special permits that are required by wider boats. We also liked the design of the pontoon houseboats with the cabin and decks are all on the same level. We own a dog and it's much easier for her to get on and off the boat whether it's beached or tied up at the marina.

Thus began our search, we saw some beautiful houseboats, both new and used and many needing a major restorations. We loved some of the new ones, but our budget wouldn't allow us to purchase one. We had the opportunity to meet some wonderful people during our search for our pontoon houseboat, and they welcomed us aboard to show us their boats and the personal touches and features they had done to them. Most of the waterways around where we live are generally shallow, we realize from owning a regular pontoon boat that pontoons can navigate in these types of areas easier with less draft and fear of running aground.The boat owners we spoke with also advised us that a pontoon houseboat probably would be our best choice for our needs. The boating community in general is open, generous, and helpful group of individuals. Who are willing to share everything from their food and good advice and information and knowledge on everything pertaining to their houseboats. We have made some great friends on the water that have really enriched our lives.

 Pontoon houseboat anchored on the lake with their dingy tied off behind enjoying a quite leisurely peaceful afternoon

When we finally found and purchased a trailer-able 1972 Crest Pontoon Houseboat (pictured top above) but it just had a 25HP Johnson motor on it. So we then also picked up a 1989 Sun Tracker pontoon that was just sitting in a horse pasture as a salvage boat for it. We really needed the trailer, but it also had a 115HP Mercury mounted on the center pontoon, and the additional flotation of a third pontoon for the houseboat would be a real blessing for it. We also utilized some of the fencing off the Sun Tracker on our houseboat rebuild, and you'd be amazed how many other useful pieces we were also able to use from it on our restoration. We then sold the remaining pontoons and deck of the Sun Tracker to a fellow boater on the river to use as a boat dock and recovered some of our investment. We had considered ourselves to be savvy enough to spot any real problems and issues with this houseboat. This was not the case, so we learned another very expensive lesson the hard way. We realized that the boat needed some restoration work, but we weren't prepared for the extensive rot and problems we found when we decided to replace the dark interior paneling with something brighter. Finding these problems, we realized that it was beyond just simple repairs, and we began a total rebuild and re-construction of the cabin. The "up" side of the complete restoration is that we were able to design the floor plan to conform to our usage of the boat, specifically more storage, larger more comfortable beds, and adding a shower. We also able to add more seating for entertaining and in the galley. We are very happy with the more open floor plan of our now restored pontoon houseboat.

If you choose to buy a basically sound boat, and attempt the renovations of rebuilding it yourself, some of the tools we found indispensable, were a cordless drills with several driver bits, circular saw, square, hammer, rule, level etc. We also used a table saw, miter saw, and various types of clamps. We paid strict attention to the fitting of materials around the windows and doors, not only for the appearance of the joints and miters, but to enforce the strength and integrity of the cabin, for we plan to enjoy this boat for a long time. Therefore all the material used needed to be moisture resistant as well as for easy carefree maintenance, so we could have and spend more pleasurable times with our friends and family on the water, and less time maintaining and working on the boat, other than normal housekeeping.

”House boaters viewing and enjoying the sunrise tied off in a peaceful rocky cove with reflections upon the water

Houseboats and or Pontoon Boats for that matter can be rented on many of the major lakes. Renting will give you opportunity to get your feet wet and see if boating is for you. Be forewarned of the fact that many houseboat rentals will require a short schooling course before they cut you loose with their boat. Don't feel intimated by this fact for there is a learning experience in handling such a large boat. I know my boating experience was very limited before we purchased ours. The cost of renting a Houseboat can be comparable to a motel room if you shop wisely. So if you are like we were and don't have any friends or acquaintances who own boats or not sure you're ready to make the investment in your own yet. Maybe rent for a few outings. Chances are though you'll end up wanting to buy and never look back.

Though everyone has their own idea of what a houseboat is, it can be exactly that a house floating on the water. It can be as simple as a cabin on some pontoons, to something as lavish as a multi-million dollar home. Houseboats can be purchased new from a manufacturer, or you can purchase them used. And you can even be more ambitious and build and construct your very own.

There are several measurements that will be important to both you and the marinas. The length of the boat or the hull length will be first and the foremost importance to the marina. This is important to the marina for a few good reasons. It assists marina owners in finding an appropriate slip space your vessel will fit into. And this is also the measurement they will use as a basis for docking fees. This measurement is from the very tip of the boat to the vary farthest point in the stern. The Draft of the boat, or how deep it sits in the water, is also important to know. It's a critical measurement so you can avoid damage to hull by scraping or hitting rocks or other obstructions.

Most houseboats are also generally equipped with a generator to supplement their power needs when underway. A boat with the appropriate generator can provide all the comforts of home leaving a person wanting nothing when underway. But for as much as possible many boaters rely on battery power. There also has been a movement towards solar panels to help replenish the battery banks with quiet cheap power once past initial investment. Many boaters will also install amperage and volt meters to monitor the amount of power left available.

The convenience of running water, refrigeration,electronics, sound systems, televisions with satellite reception can be a big draw on battery reserves. If a person fails to pay any attention they could find themselves stranded. And being stranded out on the water without power is condition anyone wants to be in. For this reason most folks isolate a battery(s) for the motor(s) so they insure they will have reserves left to start them.

A tank for holding fresh water for drinking, cleaning, and washing water is necessary. And a separate tank for holding waste especially black water waste is necessary. The black water issue can be resolved by using one of the various porta potties that are available. Electricity can be provided in several ways. When in the slip or marina shore power is usually available but there is usually an additional fee for it. In some marinas there are actual meters that charge you for the actual amount used. Others charge a set fee per boat which can be unfair to people who choose to use very little of it. Some of the larger boats users will run two or more air conditioners almost all the time.

”Friends and family out enjoying a cruise on their pontoon house boat on a beautiful summer day

I happen to be a big fan of pontoon houseboats. They simplify several things and are economical to buy and operate. But a hull style boat also has its advantages. So you need to make a choice as what's best to fit your needs.

Some Pros and Cons

Pontoons are practically unsinkable. The pontoons are sectioned so as if you should manage to hull it. It may list a little but there would be enough flotation in remaining sections to keep you afloat.

Pontoons: Far fewer propane worries for there is not a hull for fumes to gather in. R.V. propane appliances are practical and relativity safe. A propane water heater, range, and refrigeration allow extended use without the need to run a generator. (Unless you consider A.C. a necessity)

R.V. style toilets are practical.

They are very fuel efficient because pontoons do slice through the water very easily. Speed is limited because they will not plane. But it also doesn't take much power to move you along.

Pontoons are less affected by beaching. And the shallower draft allows you to get closer to shore for anchoring or tying off.

A picture of a houseboat Sara Lee making her way up the Muskingum River

Cons: Pontoons can be terrible in rough water conditions or crossing large wakes. With a hull a wake or wave will contact more hull area creating more lift to get the bow over it. A pontoon offers very little additional flotation so bow can be buried. Which can result in large wakes crashing over the deck and swamping everything. Now the bow can be heavy with water and the next wake can bury even deeper. If the wake is large you can turn and take it broadside. It will shake things up quite a bit but a person can manage to keep the boat dry.

Pontoon boats will rock more in small wakes than a hull will. Suppose you should have a 3in. wave approaching your boat from the side. The energy of the wave will need to pass under the entire hull(s). With a mono hull the energy to lift is minimized at the edge of the hull. And the energy needs to go deeper to pass under the keel. The impact on the hull is greater but the leverage to make the boat tip is lessened. The entire boat will tend to move vertically with minimal rocking.

A pontoon boat with the same 3in. wave hits the first hull and lifts that side 3 in. with no problem. The boat tips due to that side being lifted. Then it drops into the trough of the wake tipping the boat the other way. This can create a very fast tip. Then the wave quickly hits the other hull and repeats the process. If you should happen to have one hull in the trough while other is on the crest the effect can be even worse.

Pro: Mono Hull Boats

The hull provides a lot of storage

Living space can be built into the hull allowing over and under staterooms. Nice if you need a lot of bedrooms and don’t mind sleeping with someone either directly above or below you.

The hull facilitates the installation of thrusters, which is really difficult on a pontoon boat.

Much more seaworthy

Larger engine options are available, and higher speeds are possible.


More expensive


Propane has major safety issues

Inboard/outboard drives have rubber boots that can fail and result in boat sinking

Bilge pumps can fail which can cause considerable amount of damage or maybe sink should this happen

Marine style heads (toilets)

Houseboats tied off together and sharing the public docks in Malta, Oh. along the Muskingum River

Photo taken on the Muskingum River. Oh. Click Here for more scenery of the River

So you've checked out this site and maybe several others and decided you are going to buy your own boat. I've posted elsewhere on the issues we ran into with ours. Now the goal is to maybe provide you with enough knowledge for you to know what to look at and for when purchasing yours. If a new boat is within your budget you'll still find a lot of the information still applies. But let's assume that to buy one adequate for your family it's looks like a used boat is in your budget, now the question is how do you tell a good used boat from a bad one. It's a sticky situation and sometimes even an expert can be fooled. The best recommendation is to purchase from a reputable qualified dealer if possible. However many houseboats admittedly are sold marina to marina often to avoid transportation issues, so this is a simple step to step guide about buying a boat.

The Opening Questions? You're calling a boat owner to inquire about a boat you seen posted somewhere, here's a checklist of perspective questions.

What year is the motor, and is there a trailer? You'll need to check this out later but never assume they are the same.

How long have you had or owned the boat? A warning, people who are selling after just a brief ownership may be trying to dump a problem.

Are you the original owner? The value here is if you are dealing with the first owner you can inquire about its entire mechanical history.

Is the boat equipped with an hour meter? If the answer is no then forget about all assurances of low hours, for without a meter there's no way to verify hours.

Why are you selling the boat? If the owner is wanting to buy, or buying a larger boat why isn't he trading it in? Often it's because they have an inflated opinion of the true value of the boat and are unwilling to deal for its real true value.

Will there be a water source accessible if I come to look at your boat? You'll need at least a hose to properly evaluate the motor.

Will there be an opportunity to test the boat? If you can't drive it, you don't really want to buy it.

Would you make sure the batteries are charged when I arrive to look at the boat? Never assume batteries in boat are charged.

Has there ever been any major engine work and when? You'll want to know the history of the motor. If the answer is yes ask when, by whom, and ask about seeing the receipts.

Has the boat ever been wrecked or had any major structural work? Just like autos a rebuilt or re-constructed wreck has a lower resale value than one without a history.

Physical Evaluation

Your eyes can be a valuable tool in assessing your potential purchase. First you'll want to look at the general condition of the engine. Look for indications that the power head or lower unit has been welded. Spin the prop and watch the prop shaft for any wobble. Pull the cowl and look the motor over closely. Power heads are painted after assembly, look at all gaskets and if they are not painted it is an indication the motor has been torn apart. This isn't necessarily bad if owner has been upfront about service history. You'll also need to run a compression check on the motor. You'll want to run the motor for a few minutes and also check for fuel, water or exhaust leaks. The compression check should be within +/- 10% of each other.

Lower Unit Check

After you have run your lake test drain a little gear oil from lower unit into a catch tray. If water comes out with no grease there's a big problem. If grease comes out looking like double creamed coffee there is probably some water and will need some seals. If it was pure water you can expect some major gear damage and shortened gear life.

The Boat

A good visual inspection again is the place to start. Crawl under the boat and check it bow to stern for gouges where fiberglass matting can be seen. If glass has turned brown or is soggy there could be serious lamination problems. Check all lids and seats for tears, cracks, and hinge condition. Tip: never buy a used boat in the rain for many finish problems are not apparent when wet. Walk on the floors and decks trying to sense any soft spots. Soft spots can be big trouble and very expensive to repair.

Then it's time to look at the transom and check for any stress cracks. If there are, it's not necessarily more than a cosmetic problem. What you do is trim the motor up and put your weight on it. If the cracks widen or there's any flex in the transom just walk away from it. A bad transom is an expensive repair and you really don't want any part of it. Finally you'll also want to check all the batteries and their condition. The price of new batteries can put a real crimp in your budget. If you are leaving the boat there write down the make and type or mark them. Some people will switch good ones for weak ones if given opportunity. It's sad but true.

Since this page has been published I've put together quite a bit more relevant additional information on what to look for, and be weary of when buying houseboat. Did you know some Marinas are actually outright banning metal hulled boats? Are you also aware that as the economy is getting worse, there are more derelict houseboats for sale listed as "once in a lifetime bargains", "fixer uppers", "project boat" or "distress sale". And that truthfully many of these houseboats are actually beyond economical repair, and are actually Junkers that the owners are trying to dump on somebody. Disposal is becoming a real expensive proposition and they'd rather see you be the one paying the bill. If this has captured your interest and you'd like to read further, you can read them here.

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