Springfield, MO

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Bill and Suzanne Perkin enjoy leisure time on "Pricele$$," their houseboat on Table Rock Lake. In addition to overnight stays, they say the boat is close enough to Springfield that they can have dinner at the lake and head home if they choose.
Bill and Suzanne Perkin enjoy leisure time on "Pricele$$," their houseboat on Table Rock Lake. In addition to overnight stays, they say the boat is close enough to Springfield that they can have dinner at the lake and head home if they choose.

Houseboat Hangouts

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Some homeowners choose houses near the water to take advantage of recreation and relaxation. But for others, simply having access to the lake isn’t enough, and they take to the water via houseboat.

“There are so many places around the lake, you buy a house that you think is on the water and you can’t really even see the water,” said Ryan Hamilton, general manager of the Port of Kimberling on Table Rock Lake. “When you’re on a houseboat, you get a 360-degree view.”

From May through October, houseboat owners flock to Table Rock Lake nearly every weekend, Hamilton said, noting many come from Springfield, St. Louis and Kansas City.

The views are only part of the water’s appeal.

“There’s not a mailbox, there’s not an address,” said Shelby Bodenhamer, director of marketing for Your Leisure Time LLC, a concierge service for Table Rock Lake boat owners. “They come to get away.”

For Bill Perkin, owner of Perkin Marketing LLC, one of the best reasons to own a houseboat on Table Rock Lake is its proximity to his Springfield home.

“We can be from our house to the boat in 45 minutes,” he said. “A lot of times, we’ll go down, have dinner on the boat and come back.”

Perkin is a longtime fan of the water, and he and his wife have owned homes at Lake of the Ozarks. After selling their condo there, the couple wanted to buy a cruiser to use at Table Rock, but there wasn’t enough room for all the children and grandchildren. The solution: a four-bedroom, 16-by-80-foot houseboat, dubbed “Pricele$$,” purchased three years ago.

“The houseboat made it safe for the grandkids, and everyone else could kind of do their own thing,” Perkin said.

Less like work
For Craig Read, owning a houseboat is a natural extension of great childhood memories of summertime swimming, fishing and waterskiing.

“When I was in my late 20s, I was looking for a way to get out on the lake and I didn’t want to have to drive back and forth. I needed a place to stay,” said Read, owner of Springfield-based Read Business Forms LLC.

The first houseboat Read bought cost only $4,500.

“I had to, over the years, completely rebuild it, so there was a lot of time spent going down and working on it. It was a labor of love,” he said, noting that now, he hits the lake in a 48-foot, one-bedroom Sumerset vessel.

Even newer boats require maintenance, Port of Kimberling’s Hamilton said, but there tends to be less upkeep for boats versus homes.

“If you were to spend the same money for a house down here on the lake – let’s just pick a number, say $200,000 – you’re going to get an older home and there’s maintenance involved,” he said. “If you spend $200,000 on a houseboat, you can have one that is two to three years old.”

Perkin notes, however, that work on a boat feels less like a chore than it does on land.

“When you’re on the boat, you’re on the water,” he said. “When we owned a lake house, you’d get to the house and right away, there would be mowing to do.”

Bodenhamer’s concierge business is built around taking away the work and worries. He has 47 contracted clients, and he provides services such as boat cleaning and fueling, stocking kitchens and bars, and tracking down specialty coffees and cigars on request. Once, he said, he even found a veterinarian to make a houseboat call for a client’s pet on the weekend.

Bodenhamer said not all houseboat owners at Table Rock Lake hail from the Ozarks. While about one-quarter of his clients are from the Springfield-Branson region, he said others live as far as 1,000 miles away, flying in for weekends via private plane.

A sense of community
Steve and Gretchen Anderson make the seven-hour drive from Omaha, Neb., to spend about two weeks each month aboard their $450,000, 18-by-90-foot, four-bedroom vessel on Table Rock Lake.

Like Perkin, they used to own a home on Lake of the Ozarks. One of the perks of the houseboat is that they’ve built a camaraderie with other owners who also dock at Port of Kimberling.

“Here, people are a little more fun-loving; they like to get together to have a drink or sit down to eat. None that I’ve seen are standoffish,” said Steve Anderson, who is president and CEO of Omaha-based Central States Group.

Bodenhamer said it’s not unusual for houseboat owners to create their own communities, with much of the atmosphere coming from the docks around the lake.

“Some owners, they do become their own country club that floats, but others, not so much,” he said. “They buy a boat, put it on a dock and they may change docks until they find a good fit.”

Michele Kiser, owner of Advertising Plus in Springfield, said she and her husband, Premium Beverage General Manager Marc Kiser, have met some of their best friends on the dock. They spend just about every weekend of the summer months on Table Rock aboard a 16-by-70-foot, four-bedroom houseboat, she said.

“Friday nights, we’ll stay at the dock and visit with neighbors. Saturday morning, we’ll go out cruising and tie up with friends, grilling out and enjoying the sun,” she said. “It’s a little neighborhood.”

While the lake is less busy during the winter months, cold weather doesn’t keep houseboat owners away altogether, said Hamilton, adding that many owners host New Year’s Eve parties on their boats. Even though Read winterizes his boat, he’ll occasionally take it out in cold weather, though it’s more like camping at that point, because of the supplies and gear he hauls along, he said.

Still, it’s worth the extra work.

“A rainy day at the lake is better than any day in town,” Read said.

Click here to see more houseboat photos.[[In-content Ad]]


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