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All Aboard! Living the dream on Lake Barkley

Story by Jessica Toren Photography by Vicki Hunkler

"Welcome aboard," said Emory Pence as a visitor stepped on the houseboat owned by Emory and wife Suzy.

The boat, "The Station 10," is docked at Green Turtle Bay, where the Pences live the majority of the year.

"We are here all summer and are out and about in the winter. We do visit friends in Evansville, Owensboro, and all over Florida," Emory said.

The Pences' love of boating began many years ago. "We started boating in 1992," Emory said. "He really took to it and we decided this was what we wanted to do, and started working toward it," Suzy said. "Emory wanted a cruiser boat, but I didn't want to walk up and down the stairs. This boat has a point on the front, so it was a good compromise for us."

They purchased the 16 by 70 boat in 2006.

"The Station 10" is the fourth boat owned by the Pences with that name. They added four Dalmatians to the logo to reflect the fourth use of the name and Emory's 28-year career as a firefighter.

Once they decided to live on their boat most of the time, the choice of where to dock was easy.

"We lived in Indianapolis, so we thought about Lake Michigan, but the weather is only good three to four months of the year for boating. We had been spending our weekends here for years, so what better place than Green Turtle Bay?" Suzy said.

Living on a boat much of the time did require the Pences to downsize quite a bit.

"We sold our home and invited our daughters and other family members to take whatever they would like," Suzy said. She now has one large closet for seasonal clothes and Emory has the smaller closet for his items.

"He just has to be clean; I need to be beautiful," Suzy jokes regarding the difference in storage space used by the couple. "Every year I pare it down more and more. I keep fewer clothes and use a smaller storage unit. He goes on about my shoes, but that's just how it is."

In addition to several closets, the boat has a full size kitchen complete with dishwasher, refrigerator and oven. It also has four small bedrooms, two bathrooms, living space with ceiling fans and televisions, a washer and dryer, and a party deck for entertaining.

"Making the beds is the worst!" Suzy says, "The beds are up against the wall and you have to crawl across the bed to make them!"

All this space means everyone can be comfortable when the nine grandchildren come to visit.

"They love the slide on the back of the boat. That was one of the first additions we made when we bought the boat. The kids slide in the water, then run back up the stairs to do it again! It really wears them out by the end of the day," Suzy said.

Other upgrades to the boat include new carpet, new furniture, updating the bathrooms and adding additional storage. A special addition was a train's horn.

"To say it's loud is an understatement: just ask the neighbors!" the Pences laughed. It's not used without warning, and then for special occasions.

"We'd still like to enclose the party deck on the top level of the boat. It's just like your house: you're never done improving it," Suzy said.

The Pences enjoy the close-knit community they have with other boaters.

"Boaters are boaters, wherever they are from," Emory said, "We are good friends with our neighbors here. We lived in Indy for years and knew our neighbors, but weren't friends. Here we're together every weekend."

In the fall, the boaters host an Italian night and have even held a wedding, complete with homemade palm trees lining the pier. They also stay active by volunteering in the community and participating in the local yacht club.

Holidays are special times to be on the boat.

The yacht club hosts a flag retirement ceremony on Memorial Day weekend.

The Pences have a front row spot for viewing the fireworks on the Fourth of July, and they enclose the back of the boat and put up a Christmas tree during the holiday season.

"The grandkids stayed at a hotel and Santa visited them there. Then they came to the boat and we had a full Christmas meal. Everyone loved it," Suzy said.

The Pences have a few tips for anyone thinking of living on a boat for the majority of their time.

"If you are not an avid boater yet, do your research," Emory said. "Read up on what you are getting into. It's not cheap to live on a boat. We have two V-8 engines that each take 200 gallons of gas and a large generator to fuel as well. BOAT stands for Break Out Another Thousand!

"Also, buy cheap tools," Emory said. "You won't believe how many expensive tools are at the bottom of the lake!"

Suzy, a retired ultrasound tech, said people have different reactions when she tells them she lives on a boat.

"I would perform ultrasound scans on many pregnant women and the husband would be in the room. We made small talk and I told them that my husband and I lived on a boat. The wife would say with shock 'You live on a boat?' and the husband would say with excitement, 'You live on a boat!'"

Suzy summarized what it's like to live on a boat in just a few words: "We have all the creature comforts. It's home." n

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