For one Marietta couple, home is a houseboat

Howard and Marty Kitchen’s vacation home rocked gently beneath their feet Friday afternoon as the retired Marietta residents enjoyed a cool breeze coming off the Muskingum River.

“This is what I call the front porch, but it’s really the front deck,” jokes Marty, who often invites friends over to escape the heat aboard Reality, the houseboat which the Kitchens purchased three years ago.

Reality’s interior so closely resembles a typical landlocked home, that it would be easy to forget the Reality is a boat if not for the fact that all of the sunny windows provide a direct line of sight to the water.

“We’re water people. This was our recreation. Our kids grew up on the water,” explained Marty.

The Kitchens moved to Marietta in March of 1965 and purchased their first boat two months later, recalled Howard, the boat’s captain.

However, the Kitchens had always had cruisers-faster boats with less interior space-until they purchased their first house boat five years ago.

That boat was “a fixer upper,” Marty recalled, and when Reality came on the market three years ago, they snapped her up instantly.

“This was our dream boat,” she said.

Their dream became a reality, and for that reason the Kitchens chose to keep the Reality moniker.

The home is a lot of work, noted Howard, who had been busy cleaning and straightening up the boat all week.

“It’s just like a real home, except you don’t have to mow the yard,” joked Marty.

The boat is 14-feet wide by 41-feet long-technically a yacht, said Howard.

However, boats are not measured in square footage and the length and width give a poor idea of size, he added.

“There’s a main deck and a sunken bedroom. There’s below deck. There’s a sun deck and there’s a fly bride. So you’ve got a lot of floor space,” he said.

Unlike a typical vacation home, the Kitchen’s home is mobile.

Reality can dock the boat behind a quiet island along the Ohio River or at one of the Kitchen’s favorite river towns, noted Howard.

Last week, they did just that. The Kitchens docked in St. Marys, W.Va. and enjoyed taking their bikes out on the local bike trails and cooking dinner on the boat.

“I cooked a pie here last week,” said Marty.

In fact, Marty cooks a lot of meals in the galley, which has a three-burner stove, an oven, a full-size refrigerator, and a double basin sink. In the same area is a dining room table and benches which fold into a bed when needed.

Further astern-or toward the rear of the boat-is the captain’s quarters. The small bedroom has his and hers closets and a bathroom. The large window in the sunken bedroom opens directly onto the ship’s stern.

A few steps up from the sunken galley is the boat’s main deck, which comes equipped with a television, couches, a recliner, and of course, the ship’s indoor helm.

But Howard prefers to pilot the Reality from the outdoor help, located on the fly bridge above the main deck.

Below the main deck is a guest bathroom and guest sleeping quarters- with two beds perfectly suited for grandkids and great-grandkids, said Marty.

“The kids love it down here. It’s like a hideaway,” she said.

The boat has proven an ideal spot to spend time with the Kitchen’s budding family. They have three children, five grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren.

Of the great-grandchildren, only the oldest-who turns two in September-has been on the boat.

“He took his first steps right here. He learned to walk on the boat,” said Howard proudly pointing to the ship’s main deck.

Now the Kitchens are excited to make similar memories with the two newest great-grandchildren, both under a year old.

They might soon have the chance. The house boat always proves quite the popular location during Sternwheel Festival, said Marty.

“We sort of open it up during the day and a lot of our friends and family come and visit,” she said.

Guests might sun themselves on the sun deck, cool off in the generator-powered air-conditioning, enjoy refreshments in the galley, or catch the breeze on the front deck.

Added Marty, “It’s our getaway.”