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Waterfront Living on Steroids

A boathouse retreat doesn’t get better than this

While lakeside living can be a dream come true, for many Central Florida homeowners the dream isn’t complete without a boat dock. But deciding which kind of boat dock works best for a family — and dealing with the permitting process — can be confusing. That’s where Fender Marine comes in.

Rick Fender has been working with residents of Winter Park, Maitland and beyond since 1995, walking each client through the process of selecting and building their “dream” boat dock.

“About 98 percent choose to build a permanent, fixed boathouse,” Rick explains, “but there are several options. They range from a simple finger dock with a tie-up for the boat and a T- or L-shaped dock with space for deck chairs — which could also be covered — to a full-blown boat dock with a boat lift next to the dock.”

With the latter, there are two ways to go. “First, you can pull your boat in and raise it on a lift from underneath the boat. The advantages of this option are that it will be up out of the water. And when it rains, you just pull the plug and the water drains out.” However, most people don’t want to do that, he adds. “They prefer to build a covered boat lift, which means there’s an access walkway dock as well as a boathouse that’s either adjacent to or at the end of the dock.”

Rick recommends a boathouse as the best method for protecting a boat. “About 98 percent of people on a lake have permanent, fixed boathouses if they have a boathouse. The boat is up out of the water underneath a roof, and you’ve got an access walkway to get to it. This way you don’t have to get your feet wet getting in or out of the boat. You’re dry all of the time. It’s a boat owner’s dream!”

For families that are considering building a boat dock, he suggests checking out the codes before starting a project, whether it’s a new structure or an expansion of an existing structure. The URL address is https://cityofwinterpark.org/docs/departments/building-permitting-services/permit-application-forms-resources/guides-guidelines/boathouse-dock-permit-and-guidelines.pdf. The maximum size “over the water” for a boathouse is 600 square feet, which includes the access walkway and terminal platform.

Fender Marine is currently working on a project in Winter Park for a client who’s building a new boathouse on the chain of lakes. “Instead of the boat going down into the water on a cradle — which means there’s a gaping hole in the deck — this one has a deck that the cradle is built into,” Rick explains. “When the boat is raised back up again, it becomes flush with the existing deck so people can walk around without worrying about the hole.”

Logistics are just one element of a project. “The next thing you want to do to really make it right is to match the boathouse to your home’s design. You want them to look like they were built at the same time by the same architect. It should all tie together,” he suggests. For example, if the home is Victorian, the architecture of the boathouse and the roof over the open deck should be the same or similar to the home’s design. “If the columns of the house are round and stucco, you should follow the same design with the boathouse and covered deck.”

Deciding on the amenities is where it really gets fun. “You’d be surprised at what you can do. My boathouse has TV with full cable so I can watch games or music videos, plus a surround sound system in the ceiling that’s protected from the rain,” Rick explained. Homeowners building in Winter Park are also allowed a small closet, which can include a countertop and a refrigerator for water, soft drinks and beer. “You don’t want to have to run back to the house to get a drink. Also, it’s smart to have built-in furniture like this when hurricanes come through.”

“A boathouse is icing on the cake for lakeside living — plus the water, plantings, trees, birds and other enchanting life never get old.”

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