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House Boaters Leave Behind Life on Land

Photos by Jackie McDermott Barb Blazer lounges on the screened-in front porch of her house boat.

Hayden Blazer lounges during his lunch break on the upper deck of the house boat owned by his aunt and uncle, Barb and Dave Blazer.

MOUNDSVILLE — One of the most cumbersome aspects of home ownership is yard work, as cutting grass and pulling weeds in the scorching summer heat can be draining.

Glen Dale Mayor Dave Blazer and his wife, Barb, have found a way around that.

Each summer, they leave behind life on land and opt for a simpler life on the Ohio River in a house boat. And they say life on the water is smooth sailing.

“You’ve got everything you need to live on it,” said Dave Blazer of the four-bedroom, two-bathroom house boat. Not only is the boat brimming with natural light and receptive to the summer breeze, it is outfitted with a full kitchen, home office, and front and back porches. It’s just like a house. The only thing you don’t have to do is cut grass, but you do have to clean the top deck.”

Barb Blazer said cleaning the top deck is a small price to pay for a summer of fun on the boat. The house boat is the ultimate party vessel for the couple, who welcome friends and family on board to eat and drink or dry off after a swim on the river. Barb’s favorite time to be on the water is during the Sternwheel Festival in September. She and Dave ride the boat up from their usual docking place in Moundsville to the south docks at Heritage Port, a ride which takes about two hours because the large, rectangular house boat travels slowly.

The low speed is, according to Dave, “the only con (of the boat). Everything else is a pro.”

Once they arrive at the south docks, the Blazers can head down and visit the festival’s food vendors or stay on the top deck to enjoy live music. They cruise up to Wheeling throughout the summer for the Upper Ohio Valley Italian Heritage Festival, Heritage Music BluesFest and Debbie Green 5K race festivities.

Now in their fourth year of calling the boat home for the summer, Barb Blazer said she has met countless nice people simply by chatting with other boat owners and passersby who stop to admire the white and teal vessel. As she lounges on the screened-in front porch, people strolling on the dock frequently call over, “Nice boat!”

Barb cherishes these afternoons simply floating.

She likes to open a book, listen to the wind chimes and unplug from technology.

“You can sit on here and read all day, and no one’s going to yell at you. … It’s very peaceful,” she said.

The Blazers have boated together throughout their marriage. They have seen their share of boating mishaps, including sinking one boat and having another tied to a dock that broke off. But their mutual love for spending time on the water never diminished.

Dave Blazer said over the years, the two kept purchasing bigger and bigger boats, looking for more space before they eventually decided to spring for a house boat.

Barb Blazer has multiple sclerosis, so it was important for them to find a boat that had all of the necessities on the main floor. Even a couple steps would be difficult for her to navigate.

Luckily, they found a boat in Tennessee that fit all of her needs and had it transported to Moundsville. Barb Blazer immediately felt at home there. Her mobility is somewhat limited when she is alone on the boat, as her family does not want her on the upper deck for fear that she could fall off.

But the tight quarters mean a TV, refrigerator, washer and dryer and even a trash compactor are all close by. When the boat is plugged into the dock, it has full electricity and even runs air conditioning. A gas generator keeps select appliances, such as the refrigerator, running when they are not docked.

The house boat even fits Dave’s work needs. He installed a home office from which he can work both of his jobs, as he is an insurance adjuster for Nationwide in addition to being the mayor of Glen Dale. He also handles the boat maintenance on his own.

Life on the boat is a breeze for the Blazers, but would they recommend it to others?

“If you ever get a chance, you’ve got to try it,” Barb Blazer said. “There’s nothing else like it.”

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