Vicki and Andrew Edmonds
When my husband Andrew and I bought our first houseboat in 2012, I’d never driven one before. I tried to take the dinghy out once while I was learning and ended up under our jetty. We’ve always loved houseboats though – and actually went on the same ones we own now 20 years ago when we came here on holiday. Even back then I thought ‘I’d love to do that one day’.
Originally, Andrew and I are both from Brisbane. We always knew we’d end up by a river somewhere and we were itching to get down to the Clarence Valley (my brother lived down here) but the biggest thing for us was getting work together.
In 2000, we bought a house in Grafton. I had a job there, but Andrew, a fitter and turner by trade, worked in Kyogle. We found it really hard to find work in the same town, and for years were only able to spend weekends together.
Starting our own business was our plan to be able to live together.
Our fleet started with a 30ft boat we bought as an investment on the Gold Coast. It was run by another company, while we continued to work. When we bought three smaller houseboats from another business in Brushgrove, it all fell into place. We found a house just down the river and when we bought it, it just had everything – its own pump-out, jetty – it was ready to go. That’s because the guy who used to own this house once owned the same three houseboats we bought. So really, we just bought them home.
The smaller boats needed a bit of work, but we’d done up a heap of houses in our time so we thought it would be easy. Let’s just say doing up a boat is more expensive than a house. Being a fitter and turner, Andrew’s pretty handy, so he does everything except the painting. That falls to me. Now that the boats are always out with customers, we just work on them when we can.
The good thing about houseboats is that you don’t need a license to drive them, you just have to be over 21. Guests aren’t allowed to do more than 5 knots, and we give them a full briefing which takes about an hour.
Most groups go downriver, and this is a great river to be on because there’s islands, towns along the way. Even the Maclean Golf Club will come down to the river and pick people up to play a round of golf. There’s plenty of fish in the river too. At the right time of year, there’s mud crabs up here and blue swimmers down at Yamba. There’s one story I still laugh about, when some customers went fishing in the dinghy. They caught nothing all day, but they had a crab walk up their fishing line and 12 mullet jump in the boat.
Fish are always jumping around here. The dolphins come past sometimes too. We really do live in the best part of the world.
Photos: Gary Parker