Leisure Boating travelled south of the City of Gold to take a peek at the new houseboat built by Andre and Riaan van Helsdingen from Twin Boats and Trailers. They invited us to come and spend the day on the Vaal River aboard the truly sensational Sensation Living.
The twins have been building boats for quite some time now – and recently, they entered the caravanning market by designing and building their very own models. So, it’s only apt that they have now created a bit of a combination of the two – a boat which you can feel at home on.
We couldn’t have asked for a more idyllic setting for the review of the twins’ latest brainchild – their new houseboat, Sensation Living. It was a flawless, sunny day out on the Vaal, and as we arrived at the twins’ plot in Vereeniging, I was excited to enjoy the day out on the river – and even more so with the thought of enjoying it from the luxury of the nine-by-five metre Sensation Living.
I had a quick look over her at the 2012 Johannesburg Boat Show and I was impressed, but to see the magnificent houseboat on the water was a sight! The simplistic and graceful lines of the Sensation Living paired with her luxurious finishing is sure to be the cause of great envy for many a fellow Vaal boater.
Andre had put her in the water just a few hours before we arrived. As we stepped aboard, the trademark quality and style that the twins are widely renowned for was immediately evident. Although each houseboat can be built and designed according to the customer’s wants and needs, be it a bigger lounge, smaller rooms, the choice of one bathroom or two, etc., the version we were on was built ideally for a family of four.
The spacious ‘open plan’ living room and kitchenette provides abundant space that’ll ensure a family won’t constantly be on each other’s toes. Large, specially eclipsed glass panes run down the length on both sides, bathing the entire boat in sunlight and removing the worst glare, giving 30% better insulation and providing airiness – while adding to the sense of space. The lounge area on this model comes with a comfortable L-shaped couch, big enough for the whole family to snuggle up on. On the far wall hangs a 42’ LCD flat screen TV, perfect for those rainy or lazy days or when dad wants to watch some sport. The TV can be positioned on the stylish TVcabinet or fixed to the wall behind it.
The kitchenette is kitted out with everything that one would need on a houseboat, or in any regular home for that matter. There are enough cabinets and drawers to house the cutlery, crockery and pottery of a small army – on this model all utensils are CADAC-branded and of the highest quality; a full-size Russell Hobbs microwave fits snugly into its own space, and a large fridge and freezer is conveniently situated right next to the ample-sized countertop work surface. The houseboat offers an abundance of storage and in every nook and cranny there’s a hatch or closet for extra store space. The boat comes with three pontoons, each with a hatch. Even the L-shape couch cushions lift up to reveal storage underneath, perfect for wakeboards, skis, fishing rods, etc.
Andre says they built this boat not as a “day houseboat” but as a houseboat as per definition – a boat that one can call home and live on permanently. Built with steel, fibreglass and a small amount of wood, the twins made sure that the boat weighs and sizes up within a normal skipper’s ticket. The idea behind the Living was for it to be entirely self-sufficient, i.e. that it could run for extended periods without shore power. It therefore comes with three 300-Watt solar panels and three house batteries, as well as one battery per engine. It has a 1 000-litre fresh water tank as well as a 1 000-litre black water tank.
A passageway leads away from the spacious lounge area past a small but sufficient bathroom to the master bedroom at the end, ideal for mum and dad. The bathroom comes with an efficient Hansgrohe shower, a basin, mirror and electric-flush toilet. The main bedroom comes with a top-notch Simmons queen size bed with a mattress of the best quality and convenient reading lamps fixed to the headboard. A large window looking out to the portside and sliding glass doors that open onto a deck at the stern ensure that the room is constantly filled with light, or they can be opened to allow a cool breeze at night during those stifling summer months.
Ample cupboard space allows for mum to pack most of her wardrobe and there might even be some space left for a few of dad’s things. A second passageway from the lounge on the starboard side leads past another bathroom (exactly the same size and characteristics as its twin on the other side) to the kids’ room which sports two funky bunk beds. The beds aren’t your run of the mill boarding school bunk beds though, and are built cleverly so that the top bed isn’t flush on top of the bottom one, eliminating the chance of the bottom sleeper hitting their head when sitting up. With the room being large enough for them not to feel crowded, enough cupboard space and surprisingly comfortable beds, the kids won’t have anything to complain about.
For those concerned about safety and security, the Sensation Living comes with a built-in alarm system which can be operated by remote or from your cellphone. The user will then be notified of low battery power, water in the hull or a burglary. If the system detects breaking and entering the alarm will go off and it releases pepper spray as an added deterrent. The helm is simply, yet elegantly, finished with a sleek steering wheel with gauges set in glass which are easily visible. The driver has a clear view of his surrounds as the entire vessel is encircled by floor-to-ceiling glass windows but with the option to have blinds cover the windows at night or on a hot day.
Directly behind the driver is a staircase that leads to my favourite part of the whole houseboat experience, the top deck. The deck is sheltered by a well-built steel roof (sturdy enough to take Andre’s weight – as he proceeded to prove to us) with the option of having drop-down sails for those unpleasant wintry days. The floor is made of a highly resistant vinyl that is easy to maintain with a stylish wooden look. The Sensation Living as seen here comes with a tasteful Tropic Trader Designer Outdoor Lifestyle table-and-hidden-chairs set as well as matching wrap-around couches at the far end.
And, perhaps the best upstairs feature and any man’s dream, is the three Burner CADAC gas braai, perfect for those summer days, ‘tanning a chop’ while gazing out over the water. “I built this boat so that I can live my dream”, Andre said, and what a dream it is! If you’re looking to live the same kind of dream that Andre had in mind of enjoying a carefree existence in absolute luxury and spending your days on the water aboard a sensational craft that you can call home, look no further than the Sensation Living. The Sensation Living which we were on, was fitted with HP Mercury motors. Although they’re small, they do very well in giving this double-story house some move. With a wide base and plenty of buoyancy, I was quite surprised at the water handling of this craft. I thought she might be a little bit top-heavy and inclined to sway a bit over other boats wakes – but with the twins’ 22SXi literally running circles around us, you hardly even notice it when you’re up top of the Sensation Living; at most, it may have given my whiskey and ice a neat little swirl from time to time.
The twins manufacture with pride – personally inspecting every boat that leaves their factory to ensure that it is built to the highest standards. They pride themselves on meeting and exceeding all of your expectations and the boat can be customised to your exact specifications. Sensation Living is just that – living sensationally!
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