One step onto the dock and everything's different. It's quiet. Water quiet. Insistent quiet. Nothing but a few flup, flup, flups, when wave meets pile.

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One step onto the dock and everything’s different.

It’s quiet. Water quiet. Insistent quiet. Nothing but a few flup, flup, flups, when wave meets pile. And it’s funky. A shingled house neighbor to a clapboard house, next to a Cape Cod house, behind a house with its garden painted on, across from a screaming-yellow house with orange trim — and on it goes like this all the way to the end of the gull-pocked dock.

Then you get to Norman Turgeon’s place. The rusty-colored A-frame (siding is cedar, roof redwood) tucked tight with firewood juts its artsy little jaw right into the Montlake Cut. Turgeon is king of all he sees there from the front of his Portage Bay houseboat. And he sees a lot.

“I’m at war with the rowers,” he says of the University of Washington crew teams that sluice through his neighborhood before the sun. “I got no help with the noise problem by calling over there, so I got an appointment with the president of the university. I told him, ‘If your football team was running through Laurelhurst with megaphones at 5 in the morning, you’d certainly do something about it.’ “

Problem solved with UW rowers, but other clubs continue to shout their way through the neighborhood in what Turgeon calls “row rage.”

These kinds of annoyances go with owning a houseboat, like rats and geese and the brouhaha of this, Opening Day weekend. But these things weed out the weak. And that is what appeals to the intrepid houseboat dweller. There are also the golden summer evenings when the Midnight Ramblers, with Turgeon as the group’s harmonica player, wail the blues as boaters pass by. And velvety nights spent with a date on the deck at water’s edge.

“It’s like being in the country here, and it’s 10 minutes from my store,” says Turgeon, pouring a glass of wine in his not-really-all-that-small kitchen. Turgeon is the Turgeon of Turgeon-Raine Jewellers in downtown Seattle. In 1996 he sold his large house on Capitol Hill, got rid of a lot of stuff he doesn’t miss and settled into the 1,200-square-foot, two-bedroom houseboat. He owns both the structure and the moorage.

“It’s a great bachelor pad, and I’m a bachelor,” he says.

The houseboat is compact with a boat-sized version of a great room downstairs (living and dining rooms, and kitchen). There is also a good-sized bath done in bird’s-eye maple and green slate, and a guest room. The top of the A-frame is reserved for his bedroom. But the little floating home gives Turgeon, with his signature round glasses and chic bald head, plenty of room to be Turgeon: a single guy and admitted clothes hound who is sophisticated and simple, businessman and artist, grandfather and blues man.

“When I bought the place it had white Formica, fuzzy stuff on the walls,” Turgeon says. “I ripped out the floors and put in 12 skylights, all 4 feet by 4 feet. It’s never hot in here, and when you’re sitting in the living room there’s sky all around.

“It’s pretty interesting when it’s windy. The view changes by five or six feet as the house moves.”

He’s now planning to build a Lane Williams-designed weekend place on the Kitsap Peninsula, a contemporary home near his grandkids. “It’ll be fun to get things I couldn’t have here. But it won’t be hard contemporary. It’ll be a bit Asian with Northwest Craftsman.”

So what does Turgeon sacrifice for his life on the end of the dock with a wood stove for heat?


And, um, would the houseboat ever be for sale?


Rebecca Teagarden is assistant editor of Pacific Northwest magazine. Benjamin Benschneider is a magazine staff photographer.

An artist’s artist works the wood

The interior of Norman Turgeon’s Portage Bay houseboat glows with just-so cabinetry crafted by Lemuel. Turgeon persuaded his friend and fellow Midnight Ramblers bandmate, a luthier by trade, to apply his artistry to storage solutions.

With a guitar-maker’s precision, Lemuel also crafted built-in cherry shelves along each side of the great room, providing lighted stages for Turgeon’s colorful collection of glass art, along with a landscape by a former fling. Lemuel rebuilt the stairs to the bedroom, too, giving Turgeon a less-steep climb, a wine rack and storage. All with that rich cherry glow.

When he couldn’t find a table, Turgeon drew it and had Lem make it from Oregon black walnut. The jewelry designer keeps it simple for himself, though, wearing only a small gold ring with a jade stone.