“Can’t believe it’s gone.” Metro-area newlyweds lose their houseboat home in fire while out of the country for their wedding

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For Craig Lade, this is the best of times — and the worst.

“Can’t believe it’s gone,” he says softly. “Come home and realize you have no home.”

The Inver Grove Heights resident showed us what’s left of ‘Riverbelle’ — a 50-foot houseboat — that’s been home to him and his wife Mi for the last five years.

“We lived on it year ’round in the water,” Lade says. “There’s about 15-17 of us at Castaways Marina that live on our boats year around. Very relaxing life.”

That ended suddenly Tuesday night.

Inver Grove Heights firefighters, called to the marina just before 7 p.m., found Riverbelle and another houseboat in flames.  

“It was crazy, it looked like the whole area was on fire,” says Hanz Lehrke, a longtime friend. “You could see his boat on fire, you could see the boat in the background that was on fire, burning and all that kind of stuff.”

But that night, the Lades weren’t home.

They were thousands of miles away, getting married in Cozumel, Mexico.

The couple, scuba-diving lovers, declared their love underwater.

At a final wedding dinner, they got word.

“Got a text message from one of our neighbors that our boat had exploded and they said it’s not a joke,” Lade recalls. “They called us and said, ‘Yeah, it’s on fire.’ They sent pictures. Kind of a long night.”

Now back home, this new husband is looking for answers.

There’s no official cause yet, but Lade says he’s gotten word the boat’s furnace may have been where the fire started.

He says were it not for that far-away wedding celebration, he and Mi might have been sleeping below decks — and in harm’s way.  

“We’ve had many friends who say ‘You know your wedding probably saved your life,’” Lade notes.

In the meantime, the marina community is stepping up, rallying around the newlyweds, with donations of clothing and offers of shelter.

Lehrke and Nate Wong, who are diving buddies with the couple, have set up a crowd-funding effort to help.  

“They went from a wedding to about two days later finding out everything they owned was burned down,” Lehrke declares. “We want to see them happy again, want to see them put this behind them.”

Lade, a construction contractor, says he and his wife worked hard to make their houseboat a home.

They custom-built a bathroom, and installed a full-size laundry unit, among other improvements.

He says among the toughest losses are personal items — like a table he built in high school.

Still — Lade says he’s thankful that nobody was hurt, and for the many people who are stepping up to help.

“Right now we’re staying with friends we’re very grateful to have,” Lade adds. “Living at their house for a little while until we figure out which direction to go.”

We asked Lehrke what his hopes are for the couple.

“That they stay strong and they know that there’s a lot of people who are there for them in their corner,” he says. “We are here. We want to help.”

After everything that’s happened, the Lades have decided to walk away from the houseboat life.

Their next home, they vow, will be on dry land.

“Yeah, I  know my wife, she doesn’t want this. She’s like, ‘It’s a miracle we’re alive,’” Lade declares. “I told her, I said, ‘Honey, if we can survive this, our marriage will survive anything.'”

You can find out more about the crowdfunding effort to help the Lades here.