I’m Dreaming of a Houseboat


houseboats and floating homes

Recently, I caught the bug to live on a houseboat.

Actually, I’ve been having houseboat dreams since I was 18. When I was going to junior college, back in the 60’s, I used to drive right past the place that manufactured the “Surfside–6” houseboats. I would often stop (like every day) and observe through the fence. I couldn’t believe they were just plywood and fiberglass.

One houseboat was featured in an old TV show about a couple of guys that lived in Miami Beach on a houseboat. Naturally, there were girls, and adventures and such and it always just seemed like a neat thing. the name of the TV show— “Surfside 6

Once I saw a houseboat for sale in the paper. It was parked on New River in downtown Ft. Lauderdale. They only wanted two-thousand bucks, so I called a friend and we were going to go in on it together. I contacted the owner and he told me to stop by the next day and look at it.

Well, the next day when I drove up to the boat, one pontoon had sprung a leak over-night and the boat was slowly sinking into the abyss. I stared a long time at the boat, and as it went down into the murky water so did my enthusiasm for having everything I owned floating on an old leaky barge.

That was years ago, and I guess with time I’ve forgotten the lesson learned that day and I’m ready to try again. I’m not quite sure if I would end up as Captain Courageous or SpongeBob SquarePants, but I can’t get this idea out of my mind. And, as it turns out, I’m not alone.

The urge to live on the water can be overwhelming

The urge to float on water must be buried deep in our genetics. We spent the first nine months of our existence floating in a bag of water.The internet is full of stories about guys (and some gals) who have turned their backs on dry land and set out to live on the open water, or at least the water around the dock. Some buy a boat, and some build their own. And just as people are different, there is are different houseboat designs for almost everyone.

Can you decide which houseboat to live on?

One of my favorites is the Aqua Casa. A design by Berkley Engineering. This is one of the simplest and yet functional small houseboats going. The design incorporates years of experience in boat design into a smart little floating home. Their site has plans for building one yourself or links to some for sale. While I would take issue with their estimated $3,500 dollar cost to build one, I think it would be a deal at twice that.   Aqua Casa

The "not so big" type
The “not so big” type

Would you like a Shantyboat?

For the more adventurous soul perhaps a “shantyboat” is what you need. Harkening back to the time of paddle-wheel riverboats and Huck-Finn rafts, shantyboats come in the oddest shapes and sizes. Varying from no more than a wooden box on barrels to really comfortable houseboats, people have built an almost unimaginable array of floating stuff. Some of the more rugged folks have strapped a small motor on the back and gone all the way down the Mississippi. Traveling by day and pulling over at night to camp and rest, often within walking distance of downtown amenities, they create some amazing vacation experiences. But it’s not something you would hope to retire on.

They don’t look like the one above anymore. Well, actually some look worse, but most are sharp designs incorporating all the latest in essential boat stuff, you know, like a bathroom running water and a kitchen.

If you like houseboats as much as I do then you will really like a site designed for nothing but shantyboats, in fact, it’s called ShantyboatLiving.com. The author, Bryan Lowe, has assembled tons of information on Shantyboats, houseboats, Eco-friendly boats and much more. It’s a “must see” for me. I enjoy the articles and all the great pictures.

What’s a Narrowboat?

In England, many retired folks live on narrow-boats. These are skinny boats designed to go up and down the skinny little canals that cut across Great Britain. With a maximum width of only about 7’, the design inside is much more like a long travel trailer. With a length often exceeding 60’and usually powered by a small diesel, they can slowly roam the English countryside while still having afternoon tea. Often seen in downtown areas, they offer a unique living style and can be an economical alternative to traditional housing. You can find out more about these truly unique British boats at NarrowboatWorld


But in the USA it’s getting harder all the time to live in a houseboat. Because houseboats don’t generally move much, most people and especially boat people don’t really consider them “boats.” They are kind of excluded from the boating community. That’s where sailboats seem to be more useful.

Sailboat Conversion to Houseboat?

A small sailboat, while not giving all the comfort of a houseboat, offer the owner the ability to have a home and be able to travel also. A boat that actually moves is usually accepted in marinas that would otherwise shun a houseboat. The truth is that most sailboats don’t really sail that much. They just motor along. Usually, with a small “kicker” motor on the back, they can move along just as fast as they would sailing and sip only ½ gallon of gas or diesel an hour. The main advantage is that when you stop for the night, you’re already home.

So, now instead of dreaming of houseboats, maybe I’ll start thinking about a sailboat. Anybody know how far it is to St. Croix?