Living on a Houseboat

If you enjoy living near the water, but can’t afford beachfront property, there’s a good chance that living on a houseboat has crossed your mind. Living on a houseboat can be exciting, but before you decide to invest in one, there are a few things to keep in mind. Living on a houseboat allows you to take all of your belongings with you wherever you go, but there are a few obstacles to this life. Storms cause waves, and your houseboat will rock, so for those who are easily seasick, this might not be the best option. There are many places to anchor your houseboat, however, and although these places charge rent, it is often much less than an apartment would be.

living on a houseboat
living on a houseboat

What’s it like living on a houseboat? This a question that’s constantly being asked of the many folks around the world who have chosen to live life floating on the water. It’s not for everyone though. My sister walks in her sleep …so, it’s probably not a good lifestyle choice for her.

But for thousands of people, living on a houseboat is proving to be a great way to add a new dimension to their lives. Some choose to live aboard for economic reasons and others simply want to live life differently.

Building vs. Buying a Houseboat

Building a houseboat is often cheaper than buying one that is already built and allows you to create your houseboat with exact specifications. Labor is a huge factor when building a houseboat, however, and building a houseboat will take time. For those without time and the ability to put labor into your houseboat, there are places to stay while you hire a crew, but hotels and apartments are yet another expense to be paid, so if you are looking for a new residence and are not currently residing in one, buying a houseboat may be a better option. Buying a houseboat involves a few steps.

canalboat restaurant
canalboat restaurant

The first step, of course, is to find a houseboat with the specifications you desire, and this could be a laborious process if it weren’t for online websites such as Craigslist, or other dealers that advertise online. The second step involves you going to see the houseboat, and many times a houseboat looks better online than it does in reality, so do not settle! Houseboats generally are not incredibly expensive, so be sure to compare prices when buying a houseboat. For those who would rather rent a houseboat, there are many places that have already anchored their houseboats and allow you to stay in them for a fee.

These houseboats usually cannot be taken off the property, but for those who simply enjoy living on the ocean, this is a definite option. If you’re thinking about buying or building a houseboat, but have not yet decided if it’s a residence you would enjoy, renting a houseboat is probably your best option. Renting a houseboat will allow you to experience life on the ocean without needing to invest your hard earned cash on something you may not enjoy.

Ian Morton has lived on a houseboat for over a decade and has learned so much about living on a houseboat that it takes a website just to share. In a recent article, he shares some valuable lessons he’s learned. For instance, he suggests not trying to enjoy one smaller than 40’ or buying one older than 25 years old. His website, All About Houseboats, is definitely a “must visit” place for anyone seriously interested in owning or living on a houseboat.

English Narrowboat

Across the Atlantic, in England, thousands of people are living on houseboats specially designed for the narrow British canal system. Called Narrowboats, these floating homes are more like long travel trailers inside. Most are built of steel with hull thicknesses that vary from 8mm on the bottom to 4mm on the sides. (This is about ⅜” on the bottom.) These rugged boats have inboard motors and often cruise the hundreds of miles of canals across Britain. A friend of mine rented one for a week and, with his family onboard, had a great holiday adventure.

These boats make a lot of sense in England, but I don’t think they would be very practical in the US with the exception of the Erie Canal. Even in a slow-moving river, you could easily lose control. But they sure look great. While much emphasis is put on the beautiful top-end McMansions floating in the lakes and rivers, some with basements and spas, perhaps some attention should be given to the other end of the spectrum. Yes, the small, the cheap, and the “barely” floating. This leads us to the shantyboat, America’s first houseboat. And some really are barely floating. But they can still be a lot of fun.

Wayne Dewyer shows us possibly the bottom of the spectrum when it comes to living on a houseboat. His adventure from Michigan to the Gulf is chronicled in his series of You-tube videos. I don’t think I’ll ever talk my wife into this particular houseboat. While building a houseboat is a possibility, I don’t think this is what most of us have in mind when we think of living on a houseboat, but on some level, I love it. He motored all the way down to the Gulf and beyond and had a great time doing it.

Shantyboats remind us of the long-ago days when much of America moved on water. Whether along the rivers or across the canals of New York or Ohio, boats moved the bulk of America’s goods and people for hundreds of years.

One Vermont entrepreneur and farmer has built a boat to try and recapture that pioneer spirit. Erik Andrus has already launched the boat and sailed down the Hudson to Manhattan. The Ceres, a 39’ flat-bottom sailboat is currently delivering cargo up and down the Hudson. While this isn’t actually a houseboat, it shows the possibility of sustainable living on a houseboat / commercial vessel.

In Holland, the houseboats are much wider than the narrowboats of England. I guess the boats are built to fit the waterways. This boat has a sort of old world gypsy-wagon feel to it. Anywhere land is expensive, and there is water, people will be living on a houseboat. Final Words Do not settle when it comes to your houseboat. Living on a houseboat can be an incredible experience for many people, but without research into the houseboat you’re looking at buying, a great experience can easily turn sour.

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