For many people living aboard a boat would be a dream come true. There is something so romantic and peaceful about a home that floats on water. You can wake up to the sound of ducks and herons, take a morning kayak to the grassy lake, and give you close proximity to where fun and recreation on water is. Living on a house boat relieves you of everyday stresses like maintaining a yard and keeping a property safe.
Houseboat living considerations
Obviously, living on a boat has its share of logistical challenges that needs to be considered and addressed before moving to one. Here are some factors to take note before you decide to live on a boat:
1. Type of water
Living aboard one type of water will be different than it would be in another. Living in a house in the woods would give you a different lifestyle than living in the same type of house in the desert. If you like fishing, then it’s best for you to live on a lake or big river. If you like deep sea diving or fishing, and you love cruising through the ocean, then you belong on the coast.
2. Being more susceptible to climate and weather changes
Since you’re going to be on water, the weather’s going to affect you more than if you lived on land. You and your boat will be directly impacted by the climate and the sudden changes in weather. Many lakes and rivers are prone to flooding and many weather patterns like extreme cold fronts or heat waves or hurricanes can cause issues even when your house boat is steadily tied up at the dock.
In some places, you can safely live aboard a boat 365 days a year, but for the rare days that you can’t you must have a backup plan. This is especially important if you want to live aboard a boat in an area that experiences extreme weather. Make sure that you have a place on land wherein you can retreat for a while. This can be another property you can rent for a short time or in a home of a friend or relative.
3. Cost and type of boats
Most people choose to live aboard a boat due to the cheaper cost of living compared to living on land, especially if you already own a boat that you can live on. However, the expenses vary depending on where you choose to live aboard.
The type of boat you choose depends also at your budget or how much you are willing to spend. If you can afford a yacht, then you can live aboard it. If you want something more affordable, like a liveaboard trawler, then you can go for it. Most people would choose a smaller boat. The type of boat you choose must also depend on the climate and weather in your area. A boat with a big deck space may be fine for sunny places like Southern California, but not so much in chilly places like Great Lakes or New England.
Best places for houseboat living
There are houseboat communities that are located on a quiet lake or river, and also on urban areas. Here are some of the best places to live on a house boat:
1. Ijburg, Amsterdam, Netherlands
When you think of house boats, you probably think of Amsterdam. There are more than 2,000 houseboats along the waterways of the city. It started during the mid-20th century when there was lack of affordable housing. People transformed unused cargo ships to affordable living spaces and docked along the canals to avoid taxes and rent. Now, houseboats are seen as charming and desirable places to live in. The Dutch have mastered the floating house technology with their impressive system of canals and dykes.
The Ijburg District is one of those floating house communities in Amsterdam that are mostly supported by buoyant concrete tubs submerged in water to half a story deep. On top of it, a lightweight steel construction is built and fitted with wooden paneling to make rooms and floors. These houses are built at a shipyard near IJ Lake, then tugged through canal locks. The floating neighborhoods in Amsterdam is the country’s solution to the problem of housing shortage and rising sea levels.
2. Sausalito, California
The houseboat community in Sausalito, California is one of the most famous one in the world. It’s more than 65 years old, and it’s where Otis Redding stayed during his 1967 US tour and inspired the hit, “Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay.” After that, many left their homes in land and settled for a life on the bay. Other famous elebrities and well-known personalities also lived in floating homes in Sausalito, such as comedian Robin Williams, author Shel Silverstein, drummer Bill Kreutzman and author Isabel Allende.
Many members of the local community prefer the term “Sausalito Floating Homes” than “Sausalito Houseboats.” The houses are fanciful and artistic, since many creatives live here. It ranges from a cottage made from an old tugboat to the mini version of Taj Mahal in India. There are also modern-style homes here with energy-efficient technology such as solar panels and hydraulic in-floor heating.
3. Tagg’s Island, London, United Kingdom
Stroll in the pretty canals of London and you’ll be sure to find many narrow boats with pretty exteriors. But wander in Tagg’s Island on the Thames River near Hampton Court, you’ll find pretty floating houses. Rent in London is very expensive, so people looked to the water for a more affordable living option, and Tagg’s Island offer spacious and luxurious floating homes in the center of the busy metropolis of London. The island offers an eclectic mix of different architectural styles, as houseboats of all shapes and sizes can be seen. Most of the houseboats were modernist, with some having gardens and vehicle access. These houses are frequently seen in top architectural design magazines.
The name of the island came from Thomas Tagg, a boatbuilder who opened a hotel on the island in the 1870s. Since then it became a playground for the aristocrats and artists, the rich and famous. It fell into decline after World War I, but during the 1960s, it became popular again as a hippie hangout. Now it became a houseboat community, which is home to many artists, writers and musicians.
4. Union Lake, Seattle, Washington
The floating home neighborhood in Union Lake is a famous one, mainly because it’s the home of Tom Hank’s character in the classic 1993 romantic comedy Sleepless in Seattle. However, this is not for those looking for a cheap home to live in. Beautiful floating mansions in here mostly go for $1 million and up. Though no new homes can be placed at Union Lake due to a city ordinance, many floating homes here are available for rent and purchase.
The houseboat community in this area is one of the oldest in the US. Originally, the floating homes here were made of salvaged lumber materials by fishery and logging workers. This neighborhood puts you just right outside the downtown area of Seattle. Rowing is a popular activity here, and you might catch the University of Washington team training for the Olympics.
5. Scarborough Bluffs, Ontario, Canada
The floating neighborhoods of the Scarborough Bluffs is named as “Toronto Float Homes: The city’s best kept secret” (which is not a secret anymore!). It’s the only float home community in Ontario, and is nestled in a protected cove on Lake Ontario. This place is only 15 minutes away from downtown Ontario, but the sounds of the city are blocked by the bluffs that also protects the wildlife. The float houses offer a stunning view of the Bluffer’s Park in the Marina, wherein you can see clay and sand cliffs that tower over the Eastern waterfront.
Upon waking in a float home, you can enjoy beautiful balcony views with the sounds of the seagulls. Beautiful floating homes abound here, complete with electricity, AC, heat and Wi-Fi. Residents enjoy the conveniences of modern living while enjoying the natural views of the lake.
6. Tomahawk Island, Portland, Oregon
There are around 1,500 floating houses in the Portland metropolitan area. One popular floating neighborhood can be found in Tomahawk Island where rows of house boats are floating along the banks of the Columbia River in North Portland Harbor. The area is considered as an urban paradise in the waters because restaurants, grocery stores and boutiques are only a paddle away. It would be nice to live here, since Portland itself is considered as one of the top most desirable cities to live, plus, there’s no sales tax. Also, there are no property taxes needed to pay, so hooray for double tax exemptions.
Tomahawk Island offers floating home moorage with private and secured parking, friendly community and a dedicated board. Besides Tomahawk, the Hayden Island is also a great floating home community in Oregon. Some floating houses are moored along the Columbia River and Willamette River.
7. Austin, Texas
Austin, Texas is best known for its thriving music and university scene, but it’s also a haven popular among boaters, wakeboarders, kayakers, and other water sport enthusiasts. Because of these, houseboats also became popular. Houseboat communities can be found at Lake Travis and Lake Austin.
Houseboats are a common scene on Lake Travis for retirees, vacationers and weekend boarders, though hundreds of patrons also live there all year long. In Lake Travis, you can find more than 25 boat rental venues that offer (besides houseboats) kayaks, jet skis, wakeboard boats, stand-up paddleboards, sail boats, luxury yachts, party barges and more. Meanwhile, Lake Austin provides a tranquil floating water community full of all types of structures, from tugboat-inspired cabins and cottages to modern, two-story mansions – all of them floating by the lake.
8. San Diego, California
The sunny climate in San Diego is hard to beat. It’s warm almost every day of the year, but the Mediterranean-like weather and the Pacific breezes makes it bearable and soothing. This is why living aboard on a floating home in here makes sense. The marinas here are clean, safe and orderly, and the city itself is prosperous and well-managed. It will be easy to live the urban life her while enjoying the relaxing feel of a secluded lifestyle in the waters.
Living on a floating home in San Diego, California could be cheaper than an average rent or mortgage payment in many cities in the country. But as with real estate on land, the liveaboard marinas’ prices also vary depending on boat’s type, size, quality and location. Generally, the laws and regulations in the city are favorable for maritime living, but there are only limited locations where you can live afloat.