Upgrading Your Houseboat For Living Aboard

Published in the January 2011 Issue Published online: Jan 21, 2011 Ask The Expert Janet Groene

Home Electronics

Carl L. Medley II, president of Eclipse Technologies in Hartsburg, Mo., says, "Here in Lake of the Ozarks we are seeing a surge in interest in consumer electronics. The same advances homeowners want in homes in automation, control and entertainment are what they want on their houseboats." Currently Medley is working with the owners of a 51-foot Bluewater houseboat whose proposed upgrades include five new flat panel HD TV's, mobile satellite tracking (KVH) and integrated backup cameras with custom seven-inch displays at the upper helm.

One of the TVs will be concealed in a custom TV lift on the upper deck that will open, clamshell style, to reveal the Wii game console. Medley and his client are looking at a complete upgrade of the navigation system to integrate with an iPad, replacing most other nav tools currently on the boat. The skipper will be able to control all camera views, lighting and automation functions of the boat from his iPad, iTouch and iPhone, as well as the remote controls located in various cabins.

Medley, who can be found at www.SolutionsbyEclipse.com, offers such electronic devices for houseboat clients as a cell phone booster, cell phone dock, DISH satellite and recorder, whole-house audio system, home theater, video surveillance for boat and/or dock and much more. "You name it," he enthuses. "Houseboaters want all the comforts of home." Lastly he points out that more and more of his systems make use of solar and other "green" technologies.

Sweet Smell Of Success

From aromatherapy to scented candles, people are passionate about their olfactory senses. As a liveaboard you'll need to step up your battle against bad smells from the bilge, mildew, the engine room, as well as crowded closets. A new product, FreshWave, comes in spray, crystal gel or carpet shake form. The patented, biodegradable formula uses natural plant and spice extracts to absorb smells, and then break them down. The products are online and in national chains such as Ace Hardware and Macy's.

The Grandeur Of Granite

When homeowners upgrade kitchens, granite counter-tops are high on their list of must-haves. Now the folks at Granite Transformations are finding that houseboaters too are moving up to durable, stylish granite or glass kitchens and baths. Using their special process, the company can lay a new surface over existing counters. The nationwide firm also re-faces cabinets. To find your nearest supplier go to www.GraniteTransformations.com.

High-Tech Lighting

Advances in lighting continue to make boating life brighter, safer and more energy efficient. At www.Magnalight.com, you'll find a new, 34-watt, explosion-proof UV light for curing coatings, controlling pests or killing germs. Although many of these products are primarily used in boatbuilding and paint shops, the current bedbug outbreak has spurred home interest in UV light for sanitation and pest control.

The Laundry

The first addition made by many liveaboards is laundry equipment, but it's a huge step because of the weight of machines, the space they require and the increased use of water and electricity. Thanks to homeowners' demand for more efficient laundry machines, sophisticated electronic controls and energy-saving technology have trickled down to the compact combo and stackable units preferred for boats. Today's marketplace offers load-and-go machines that do more in less space, and also wash better using less water.

Whether you're adding a laundry or replacing older, inefficient machines, note measurements, water use, energy efficiency, noise level and requirements for plumbing and venting. Some compact dryers are available in gas or electric models.

Flooring

Second only to kitchen counters, flooring takes a beating in any houseboat and is often the first thing upgraded in any re-do. Teak flooring has been the gold standard for all decks, indoors and out, for centuries. It's in tune with the current homeowner preference for wood flooring and it's durable enough for galley and bath. The marketplace is also filled with wood laminates and wood look-like materials, as well as durable, stain-proofed carpeting.

When shopping, look for marine quality. Some woods and wood laminates are highly photosensitive, fading where the sun hits them. Some are installed over foam or paper and don't do well in a damp atmosphere. The wood layer is usually very thin, not suitable for sanding and refinishing. Avoid wool and cotton carpeting, which can hold odors and, if you're installing wall-to-wall carpeting, get padding suitable for marine use too.

Gordon and Janet Groene lived full-time on the go for ten years. Their books include Living Aboard and Creating Comfort Afloat. Janet posts new galley recipes weekly at www.BoatCook.blogspot.com.

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