Strolling the docks and scrolling the Internet we found these happy houseboat liveaboards who were willing to share their stories. Names have been changed and some small details have been masked to protect privacy. The houseboats are all production models, but brand names are withheld.
Some of our interviewees cruise often and some never leave the dock, but none are full-time cruisers. Their marinas are “home.” Few have an exit strategy for when and if the time comes for them to move back ashore. On a scale of 1 to 10, these liveaboards score a solid satisfaction level of 10-plus.
Janice & Jake
For four years this couple have been living onboard a 34-foot houseboat with aft cabin. They’re in a mid-Atlantic city that has one of the highest living costs in the nation. Their income of just over $100,000 a year wouldn’t go far in this area, so dock rent is a bargain for them compared to rent. They don’t have a car and rely on bicycles, a motorbike and public transportation. Their boat doesn’t leave the dock.
Although Janice wishes their storage spaces were more easily accessible and Jake wishes he had a fly bridge and a more reliable pump-out service, they love the community spirit that surrounds them in their marina.
Charlene & Charlie
A 62-foot houseboat is home to this couple and their dog on a lake in Texas. They leave the marina about once a month for short trips around the lake. They hope to cruise full-time someday, but for now they have jobs that keep them dock-bound. “It’s the cheapest way we can live,” reveals Charlie, who says the couple earn $65,000 a year.
Charlene misses the big hobby and crafts room she had in their house. She’d like to have a dishwasher, but devoted the space to a trash compactor instead. Charlie’s wish list includes bow and stern thrusters and a few other nautical goodies they will add as the budget allows.
Before moving aboard they gave most of their “stuff” away to grateful kids, put a few things in storage and are looking forward to the day their boat is paid for. Empty nesters, the couple find themselves “more in love than ever” after 30 years. Houseboat life is, they find, the best way yet to entertain their grown kids and their families.
Frank has an 85-footer, his third and largest houseboat. He’s lived onboard for 13 years, currently as a loner after his wife decided that life on shore was more to her liking. As a professional with his own business, he can set his own timetable so living aboard suits him perfectly. He can commute to his office nearby or tele-commute from his boat thanks to a computer connection to his office. “Sometimes I go into the office only once or twice a week, if that,” he reports.
Regrets? Only that his houseboat has too much window area that he can’t use for other things such as a large, wall-mounted TV. When Frank has his morning coffee and newspaper while looking out over the water, he can’t imagine ever wanting any other life.
Karen & Ken
Living on $25,000 a year onboard their 60-foot houseboat, this couple have logged more than six years onboard including three months or more each year cruising. Retired now, they’ll have to cut back on long passages because of high fuel costs. They miss having a garage and storage space, but have decided to sell much of what they put in storage now that they realize they don’t need or want it any more. Their advice to future liveaboards? “Love your spouse, love the water, pick a lake or river you enjoy cruising on and enjoy every sunset together from the rear deck. Our family thinks we’re crazy, but we wouldn’t have it any other way,” says Karen.
Barbara & Robert
Living in the Upper Midwest means ultra-cold winters, yet this couple have loved the lifestyle for 12 years. On a budget of $50,000 a year they find houseboat living “better, but not cheaper” by the time they pay dockage, heating costs , pump-outs and other expenses. To save fuel costs they have a run-about that lets them enjoy the water without moving the 65-foot houseboat.
Everything they own is on board with them, although they have bought a home that is now being rented out. In time they’ll segue from boat life to living ashore. Both are still working, which Barbara says helps prevent “cabin fever” in winter. They also take their vacations in winter, away from the boat and the weather.
How does houseboat living compare to having a house? They love hosting the family but, now that the grandkids are older, Barbara wishes they had full-height guest cabins instead of cuddies. Robert likes not having to mow the lawn, but he reminds future liveaboards that property taxes are still paid in the form of slip rental. And, he says, maintenance is ongoing whether you live ashore or afloat.
Do you want to share your liveaboard experience to be featured in a future issue? Email firstname.lastname@example.org. Your privacy will be respected if you wish.
About the Authors
“Living Aboard” is a recurring column that focuses on living on your houseboat. Gordon and Janet Groene lived full-time on the go for ten years and they hold the NMMA Directors Award for boating journalism. Janet posts new galley recipes weekly at www.BoatCook.blogspot.com.