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Thread: Houseboat Builder and Location Advice

  1. #1
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    Liveaboard Houseboat and Location Advice

    So my wife and I are retired and in our early 50's. We are looking at selling our house and being more mobile. We were seriously considering doing the full-time RV thing, until we thought about living full-time on a houseboat. So here I am, trying to find as much information about it as I can. Are there builders that are better than others? Some I should stay away from? We are considering an 80-100 footer. What about having one built? Delivery fees would seem to be astronomical. Trying to find an area that allows liveaboards seems tough. Coastal or lake? Obviously we'd want to stay south to eliminate the need that freezing temps brings as far as maintenance. Pacific Northwest isn't ruled out either. Sorry about the many questions but we are a bit overwhelmed at this point. By the way, I'm not a total newbie as far as the water goes. I'm ex-Coast Guard Radarman and Quartermaster, son is in the Navy and Dad is ex-Navy. Thanks in advance for any and all replies!
    Last edited by RonandBee; 06-08-2015 at 10:50 AM.

  2. #2
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    Ron and Bee, there are so many answers to your questions and even questions about your questions. I am on lunch break and will give a few opinions to get you started. 1 this forum is a good source on info. try to listen to the replies you will get. Newbies (sorry edit: Yup we are all still newbies) usually want to argue with these guys who have years of experience and most seem very knowledgeable. 2 If you are considering a new boat you must have a few extra dollars laying around so the transport fee should not be a problem. That fee varies wildly dependent on size and distance. 3 Boats are all compromises usually we go thru a few before we find what works for us so renting a houseboat is a great idea and renting at the location you think you would like is even better. Before anyone can advise you on a manufacturer they will need to know your intended use. I have an aluminum hulled Sumerset that would be an anchor as soon as it was to hit the gulf but is great in my quiet bays. 4 live-a-board marinas can be a tough find but there are places and ways of making that happen. 5 I think you have this one whooped but after a decade of owning the present boat i have seen so many people retiring or close to retirement buy a boat/slip and gone after one year. Usually they never really were boat people, they "liked" the ideal. You should be boat knowledgeable and really that is the most important factor of all, you must be that indefinable thing "a boat person". Take it slow and enjoy learning about this lifestyle.
    Houseboats are very different from "a dirt house" though few actually live-a-board, most call it the best vacation spot on earth.
    Last edited by desimulacra; 06-08-2015 at 02:53 PM.

  3. #3
    Senior Member Amelia's Avatar
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    Hi, from one noob to two others. In terms of years, we're old hands, having been fooling with this whole (home-made) houseboat dream for over ten years, but in terms of actual boating experience, we're really still wet behind the ears.

    Yeah, what De said!

    You have lots of questions to answer.
    The first question is WHY? (To save money? Keep moving along. This ain't your thread.)

    What kind of boating do you hanker after? Do you want to call a big-city yacht basin home, close to the theater, pro sports, upscale shopping, and lots of other boats and boaters, where your floating home rarely, if ever leaves the dock? (Why, hello, Charleston, SC, Washington DC, Mobile, AL, Seattle WA, and a number of other vibrant and interesting places!) Do you want to be in a lovely quiet man-made lake nestled in the hills of the Back of Beyond, a half-hour to the grocery store, and farther still, to the nearest Interstate highway? (Howdy, TN and KY lakes!) Do you hope to noodle along the ICW, exploring The Ditch as you go, with occasional forays into bigger water as you cross from one section of the canal to the next, from small town to small town? Do you dream of often anchoring out in tropical water, in perfect solitude, snorkeling to catch your breakfast? Do you hope all your friends and relations will come visit as soon as they find out where you're hiding?
    All of these will help determine size, hull configuration, layout, and so forth. If you plan to spend most of your time on the move, going from marina to secluded anchorage to town dock, to the next marina, then think about how much you're going to want to pay for transient dock fees per foot, and how much boat you want to wrestle into a tight spot in a crosswind, how much freeboard, how much of an open-water hull you'll wish you had crossing the Chesapeake Bay, how much fuel you'll need to go places, how much power you'll need, both household and boat.
    If you hope to pretty much stay put and attract your nearest and dearest, then lots of staterooms and entertaining space will be welcome, and it won't be nearly as important to have a steering station with a central commanding view and the maneuverability of twin engines.
    All this to say, spend some time looking at what's out there, and where it is. You might find a great bargain on a nearly-new boat close to where you'd like to live, or close to a waterway that will get you there taking a substantially smaller hit than buying brand new. Talk to the experts. Go to the boat shows.
    Think hard about how each candidate-boat would be to live aboard. Let your fingers do the walking through the designs available. Where would you keep the mop? The docklines? Do you want a generous galley or do you rarely cook? To each his/her own. A huge media room would not appeal to us at all, but a big back deck is ideal, right behind the generous galley and salon, where the party always winds up at our house. Will it be easy to run lines for docking? Can you see where you're backing up? How about anchoring out? Are you likely to settle where a shallow draft works in your favor? Are you handy and love a challenge and an ongoing project, or do you hope to find a turnkey palace that only needs an occasional lightbulb changed?
    Might you consider renting one to try out the configurations available, to see how they work for the way you expect to live? It's not cheap, but it's probably less expensive than changing your mind once you own a boat that isn't ideal after all.
    Again, talk to the experts. Each has his own opinion, his own specific needs that he thinks everybody ought to consider. Filter the results through that lens, and you'll have priceless real-world knowledge.
    Seems to me the purchase price of a boat (or a little airplane,) like the cost of a marriage license, is just a modest beginning on the outlay of both time and money required to keep things running smoothly. Bear that in mind.

    Good luck-- it's a lot of fun figuring all this out. Just take your time.

    Amelia (and Rob)
    The Lotus Eater

  4. #4
    Super Moderator OLD HOUSEBOATER's Avatar
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    We lived aboard 7 years at Joe Wheeler Marina In Rogersville Alabama. (Between Huntsville and Florence) The Tennessee River is truly Gods country for houseboat Living. You have access to the Great Lakes North and The Gulf of Mexico south. You have the 4 seasons but southern winters are mild and boating is year around. Another advantage of Heartland Boating is the availability of covered slips

    The western states are a meca for houseboating. This is Hot dry country that has an appeal to hundreds of houseboaters. However most are not liveaboards.

    If You like to travel a cruising style boat would be the way to go (Ie.Pluckabaum Harbor Master etc). If you like to lay back slo-cruise and enjoy the sights a "Lake Boat" is in order. However: no matter the size of the boat get twin power and seriously consider thrusters. When you go to sell the boat (and you will) these items will make it tons easier.

    MOST houseboats are NOT configured for full time liveaboards. Rather they are set up for weekend entertaining. Our boat was a 55 foot Pluckebaum with a master and a cuddy only. The living spaces were large. We had a large bathroom a large pantry,, side by side fridge, washer dryer and house size closets.

    STRONGLY suggest you rent for a week minimum at least 4 times to get a feel for it. Aqua Yacht Harbor in Iuka Mississippi is a good place to start. 100 feet is a lot of boat and requires crew. Up to 65 feet boat (properly equipped) is manageable by a husband and wife.

    Keep us up to date.
    Last edited by OLD HOUSEBOATER; 06-08-2015 at 04:17 PM.
    The fries are cold so we gave you extra.

  5. #5
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    Des, thanks for the reply and info. As I stated in my original post, we are also thinking of doing the RV thing, and like this, we have done so much research that it hurts the head after a while. I plan on doing the same on this endeavor and have no intentions of arguing with the "experts" on here. It's hard to fight with someone who's living this life whereas I have no houseboating experience. We are planning on selling our house and the vast majority of our personal property, so yes, we will have some money for a boat, possibly having one built, but the transport costs really scare me. I've contacted one builder just to see what they have to say about it if I would happen to have a boat built. Chances are the delivery costs will be much too rich for my liking, thus eliminating a new build. As far as the type of boat/manufacturer, that's a tough call to be honest. Since I've started looking into this lifestyle and plan on living on the boat full time, it seems like it boils down to either A) where we can find a marina that allows live-aboards, or B) finding a boat that suits us then finding a marina after that. Our intentions are to sit at the dock for a while, then maybe depart on a trip for a few weeks. We considered KY, but the winters aren't favorable for our liking. We looked at a few TX lakes that may work. We looked at the Corpus Christi area along with the Houston/Galveston area and also the Gulf coast of FL. Yes, I do understand that lake-versus-coastal cruising is a totally different animal from each other. We really aren't extremely picky about location, just as long as we don't have any freezing temps for extended periods. We really don't have an issue with the Pacific Northwest either, so our options are open. We will have three adults, two dogs and a cat on the vessel. I like to think that I'm boat knowledgeable, even though there's always more to learn. I am extremely handy and there's not too much I can't do or haven't done. The same goes with the RV world. You better know how to turn a wrench and know the difference between a left-handed and right-handed hammer. Hahaha There are good manufacturers and bad. I'm sure it's the same in the house boat world. So I guess to sum it up after saying all that I did, we're just in the research phase and our minds are like a sponge at this point, trying to get as much info as we can. I appreciate you taking the time during your lunch to answer my post. Have a great day!

  6. #6
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    OLD HOUSEBOATER, thanks for the info. We actually looked at that marina and area briefly on-line. Thanks for the advice on the boat options, such as power and thrusters. Trust me, twin screws is mandatory along with the thrusters. My concerns about being on a river is higher than normal water flows during times of excess rainfalls upstream which create a much stronger current. Is that really much of an issue or am I worried about that for nothing? As I stated in my reply to DES above, we are open to location options, either coastal or lake. We currently live out west, in Las Vegas, and I know house boating is huge out our way, but with the lake levels creeping lower and lower that isn't an option for us. Plus they don't allow live-aboards at any of the marinas. I truly don't think a 100 footer is in the works for us. It'll be more along the 75-80 foot range. We are keeping all of our options open on boats, boat types, locations, etc. Thanks everyone for the comments and info!

  7. #7
    Senior Member easttnboater's Avatar
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    I think that you are putting too much emphasis on the the cost of moving the boat. I have moved boats five times - a 12x52 footer twice, a 14x72 footer once, and my current 18x80 footer twice. It is not cheap, but compared to what you are going to pay for the boat - especially if building - it should not be a sticking point.

    My two cents - decide how you want to use the boat first, then where you want to be, then find a home port marina, then find a boat. Deciding the first three will narrow down what you need in a boat.

  8. #8
    Senior Member Endurance's Avatar
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    Before I dropped at least a half million on a new custom-built 80 to 100 foot boat, I would be inclined to do as Old Houseboater said and start by renting for a week. I would even consider a week each at several possible locations. Informed by those experiences, I would then ease into a used boat. After a year or two of that, I would do a lot better knowing what kind of location, boat, layout, and equipment would suit my lifestyle. My idea of the perfect houseboat has changed from when I first bought a boat; I'm confident that your tastes will likewise be malleable as you try a few things and like some and avoid others. At that point, you might find an existing boat that suits your newly refined tastes. If not, by all means, a new custom might be right up our alley and you will do a good job of specifying what you want in the new boat.

  9. #9
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    We went to Lake Cumberland with some friends. Wow about any type HB you would want to see! Went there to look at a specific boat thru a broker and saw 6 more that day plus several we were invited onto. Not a bad way to see a bunch of different type boats and styles and the prices were a lot less than new with many boats in almost new condition. Many of the manufacturers used to be there and new boats were parked everywhere, not sure about now.
    As far as location I also am in Tennessee on Kentucky Lake which is a part of the Great Loop. Each spring and fall the yachts and cruisers come thru.
    For reference, it gets too cold here for my boat in the winter because it does not have any insulation. However I know a few people with insulated boats that stay aboard year round. We had ice around the boat this year but never over 1 1/2" thick.

  10. #10
    Senior Member BananaTom's Avatar
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    Since you know "reservoir boating", I understand your fear of the "river".
    You do need to see the "Great Loop" area as stated above, and need to become intimate with it.

    From the North all the way to Pensacola. You will have allot of fun between those two areas. You will not be land locked. And you can bounce back and forth.

    When the river flows in the spring, get into a good marina with a floating dock. The docks lower and rise, and your lines remain as always.

    The Tenn Tom area has many places where live-a-boards are welcomed.

    The Challenge: Learning what you actually want, verses what you think you want.

    The Classroom: Rent as stated above. However, be very very very careful. It is addicting!!!

    Check out Tony B at this thread and then his other threads:

    http://www.houseboatmagazine.com/for...ga-Tn.-Marinas
    Last edited by BananaTom; 06-09-2015 at 02:17 PM.

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