Living Aboard

Published in the August 2018 Issue August 2018 Multimedia By Janet Groene

Beyond futons and a sofa-bed, how do you host overnight guests onboard your houseboat? As a  liveaboard you’ve probably furnished and filled every square foot for your own lifestyle. If you have room for guests at all it maybe a convertible dinette or a sleeping bag spread over the seat on the flybridge. 

Your challenge is to make guests feel welcome and comfortable while making sure they understand that the houseboat has its own rules. One of my guests insisted on helping with the dishes. Before I realized it, she was rinsing dishes under a full blast of hot running water. I had to sit her down and tactfully explain about fresh water and gray water tankage.

House Rules With Humor

1. Put nothing in the toilet you haven’t eaten first. **There are no plumbers at sea.

2. Pack light. We have no drawers for your drawers and no storage space for big suitcases, which will be thrown overboard for use as flotation devices.

3. Bring layers (clothing, not chickens). On the water, sweltering days can burn your nanny and chilly nights can shiver your timbers. 

4. Trash talk welcome. We have to sort all rubbish and garbage, then bag and off-load it all. Please minimize disposables. We’ll gladly refill your water bottle or hip flask from our tanks. 

5. We have to pay by the minute for Internet access out here. Children who exceed their allowance will be sold at the next port of call.

6. Bring your own toiletries kit, one you can take with you when using our bathroom or the marina showers. Don’t leave anything in the bathroom. It will roll off the counter when we hit the first wave and the cat will bury it in her litter box.

7. Our houseboat has limited supplies of tankage for drinking water, used water and sewage. Waste it and we’ll have to reduce laundry by permitting changes of underwear only every third Tuesday.        

8. There are no trees or fire hydrants in the middle of the lake. Sorry, but we can’t accommodate your dog.

9. Waters in our lake come under government rules. If you pollute them, we could be fined and you could be sent up the river. If you end up in hot water, don’t expect us to bail you out.

** Note to boat owner: provide a waste basket in the head for disposal of soap wrappers and other things that people might otherwise put in the toilet. Provide personal bags or containers for sharps, diapers and sanitary supplies.

More Ideas

* Personal towels and wet wash clothes need room to dry. Devise temporary towel racks such as over-the-door hooks or suction cup bars. Bonus points if these racks can be in guests’ rooms, not in the steamy bathroom. You’ll also need drying space for swim suits and towels.

* If you have shoes rules, such as no spike heels on teak decks, or no shoes inside, or no bare feet on deck, notify guests ahead of time so they can pack accordingly. Suggest that guests bring beach shoes and also shower shoes if they’ll be using marina showers. 

* Some convertible beds (such as plastic seats and air mattresses) can’t be made up with conventional fitted and tuck-in sheets. If guests can bring their own bed rolls, even better.

* Alert guests to any generator quiet hours or other power interruptions so they can be responsible for their own flashlights and battery management for their phones and other electronics.

* If you allow smoking onboard, even if it’s only on deck, make rules. A sudden gust and a live ash could start a fire onboard.

* Hold a safety briefing before bedtime to remind guests of locations of fire extinguishers and all exits including emergency exits such as hatches.

* If children are onboard, discuss safety rules with them and the parents. I keep a supply of Cyalume chemical light sticks on hand for nightlights. Kids love them and they are spark proof.

About Seasickness

Guests may not know they’re susceptible to mal de mer until it’s too late. Sometimes just the mention of it can start an epidemic. It can embarrass guests, make messes and ruin the boating experience. It’s best if guests arrive with their own patch, wrist bands or seasick pills. I keep some OTC seasick pills on hand if anyone asks. Once the barfing begins, it’s too late.

Sometimes all that’s needed is a stint at the wheel or a seat on deck in the fresh air with a clear view of some stationary object such as a cloud or shoreline. Strongly recommend to guests that they don’t stay below while underway, especially in a stuffy cabin with no view of the horizon. If you’ll be underway for long periods, keep meals on the light side and avoid alcohol. Warm bouillon, cold ginger ale, ginger cookies or candy and plain saltine crackers are good tummy soothers.

 About the Author

Janet Groene is a professional journalist and a member of Boating Writers International. She and her late husband, Gordon Groene, lived full-time on the go for ten years. “Living Aboard” is a recurring column that focuses on living on your houseboat. Janet’s newest book, The Survival Food Handbook (International Marine Books), is a guide to provisioning and cooking with common supermarket ingredients to carry in your pantry. Janet posts new galley recipes weekly at


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