The Project of a Lifetime!

May 2020 Feature By Shandra Batemon

Down in Jacksonville, Florida, a housing contractor was about to get the biggest birthday surprise of his life. 34-year-old Aaron Leon was on his way to a skiing trip to celebrate his birthday, when he passed a broken-down mess of a houseboat.

Bargaining

He stopped at the Marina and looked over the 1970 Lazy Days houseboat. Walking on board, Aaron talked to the owner. “They were asking $50,000 for the boat which was in disrepair,” Aaron explained. “You didn’t want to step in the wrong place. I said $50,000 and then I got down $10,000 and then I got it down to $5,000. I looked at it one more time, but you know 6 inches of water in the hull of the boat and they think it's leaking, I walked out of there. I said $1,500 and I'll take it.”

The bargaining ended there, and the Marina said he could take it, but it had to be gone by the end of the week. So, Aaron cancelled his skiing trip and he and his buddies jumped in their boats and hooked them up to his soon to be yearlong project and new home. They towed it down the river for 10 ½ hours before reaching the next port. After getting it to a place so he could work on it, Aaron and his girlfriend got to work.

The Remodeling Process

The remodeling process wasn’t simple due to the abandoned condition of the boat. With it already being leaky and having six inches of water in the hull, Aaron had his work cut out for him.

 “Everything is brand new.” Aaron said “There is nothing that is the original boat besides for the skin and the structure of the boat. Honestly, I didn’t know how far it was going to go until, ya know, Murphy’s law, you don’t know how bad it is until you start opening walls to see what’s back there.”

After replacing all of the boards, Aaron also sealed and insulated the boat with R30 expanding insulator spray. Not only will this help keep the boat watertight, but it prevents the cold air from his air conditioner from escaping, keeping Aaron’s floating home at a nice cool temperature. He also redid the wiring and lights in the boat, replacing them with LED lights that are 12 volt DC and 120 volt DC to make it possible for the lights to work on shore power, as well as the battery or generator on this Floating House.

“I’m kind of a primidone” Aaron said “I got to have air conditioning and air control.  Opening a window isn’t always an option because it’s too hot… I also like smart stuff. It's fun stuff for me so everywhere I can, I add a little bit of fun in and out of the norm.”

The air control turned out to be very important as Aaron is the first to admit that he is an Ikea fanatic. With furniture and cabinets coming from this iconic DIY store, he happily keeps the air controlled to his comfort and the perfect setting to make the wood last. All throughout the boat the lights are connected to Alexa so with simple voice control, they can be turned on and off and even faded. The cupboards are also specially designed by Aaron to open vertically with an automatic light that turns on to make seeing what’s inside easier. This pairs well with the beautiful quartz counter tops that have been installed in both the galley and the head.

When remodeling the interior of the boat, no expense or effort was spared with the total coming to about $25,000.  

Finding the Right Place to Shop

With this being the total for just the renovation of the interior, it’s good to know where to shop! Aaron gave some insight on how prices affect what people think of boating and how to find the best deal. He explained how much fun it is for him to just find the best deals out there by shopping at second-hand Marine stores. ““[Bargaining] is more fun for me then the actual purchase.” Aaron said. “People walk into West Marine, and the prices are insanity, and think that that’s what boat ownership is all about.”

He then went on to talk about how he bought his state-of-the-art toilet that allows him to dump  black water waste overboard due to the mechanism inside of it that breaks down the waste diluting it, and making it ecofriendly and safe for the wildlife.  This toilet normally costs $1,500 but because of his knack for finding and getting deals, he was able to get it for $150.

To keep the price low, it also helps when you can get creative on your own. Wanting to have the third room be an office/guestroom, Aaron designed his own murphy bed that folds down  so that he can have his workspace, but guests can come stay for a weekend visit. Making it complete as home-sweet-home.

Worth It

After having been living on the boat and remodeling it for almost two years, the hard work has paid off. Scoring a beautiful spot on the Marina, Aaron is able to sit on his deck with his girlfriend and cat and watch the beautiful sunset after a hard day’s work, enjoying his time on the water. “It's like the best thing ever, you know?  You feel untethered, you really feel disconnected from society which, like I said, I like everybody. I like people. I just like my space and every night I get to get away from all of it.”

So, if you’re looking to have your own luxury apartment on the water like Aaron and his crew, buying and remodeling a boat doesn’t have to break the bank, but it takes a lot of hard work and effort. That effort pays off in the end with your own floating haven on sea.

For more pictures, go to Aaron’s Instagram The_Floating_Home

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