hungry for a houseboat
September 30, 2012 11:10 AM   Subscribe

How difficult is it to own/rent a houseboat in New York City or the Bay Area?

After spending the weekend aboard a docked boat, my partner and I have decided that all we want to do in life is live on a houseboat. Size doesn't really matter, as we're down to have minimal possessions in exchange for waking up on the water everyday.

So, what do we need to know? Are there any blogs/websites that detail the houseboat living experience? Have you lived on a houseboat? Is renting even really an option for long-term living?

After talking with a woman who owns a houseboat on the marina we were staying at, we already know that you have to put aside money for repairs, etc. and that it requires a lot of work. How fast/hard is the learning curve?

And lastly, how difficult is it to find space on a marina in New York City or the Bay Area? Is it prohibitively expensive? (Neither of us are ever going to make a ton of money.)

Sorry there are so many questions, any experiences would be incredibly helpful, especially links to blogs that might detail day-to-day life on a houseboat. (We've read the other 2 questions, but thought a location specific one would be helpful.) Thanks!
posted by dysh to Home & Garden (7 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Some data here (follow the links).

I would say that it's highly unlikely in NYC if you want to do it legally and affordably. Boats at the 79th Street Boat Basin must be seaworthy and capable of being sailed.
posted by slkinsey at 11:27 AM on September 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I have no personal experience with this, but I have several friends who live on boats/houseboats in the Bay area so it is completely doable here. All these people were artists not making a lot of money so I suspect it's pretty cheap (docking fee and a boat? I know one friend's boat doesn't really run, they just park and live on it at the marina).

There's a mini-community of houseboats north of the Golden Gate Bridge right near Sausalito. One friend lives at the Jack London Square marina in Oakland and the other at the Berkeley one. I know some of these places are advertised on Craigslist just like any other apartment.
posted by bradbane at 11:37 AM on September 30, 2012 [2 favorites]

In NYC, I am aware of non-insanely-expensive rental houseboats. Here is the downside: they are in Gerritsen Beach/Sheepshead Bay in Brooklyn. They appear on Craigslist from time to time and you could probably find a "for rent" sign if you went down there and walk around, or check neighborhood papers. I have also heard tell of houseboats in Port Washington (pretty close on Long Island)

Are you completely wedded to the location? You'd probably have better luck in Seattle (zillions of boats in the middle of the city), LA, probably other places I don't know about...
posted by zvs at 11:38 AM on September 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

Houseboats and floathomes are being phased out by a lot of municipalities because of the sewage issues (most of them used to discharge directly into the water) and the remaining ones are having to pay for sewage hookups. So I'd recommend not buying unless you're sure the dock/ marina is there to stay or it has already dealt with this issue somehow, which may mean chemical toilets if it's an actual boat. You don't want to get hit with a huge bill a year after you buy. Those houseboats in Sausalito for example were the subject of a decades long battle with the water quality folks.
posted by fshgrl at 12:09 PM on September 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I lived on a sailboat, much smaller than a houseboat. I think I had about 100 square feet, and only about 40 of that was where I could stand up.

I loved it. The upsides you know, so I'll just list the downsides:

1. Getting fleas sucked, but my cat made sure I never saw a living bug (aside from the fleas)
2. I picked a marina with really nice shower/bathroom facilities, so running from the boat to shower or back could get mighty cold. If you get a place with a good bathroom, you won't have that problem. You'll have to pump it out, though. I suggest a composting toilet, as waste tanks always smell.
3. Going sailing was less fun because if I screwed up I could lose everything I owned, but at least I didn't own much.
4. In cold climates, I think they wrap boats during the winter for insulation. Sometimes people suffocate from improper use of heaters in wrapped boats.
5. My a/c bill in the summer months in Houston, TX was HUGE, equal to my 2600 sq ft house I live in now. It would have been much less, but I had to make sure my cat didn't cook.
6. One time my socks got moldy, but I fixed that with better ventilation of the sock drawer.

That's.... about all the bad things I can think of. If I get the chance to do it again, say after my kids graduate college, I'll do it in a heartbeat. Maybe something a little bit bigger, though.
posted by BeeDo at 2:24 PM on September 30, 2012 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Great answers so far, thanks guys! Additional question if anyone knows...a lot of the marinas in the Bay Area (and in NY) seem to have really long waiting lists. Does one...need a boat to put their name on such a list? This is sort of a long-term dream, not a right now thing, so would it make sense to put our names down now if it's possible?
posted by dysh at 7:59 PM on September 30, 2012

Best answer: Yes--put your name on the list now, if you do, in fact, want to have a slip at some point. I have a former colleague who periodically sailed off Long Island, and put his name in for a slip at 79th St. I think he waited five or seven years for his number to come up--during which time he moved to another country for three years.

I have no idea how much it costs.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 9:05 AM on February 1, 2013

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