I love living on the water. I’ve done so on a 65′ motor yacht, an 85′ sailboat a 26′ sailboat and my 35′ houseboat which should more accurately be labeled a “Shanty boat.”
To continue with this theme we need to clarify a few terms: houseboat, shanty boat and floating home.
Let’s start with “floating home.” In general these are larger living spaces on the water and are minimally mobile other than vertically with the tide. They are not self-propelled. Some of these can be considered “McMansions” on the water and some can be extremely artistically creative. Holland is one of the world’s leaders in floating homes and the Pacific Northwest has a decades-long history of this genre of living on the water.
These are what I would consider to be within the McMansion category:
Here’s a bit smaller floating home on Lake Erie
Some other interesting floating homes
In this one below you can see why it would not be easy to move around and would undoubtedly require hiring a commercial tugboat in order to do so which would cost big bucks. But then if you were able to afford such a structure you’d most likely have the wherewithal to hire a tug.
In British Columbia there is even a floating home specific community: http://www.floatinghomes.com/floatinghomes.htm
On a more sensible scale there is Berklely Engineering’s Cape Codder at 24′X10′ that I think is pretty neat but certainly wouldn’t be buildable on a relatively small budget.
Some of the floating homes found on the West Coast can be pretty outrageous and books have actually been written about them. I used to have a couple of the books and poured over them for hours. The following boat is a little bit on the funkier side, but not overly so. This is another one I could be comfortable in.
Houseboats, by my definition, are self-propelled craft that are meant to be moved from one location to another. Most often they are used as vacation home and are designed for use in sheltered waters rather than the open ocean or other bodies of water that can get rough. Quite often they simply look like RVs on the water rather than a more conventional boat.
Strictly from an aesthetic point of view I’m not a fan of this type of craft. But not all boats that I would classify as houseboats are cheesy by any means. In Somerset, KY, hometown of my good friend Mark who has made comments on other post in this blog, is the manufacturer of some awesome houseboats, some over 100′ long and many cost more than most houses. Here’s a photo of the living room of a Somerset houseboat…
More difficult to pin down are what would be called “Shanty Boats.” These are mostly home made and strictly intended for use on sheltered waters. My boat, pictured above, was basically a shack on pontoons and though mine was 35′ most shanty boats are on the small side, 16 to 24 feet. Back in the 40s and 50s they were often marketed as inexpensive summer getaways and magazines like Popular Mechanics offered plans for them.
Phil Bolger is a designer of some very original, and many people think ugly boats, but beauty is in the eye of the beholder…
Back in the late 70s one of my favorite boating magazines was Small Boat Journal. This design by Thomas A. MacNaughton caught my attention and has lingered with me all these years. It’s called Evening Song. He had designed and build a nifty 18′ tug boat called Bantam and wrote:
“In our original article on Bantam we casually mentioned toward the end that it would be fun to have a houseboat barge to go with her. We felt it would be a lot of fun to live aboard the barge and push it down the Intracoastal Waterway of the East Coast. We hadn’t thought of this as more than a fun idea but immediately we started getting all sorts of letters demanding plans for the barge! After all, what else do you want to do with a tug so much as push and pull something around? This presented something of a challenge, as we had never known anyone to design a houseboat barge before, per se, so we had to come up with something completely new. The result was Evening Song. The combination of the tug and the barge clearly struck another cord, as we’ve sold a lot of both plans. This time it didn’t surprise us. The image of the tug and barge traveling together in the Intracoastal Waterway, or of the barge anchored in a secluded creek while the tug comes and goes with guests and provisions, is about as idyllic as it gets. Evening Song contains a whole lot of space in a reasonable compromise between camp-like and boat-like accommodations. She comes complete with two “porches” where one can sit with the dog and the shotgun waiting for the ducks, or just watch the world go by.
“There’s also a lot of “roof” space adaptable to lounging, solar panels, rainwater catchment, etc. Construction is about as simple as it could be, being epoxy and plywood throughout, with a lot of right angles mixed in with the curves of the sheer and bottom.”
Quite frankly I’m a fan of shanty boats both becaue of their funkieness and the fact that they’re usually rather inexpensive to build.