Category Archives: Practical Matters

Tooling Around, or, All Tied Up…

“It must be so cool! You can just take off any time you like!”

Ah, if only that were true. Let’s put aside all practical matters of basic life such as jobs and school. I do have one child attending school (the other two are homeschooled) and up until recently, I held a regular 9-5 job, and, may again.

But the short reply is no. I don’t take my boat out.

Recently I had to move my boat due to harbor work being done. My houseboat is essentially a barge. There is no “helm”. I do have a small Johnson outboard that does run, but the logistics of just moving around at will are pretty substantial.

houseboat bow






Above is the front of my boat. You can see right away how just hopping away from the dock isn’t as easy as one may think initially.

Visibility is nonexistent. It is not easily controlled if there is any real current or wind. Our solution was to run the outboard in reverse and that actually worked really well, but for just basic out and about boating, it just isn’t a safe option.

houseboat stern






This is the stern of my boat. Again, you can see how moving it wouldn’t be practical too often.

In another post I mentioned that having a houseboat gave me options for mobility that something like a trailer house just doesn’t have. And I still think that’s true. I don’t need a bunch of permitting and groundwork to be done prior to or after moving like a trailer would. If I were to move to another community, I’d probably hire a barge mover to tow me. The other option is to build a steering station and install a motor that is powerful enough to overcome some of the wind challenges.

It’s not a zippy little boat. 😉

But WHY a houseboat?!

This is a question I get often in various forms.

People’s opinions vary from thinking I’m this cool, adventurous, ooh-ah person (totally correct, by the by), to thinking I’m crazy and wacky (not totally incorrect…). But those ideas don’t really encompass the “why” of houseboat living for me and my family.

Succinctly? It’s practical. And I am a practical girl.

My little city has a housing crisis. There is a 17% homeless rate and a 3% vacancy rate. Those figures are at least 2 years old. I haven’t done any current research and those I got from a report by our local St. Vincent DePaul group. I know people living in their cars, couch surfing, staying at hotels, camping… Normal, everyday people with jobs, often with families… yes, there are definitely “typical” homeless folks. But the truth is, there just isn’t enough housing, affordable or not.

I used to live in a tiny community about 50 miles away. The home I had there was only available for the school year and income options were pretty slim there as well. So, I looked to the capital city for a job and a place to live. I knew housing would be the hardest thing. It’s very difficult to find anything for less than $1500 a month that is suitable for a family here. Purchasing a home is nearly impossible as well. A basic three bedroom, 1100 square foot house in decent condition starts in the upper 280s. It’s just out of reach as a single income at this point.

I really did not want to rent a junky place for so much money and I did not have the income potential to rent something reasonably nice. Not luxuriously nice. Just reasonably nice. I couldn’t stomach the idea of spending upwards of twenty-thousand a year on RENT. But, I totally would have if it had come down to it.

So, while I did look for rentals, because well, I had kids and needed to give them a roof over their heads, I also looked at alternative situations, such as liveaboards. I’d lived aboard after graduating from college and it was a wonderful lifestyle.

I scoured Craigslist daily for work and housing. I quickly found my little houseboat listed at twenty-seven thousand. It was a no-brainer as far as I was concerned. I laid every card I had on the table and went for broke in making the seller an offer. (I’m kind of an all or nothing sort of girl.) After much back and forth and a formal escrow agreement, he accepted my offer. I signed papers for my boat late on a Friday afternoon in March of 2013 and started my new job with the State of Alaska the following Monday. That was one crazy weekend, I tell you!

My thinking was that while it would be difficult to live in such a small space (and it is), I could be essentially rent and mortgage free in a short period of time. I hoped that I could live for at least one more year (hoping for two) on the boat saving that money to make a down payment on something else. Then, I could rent the houseboat and diversify my income.

So, while I did dream of living aboard in Southeast Alaska for over 15 years and I worked hard to make that a reality, I’d actually given up that dream long before I found and purchase this boat. Funny how our dreams can sometimes be fulfilled. This purchase wasn’t to fulfill some crazy adventure or romantic idea I’d nurtured. It was a hard assessment of reality in the locale I’d chosen to live. It was something I actually had the means to do. It was available.

There are occasionally trailer houses that come up for less than fifty thousand, but not often, and the lot rent is at least $500 from what I’ve seen. (I have a friend who has an RV that he lives in and his space rent is $500.) Moorage is just over $200 a month for me and includes water. (Lot rents usually include water and sometimes cable as well.)

And honestly, I found many advantages to this life over a trailer house. (Note, there isn’t the trailer park stigma here like there is in so many other places. Housing is so hard to find, most of us consider ourselves lucky to have a place, even more so to OWN a place.)

Trailers are technically mobile, but the reality is, most never move. My boat is actually mobile. I can move this to another coastal community and still live pretty nicely.  I can anchor up somewhere and have virtually no monthly housing expenses. I personally love, love, love the wooden docks, the smell of the tide, and the water. There’s something that appeals to my soul.

I’d love to hear from you. If you have further questions, please comment!