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Houseboat Homes - Part Two of the Fantasy Homes Series

Updated on September 7, 2010

Living in a Houseboat - Sausalito Floating Homes

Sausalito Houseboat Tour

Fantasy Homes - Houseboats are No. Two on My Wish List

About the same time I was fantasizing about treehouse homes in the early 1970s (see my hub Part 1 of Fantasy Home Series ) I moved from the mountain forests to a small coastal town in Marin Co. California where I learned about many new ways to live and homes to live in. I met a couple fisher/boat folk who lived in houseboats on Sausalito Bay right over the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco. I never got to see the inside of their floating homes, but they told me some fabulous stories about riding out winter storms, springing leaks, waging battles with local and state authorities over permits and taxes, and keeping children, dogs and cats happy on houseboats. It all sounded romantic and even though it would probably be a lot of work to maintain one, houseboats became No. 2 on my wish list of fantasy homes.

When I lived briefly in San Francisco I would often take the bus over the Golden Gate to Sausalito and spend an idyllic afternoon exploring the shops, restaurants and the wharf there, all the while gazing wistfully at the boat-homes and their people. I spent some time in the No Name Bar listening to fishermen and boat people talk their own lingo. After I moved to Marin County I spent less time in Sausalito because I lived near beaches and ocean and spent a lot of time with the coastal people of West Marin, almost entirely away from the tourist scene.I lived in the anti-tourist town of Bolinas, and maybe I’ll tell you about that some day.

But I still carried this fantasy with me of at least vacationing on a houseboat someday.

I was told one time, by a fellow who was trying to seduce me to come spend a weekend at his place on the water in Sausalito, that he staggered home drunk as a skunk one spring night, passed out in his bed, and during the night a huge storm came up. He didn’t wake up through all the thunder, lightning and wave action, until the next afternoon's calm woke him to find that during the night his watery home had escaped its mooring. He was floating in the middle of the bay! with his house listing to port! I didn’t know whether to believe him or not. He said it took a tugboat to bring him back to safety, where his boat cat was waiting patiently on the dock. But that was enough to convince me NOT to spend time with him at his house! Now I wish I hadn’t missed my chance to spend a night on board a houseboat.

Sausalito houseboats are well-known for their legal hassles with the state and the city of Sausalito over sewage, water connections, and taxes. The state finally won their battle and now charges them a “shadow tax” based the land included in the shadow of their boat as being the “improved land”. They are legally designated as “float homes” which does not sound as romantic to me as the term houseboats.  The last I heard was that they still don't have the permanent OK from all authorities and must renew their battles periodically.

I include some exterior photos of Sausalito's floating homes here - but unfortunately I have no interior shots of these private homes.

Lake Union houseboat, Seattle, Washington
Lake Union houseboat, Seattle, Washington
Dal Lake houseboat, Srinigar
Dal Lake houseboat, Srinigar

Vacation Houseboats

Of course, one can easily rent a houseboat on many lakes in the U.S. and find out what living on one would be like.  In California I have heard that Lake Shasta (see link below) has some great two-story houseboat rentals that will sleep ten or more people for a week or more of lazy fishing, exploring the lake’s little coves and sunning yourself.

Now that sounds good to me, find 8 friends, get them all together at the same time, for about $300 each and some yummy gourmet food!    . . . for maybe a couple days, after that I think I would be ready to swim to shore to get away from my companions. I’m not used to spending so much time in such close quarters with so many of my friends (if I could even persuade them to come along)  By the end of the week I would need to find 8 to 10 NEW friends to replace them!  But, if I win the lottery or something, I think I could handle a week or two with a couple very close buddies out there on the water.

I include here a photo of a beautiful little houseboat from Lake Union in Seattle, Washington. I know nothing at all about it, but it looks inviting, doesn’t it? Seattle also has a fairly large community of floating homes, along with some vacation rentals there.

And another one, a real beauty from Dal Lake in Srinagar where the boat people make their homes beautiful with colorful wood carved paneling . The finest are vacation homes decorated with luxury furniture, carpeting, modern bathrooms and kitchens and some are moored overlooking beautiful lotus gardens. You can hire houseboats there by the day and the rental includes meals and a free shuttle service back and forth to the jetty. Srinigar is in Kashmir, India - the sound of it is exotic and beguiling, if I win the lottery maybe I’ll go there (with a couple very close buddies)!

A major drawback for me and a houseboat would be the fact that I do not have a good record of boating experiences. This is after all, only a big fantasy for me, that is to say, I generally get sick after a half hour or so on a boat and stay sick until my feet touch land! But I couldn't I adapt? I like to imagine I could - especially if I had a lovely big bed with a lovely porthole so I could watch the sun and moon rise over the water!  And, perhaps, a water-tight skylight so I could view the stars and wake up with the sun. I would adapt!


Submit a Comment
  • LetitiaFT profile image


    7 years ago from Paris via California

    Houseboats are delightful and ir's so much fun to see how they differ from one area to the next. For instance, the house boats in Marin, where my sister lives, are very different from the houseboats in Paris, where I live. These are different again from those in Amsterdam and even more so, I would assume, from thosr in Kerala, India! What a choice of inspiration a houseboat owner had!

  • mega1 profile imageAUTHOR


    7 years ago

    there is so much going on now in the world of alternative houses - tiny houses, treehouses, boats, houses that go where you go, earth houses - and on and on. I have never owned a home, yet - but I dream of building my only tiny round home out of straw bales and adobe somewhere in a warm climate. It may happen yet. I wish you luck and joy with your project house and hope you get to experience a floating home!

  • GmaGoldie profile image

    Kelly Kline Burnett 

    7 years ago from Madison, Wisconsin

    When I graduated from college, I openly stated I wanted to live on a boat. I still do. Love these floating homes! Fun! Of course, the unique in me had my first honeymoon in a tree house! Another story - perhaps another hub for you? Now I live in a project house and the projects are calling. Off to the store for more paint!

  • mega1 profile imageAUTHOR


    8 years ago

    Thanks carcro, for the comment and also for following me. I love the idea of houseboats, but in reality, I guess I'd rather be on ground or in a treehouse, since I don't even swim very well! :)

  • carcro profile image

    Paul Cronin 

    8 years ago from Winnipeg

    Great hub, I saw a bunch of houseboats on the coast a few years ago, really cool. If I ever lived on the coast, I would love to have a houseboat. Love the pics, thanks for sharing! Voted Up and Interesting...

  • PaperNotes profile image


    8 years ago

    Houseboat homes are also included in my wish list!

  • Ralph Deeds profile image

    Ralph Deeds 

    9 years ago from Birmingham, Michigan

    Nice Hub. I, too have fantasized about living in the houseboats in Sausalito, Berkeley and Alameda.

  • mega1 profile imageAUTHOR


    9 years ago

    There's a certain kind of person here in U.S. who likes to make a regular looking home in unlikely places - just to see if they can, I guess. So there are houseboats, houses on wheels, on the backs of trucks, tree houses, little tiny houses and more made to look like larger, regular homes in the suburbs. Its funny and strange and I don't know why people do it when there are better designs for houses on the water etc. that adapt better to it. My favorite houseboat homes are the ones in Asia - Thailand - other warmer, watery areas which are designed just for the water, and are still lovely and roomy and comfortable. Thanks for your comment, Agvulpes, and I'm glad you liked this hub.

  • agvulpes profile image


    9 years ago from Australia

    mega1. Great Hub, we have in the past considered living on a houseboat traveling the waters that we have here in our beautiful Country. I must admit I have never seen anything like some of your houseboat in Sausalito, they look like real homes with gardens and all lol

  • mega1 profile imageAUTHOR


    9 years ago

    Hi Larry - I know they would take even more maintenance than a home on land - water does its work. Probably in researching this hub I discovered that even though they are romantic and beautiful the reality would be too much work for me! Thanks for reading and for your comment.

  • larryschnieder profile image


    9 years ago from Seattle, Washington

    These are great houses in a wonderful hub. You can just imagine the hard work necessary in keeping these houses afloat for long years. Great work of hands!

  • Kay Creates profile image

    Kay Creates 

    9 years ago from Ohio

    Fun hub. I don't think I'd want to live in one but it might be nice to rent for a vacation.

  • SummerSteward profile image


    9 years ago from Duluth MN

    I wonder how my cat would do along with my beagle who's afraid of water? Cool hub!

  • advisor4qb profile image


    10 years ago from On New Footing

    VERY Cool!

  • profile image


    10 years ago

    Dang! Aren't you just the Active Hippie! This is also a mongongously entertaining Hub! Thanks for the great read! Why am I always shouting?! Great Hub. :-)

  • mega1 profile imageAUTHOR


    10 years ago

    habee - thanks for stopping by and your comment

    psychic - laws are pretty strict, I think, like in Sausalito I think you can't locate new houseboats there, only the ones that were already there by 1980 or so can stay. thanks for stopping by and commenting

  • habee profile image

    Holle Abee 

    10 years ago from Georgia

    I've had friends with houseboats, so I've spent some time aboard them. They are so much fun!

  • profile image 

    10 years ago

    After reading this great hub, I'm wondering what the law is in my area re: living on a houseboat!

  • mega1 profile imageAUTHOR


    10 years ago

    BK - aren't they nifty, though! and that's why they're #2 on my list - but, as I say, not in bad weather!

  • BkCreative profile image


    10 years ago from Brooklyn, New York City

    I'd love to live like this - especially if the house moves gently and I can hear water lapping. Mmmmmm. I've been wanting to live on a houseboat ever since visiting Amsterdam and then looking up great deals!

    By the way in visiting Amsterdam my cousin suggested I stay in the 'Boatel' which was a hotel in a big boat right outside Centraal Station - pretty neat!

    Thanks for the hub!


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