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13 Things You Need to Know Before You Get on a Houseboat

Updated on April 25, 2017

Need to rent a room?

I did.

I checked out Airbnb, and when I put in my zip code, an option I hadn’t expected came up.

A houseboat.

The listing described it as an RV on the water.

It was only me, and I’d only been on two boats before in my life.

This was my chance.

It was an awesome experience, and one I’d recommend to anyone.

But there are a few things I wish I’d known before I’m climbed aboard.

One. Get over any vertigo before you go.

And make sure you’re not afraid of falling into the water.

And make sure that you know how to swim.

Nothing makes you feel steady like walking down a thin dock.

I can’t swim, so maybe this is just me, but I wish I had a life jacket when I take that long walk, especially when my hands are full.

The final step onto the boat wasn’t too bad since the owners here installed a little step, but even with that, I looked down into that sliver of water and knew that, somehow, I’ll fall down there, get trapped between the boat and the dock, and drown.

Even if you’re not properly afraid of falling off the dock, be afraid for your phone. Hold onto that thing with a death grip!

Two. Be prepared for movement

You knew it moved, right? It’s a boat. Boats move.

But did you know it moves all the time?

The more the winds pick up, the more it bounces and sways.

The bumpers around it at the dock? They’re there for a reason.

At first, I thought the constant movement was cool. I’ve never had a problem before with seasickness, and this was docked.

No problem.

Except that sitting at the table meant that I’d see constant movement of the water next to me.

It felt like when you’re waiting for your plane to move, but instead the plane next to you moves, and it feels like you’re moving for a second, but then you realize that it’s not you moving – it’s them.

That feeling.

All the time.

Three. Enjoy the spooky noises.

You’re on a boat, so it’s not exactly going to be silent.

There is movement in the water. Movement at other boats docked nearby. Movement of the wind.

Those movement noises are not the same as the movement noises in a house.

Sometimes, when it’s late and dark and there aren’t really any people wandering around on their boats or the dock…it’s super quiet, like you’re in a sound-proof room.

Except for those occasional spooky noises.

Until you turn the AC on.

Four. Bring clothes for all four seasons.

It gets cold.

It gets hot.

I kept all the doors open. Abaft, aboard, aft, alee, amidships, aport, ashore, astern, athwarships…really, I have no idea how to describe them. They were at the front and back, and they let in a lot of air.

I also kept all the windows open.

It was nice and chilly (for Texas). Outside, inside. Nice and pleasant.

Logically, when it gets colder outside, it should get colder inside, right?

Not on a houseboat.

When I went back to sleep, I had the AC off.

I woke up at 3:30 in the morning, soaked through with sweat, having escaped from a nightmare about being in Hell with Dante.

Word to the wise: turn on the AC before going to bed. Especially if you’re in Texas.

Five. Don’t be afraid of the dark.

Or bring some flashlights.

It gets dark.

Really dark.

You’re on the water. There aren’t too many occupied boats around you. And the boat you’re on? Well, don’t plan on doing any open heart surgery on there.

There aren’t too many lights on the boat, and the ones that are there aren’t too bright.

I don’t know if this is normal, but the boat I was on had lights that you could flip to clear (and semi-bright) to red (and not at all bright).

I’m still not sure why they were in the boat then, unless it was a signal to the sailors around that you’re open for business.

Six. Play hide and go seek.

Everything hides from you.

Which is actually kind of cool.

Pop-up drawers. Sunken sinks. Beds that transform from tables.

It gives you something to explore in the dark.

I appreciate the fact that space is so well used.

The owners said that it was like a floating RV, but I think it’s more like an IKEA mini house. Except that the boat doesn’t have people wandering through eating Swedish meatballs.


Seven. Avoid touching things if you don’t know what they do.

In the little kitchenette area of the house boat, there was a mysterious panel.

I don’t know what else to say here.

I was afraid to pull on/touch/move any of the switches because I was afraid I’d be summoning something or someone from the deep.

Which one calls for Aquaman?

Eight. Keep clean and practice your contortionist skills.

Like everything else on board, the shower is meant to save space.

To be fair, it’s big enough for two…anorexic midgets with agoraphobia.

I’m five foot two. The shower head was an inch over my head.

And the water came out with all the force of a 75 year old man with prostate issues.

I would say that I’d expect more water pressure because I was *in* the water, but, let’s think about it – who would want to shower in the marina water?

Nine. Howard Hughes would love the head.

(That’s toilet to all you land lubbers.)

The bathroom is about the size of the shower.

The best part?

You get to save your toilet paper! Your *used* toilet paper.

It’s going into a tank, and that tank can’t handle anything that “you haven’t eaten first.” Anything and everything else has to be put somewhere until you’re able to throw it away properly.

In the case of the boat I was on, they provided a little metal canister next to the toilet. (I promise you, it only feels gross the first time.)

If you can’t handle it, though, you can head up to the marina toilet.

Ten. It’s a long walk to the land-locked bathroom.

Can’t keep your tp?

That’s cool – there’s a marina bathroom.

A marina bathroom that’s all the way down the dock.

Bad enough during the day, but at night, you’re relying on the lights down the dock, which don’t provide quite as much illumination as you’d probably like, especially because there are weird noises in the water.

If you are going through the day, though, it’s still not a cakewalk.

Once you get there, you have to unlock the bathroom with a code. It took me at least three tries to get it to work. Not exactly the situation I want to be in because by the time I’ve taken the walk down the dock, I really need to get in there.

Once you do get in, you realize that all the lights are on one of those spinning timers. You set it, and then you go to the toilet and sit in a windowless room, wondering if you accidentally set it for too few minutes or if it’s broken, and any second, you’ll be sitting there in the dark.

Eleven. Sleep is for the weak.

Actually, that’s not true.

I found the rocking to actually be calming.

A friend I know who lives on her boat told me that she never has insomnia, and I can believe it.

But the bedroom amenities are interesting.

Like a super-weirdly shaped bed. It started its life as a block of thin foam, cut into the size of a full bed. Then someone cut off a chunk of it, thinking that no one actually needs a complete bed. A full bed is an extravagance.

On the plus side, there are poles everywhere, in case you want to get your kink on.

Twelve. Sex!

Unlike the beach, you don’t get sand in hard to reach places. ‘Nuff said.

Thirteen. Resist the urge to take it out to sea!

Resist it.

Especially if you’re like me and have no idea how to drive a boat. (Or is it steer a boat? Navigate a boat? Make the boat go putt-putt?)

There are all these rules and laws and police officers and coast guard responders and…well.

Trust me on this one.

It’s not a good idea.


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    • KatSanger profile image

      Katherine Sanger 7 months ago from Texas

      Mary - Just be prepared for the bathroom! :)

    • KatSanger profile image

      Katherine Sanger 7 months ago from Texas

      Travel-Wise: It was a great experience, and one I recommend for anyone!

    • Blond Logic profile image

      Mary Wickison 7 months ago from Brazil

      So glad I found this post. My husband and I have been seriously considering buying a sailboat and becoming liveaboards.

      I love your description of the water pressure in the shower!

      Well written, and humorous.

    • Travel-Wise profile image

      Travel-Wise 7 months ago

      Hahah this is a fantastic post! I don't know that I would be brave enough for a houseboat but I love that you've outlined all the things to help someone be more prepared. It sounds like you had a fun on-the-water adventure!

      I'm glad you didn't fall in!