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Questions on "taking the (houseboat) plunge
Old 07-08-2005, 02:59 PM   #1
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Questions on "taking the (houseboat) plunge

Last year, entirely on a lark, I put my name on the local marina's list of people waiting for a liveaboard berth.* My Navy background notwithstanding, I am clueless about living aboard, but the woman assured me that the wait could be "forever" as berths were in high demand.*

I figured my name would come up in 6-8 years or so, when I was retired.* I could rent out my (expensive, Northern California) house to cover the mortgage, stay in the same location among family and friends, and most important -- keep retirement living costs down in this incredibly expensive area.

Well, you guessed it, "forever" has arrived -- they have a berth with my name on it... now.* That'll teach me to cook up these schemes!* ** * Apparently, all I need now is an actual BOAT!

I've learned a lot from the internet, but I still have a few unanswered questions* Any help from former or current sailors out there would be most appreciated:

Q:* I've seen houseboats with fiberglass, steel, wood, or cement hulls (cement floats?* * Who knew?).* What's best for brackish water (in the San Francisco bay, but at the mouth of a river -- water is semi-salty, I'm told.)

Q:* How often do you need to haul the boat out to scrape / paint / whatever?

Q:* How do you make sure you don't buy yourself a rock?* (I've seen TWO grubby little boats sitting on the bottom in the marina in the last two years -- Yikes!!! The very WORST water leak in a land-based house can't be as bad as that!)

Q:* If I wanted to move this thing to Wash or Oregon sometime in the future, would it be possible to get a flatbed to haul it and would that be unreasonably expensive?* (yeah, I suppose I could "drive" it up from here (note the technical seagoing language here), but I'm not sure "houseboat" and "Pacific Ocean Cruise" belong in the same sentence.

Q:* What's the best resource for boning up on these issues real quick like?

Any and all wisdom would be most appreciated -- thank you kindly.
Caroline
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Re: Questions on "taking the (houseboat) plunge
Old 07-08-2005, 04:48 PM   #2
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Re: Questions on "taking the (houseboat) plunge

Conga Rats
I'll give a shot at your questions.

Q: I've seen houseboats with fiberglass, steel, wood, or cement hulls (cement floats? Who knew?). What's best for brackish water (in the San Francisco bay, but at the mouth of a river -- water is semi-salty, I'm told.)

Keep away from wood. Fiberglass and cement is the least maintenance. Steel is little more.
Ferrocement is probably the cheapest material - the problem with it is that there is no way to determine if the boat will hold one more year or 30 more years.

Q: How often do you need to haul the boat out to scrape / paint / whatever?

Need to? If you are not going anywhere - never
Want to? depends - in warm water (like Florida) you will get "a beard" every few months even if you use a good antifouling paint.
For a houseboat in SF I would guess maybe one every two years?

Q: How do you make sure you don't buy yourself a rock? (I've seen TWO grubby little boats sitting on the bottom in the marina in the last two years -- Yikes!!! The very WORST water leak in a land-based house can't be as bad as that!)

A1: Make friends with liveaboards in your marina.
A2: Hire a competent surveyor.

Q: If I wanted to move this thing to Wash or Oregon sometime in the future, would it be possible to get a flatbed to haul it and would that be unreasonably expensive? (yeah, I suppose I could "drive" it up from here (note the technical seagoing language here), but I'm not sure "houseboat" and "Pacific Ocean Cruise" belong in the same sentence.

Unless you can keep the beam less than 8'6" (impractical for a houseboat) you would need a wide load permit and it will cost a lot of money.

I personally wouldn't take a houseboat for a Pacific coastal cruise (but would have not problems doing ICW on the East Coast), but there are plenty sailboats which I would.

Q: What's the best resource for boning up on these issues real quick like?

A1. talk to your marina liveaboards
A2: internet , especially liveaboard lists and groups
http://www.irbs.com/lists/live-aboard/
http://www.irbs.com/directory/Dmoz/Living_Aboard/
http://www.livingaboard.com/


Also to see if you are not faint of heart try a liveaboard simulator (really recommended reading):
http://www.sexton.com/liveaboard.html


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Re: Questions on "taking the (houseboat) plunge
Old 07-08-2005, 05:49 PM   #3
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Re: Questions on "taking the (houseboat) plunge

There is a big difference between being a live-aboard on a boat, and living on a house boat.* My son & wife own a marina, boat yard and floating home site in Oregon so I have opinions.* She and he are CMA grads so they know boats.

If you are buying a floating home you need to think about the supporting structure.. the foundation.* Logs are not in and of themselves bad, but they are subject to predation by water creatures (beavers to start with).* Concrete floats ARE NOT good.* For one thing they are a problem to fix.* They do absorb water.* There are plastic tubs that are very strong.* The advantage is that you can balast them.* There is a firm in the Vancouver WA area that makes good floats.* Sea creatures also like to climb up in the floor joists and nest, you need those protected.* While floating homes can be moved, they are not sea worthy.*

If you are going to be a live aboard (live on a boat) you need to find a surveyor that all the brokers hate.* DO NOT buy a boat that has sunk, ever, unless you own a boatyard.* My son likes SOME fiberglass boats (manufacturer and year specific) and many steel boats.* Find out what your local boat yards can handle as all need to go into the yard periodically for maintance.* Just like buying a car, ask about the vessel's maintaince history.* If it hasn't been hauled out regularly it's hull is a pig in a poke.* Some boatyards take short cuts, some boat owners do like wise.*

IMHO the vacation type house boats that are used on lakes are not suitable for ocean use, and not wise to use in many instances on rivers.* I would never take one out to sea or use them on the Columbia around Hood River, for example.*

Commercial boat transport isn't all that expensive.* If you find the perfect boat in Bellingham the broker can get quotes to your destination.

Boat yard time is subject to change as problems are uncovered.* If you live aboard prepare to rent a travel trailer and hang loose (wise to be done in the off season).

Consulting with your local live-aboards is called "Going to the Church of the Old Salts".* Attend regularly.
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Re: Questions on "taking the (houseboat) plunge
Old 07-10-2005, 03:37 PM   #4
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Re: Questions on "taking the (houseboat) plunge

There is a magazine called houseboating that has some nice articles on living on a houseboat. There is an on line house boat site also.
House boats can be moved over land not cheap but it is done on regular basis.
Houseboat living can be fun but cramped the folks around marinas and docks can be lots of fun but sometimes don't know when to knock it off and go to bed.
As far as houseboats go there aren't many made of wood anymore unless your talking about a floating home, a whole different subject. I would stay away from cement and steel fiberglass or GRP is best because boat yards know what to do to fix it. Getting hauled and the bottom cleaned is something that depends on the growth rate in your area and what kind of bottom paint you use what ever you use it will be expensive. If you are never going anywhere just have the bottom scraped by a diver a couple of times a year. Talk to folks who are living on board also there is a mag called living aboard and they are on the net too.
From what I hear it can be a wonderful experience.
Kitty
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Re: Questions on "taking the (houseboat) plunge
Old 07-10-2005, 11:57 PM   #5
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Re: Questions on "taking the (houseboat) plunge

If you live aboard a boat it is cost effective to sail a week or two each in fresh and salt water annually. The creatures that live on the hull in each enviornment will expire... a cheap hull wash-down.
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Re: Questions on "taking the (houseboat) plunge
Old 07-11-2005, 03:27 PM   #6
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Re: Questions on "taking the (houseboat) plunge

Sailor, Brat, and Kitty:

Many, MANY thanks for the great wisdom! I learned more from this one post than from a couple of hours of surfing and, given my carpal tunnel, I paid a lot less for it, too!

I especially loved the liveaboard simulator -- sounds like it's a tad more work to liveaboard than to maintain an apartment, etc. I have a few worries as to whether I could handle it with a full-time job, etc., but once retired, no worries! If I can backpack for a week without a shower or head, this shouldn't be TOO much trouble.

Anyway, thanks again, all of you, for sharing your knowledge!

Take care,
Caroline


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Re: Questions on "taking the (houseboat) plunge
Old 07-12-2005, 06:36 PM   #7
 
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Re: Questions on "taking the (houseboat) plunge

I don't have any basis for this, but my gut feeling is that you'd have a very interesting experience, but that financially and aesthetically, it wouldn't turn out that great, and you'd move in a few years.

What I'd do is interview every other resident there (are we talking about the Sausolito colony?), and see how they like it.
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Re: Questions on "taking the (houseboat) plunge
Old 07-12-2005, 08:26 PM   #8
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Re: Questions on "taking the (houseboat) plunge

Quote:
What I'd do is interview every other resident there (are we talking about the Sausolito colony?), and see how they like it.
Great suggestion, TromboneAl -- I've put a flyer up at the marina offering lunch to any liveaboard who will do a data dump for me.

As to Sausalito -- I should BE so lucky to get a berth over there. Try an old, retired military base in the north bay.

Thanks!
Martha
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Re: Questions on "taking the (houseboat) plunge
Old 07-12-2005, 08:40 PM   #9
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Re: Questions on "taking the (houseboat) plunge

Contact the sailor who vacated the slip they are offering you, that would be a more interesting conversation!

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