Homemade Houseboat layout?

Discussion in 'Boat Design' started by ATR, May 17, 2006.

  1. ATR
    Joined: Apr 2006
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    Location: coastal North Carolina

    ATR Junior Member

    I had posted a question about outboard motors on a homemade houseboat, and you Boat-Designers were so helpful. (We’re considerably reassured as to the possibility of high-thrust 4-stroke outboards, despite the initial expense. The ease of installation and maintenance just seemed too good to pass up.) Of course, the reward for a job well-done is…. another job. So here’s another question.

    We’ve decided we’re tired of building pontoon segments, so we’re thinking to cut the originally planned 56x16 down to 48x16. The question is about what to put in that 48 feet. We’d appreciate thoughts on layout.

    A cruising sailor suggests putting the saloon and galley toward the stern, reasoning that people sit out on the rear deck in the evening, swinging on the hook in the lee of the wind, and that’s where we’ll spend much of our time. Having galley and seating space close by where the party is, he says, is an important consideration. Besides, he points out, “ You won’t want dripping grandchildren traipsing through your bedroom on their way to the head.” He recommends having a small comfortable seating area- maybe a futon- forward, just aft of the steering station, transformable to sleeping space for occasional guests, and head/storage/laundry/bedroom occupying the middle third.
    We figure to have a stairway along one side (up, over the bedroom, and back down) leading to the top deck and flybridge.

    How does that sound to you experienced folk? Most houseboats seem to be configured so that the saloon/galley are forward, with the steering station, and the bedrooms and heads aft. Is there a reason for that, or simply tradition?

    I look forward to hearing your recommendations.

  2. joefaber
    Joined: Sep 2005
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    joefaber Junior Member

    a good primer on houseboats is "Handmade Houseboats: Independent Living Afloat" by Russell Conder (ISBN 0071580220). it's 240 Pages cover the basics of houseboat history and design. a large portion of the book covers starting point ideas on planning the various aspects of the 'house' building. it's worth the $20.
  3. DGreenwood
    Joined: Aug 2004
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    Location: New York

    DGreenwood Senior Member

    Technically there is no reason for a houseboat to have a "front" or "back" when at anchor. I would make it so I could anchor it either way, depending on wind, view, fondness for my neighbors and many other reasons.
    As to which accomodation is forward under power. It is dependant on the typical use and the area of operation.
    I have seen galley salon areas swamped by a foot of water when an unexpected wave comes surfing through a forward sliding glass door.
    On a lake in the Arizona desert, there is little summer wind so some effort is made to funnel in as much wind as possible.
    Consider all the environmental aspects of your area. Better yet, rent some different boats and try them out. Or befriend others who are doing the same thing. They will have a story or two for you.
    I am betting that will clarify a few things for you.
    The fact is most power yachts are used mostly as houseboats, whether their owners would admit it or not. It is not altogether different, you just have the added luxury of another entranceway.

    Understand that my opinion is based on many years of sailing and cruising with only a very small amount of that time spent on houseboats.
  4. ATR
    Joined: Apr 2006
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    Location: coastal North Carolina

    ATR Junior Member

    Joe, our 'Handmade Houseboats' book is so dog-eared we're going to have to eventually shell out for another. Or write our own sequel to it.

    DG, Thanks! Hm. Hadn't considered the swamping thought. We do intend to try to rent a houseboat for a couple of days sometime after the 'high' season, to see if this whole project was a good idea or not. As our home waters, the Albemarle Sound and tributaries, can sometimes kick up a pretty fair chop, we'll probably stick to anchoring pointy-end forward-- understand being 'pooped' is a good way to ruin one's day.
  5. marshmat
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    Location: Ontario

    marshmat Senior Member

    Hi Amelia,
    The layout you describe in your first post is about what I'd think to put in such a craft, too. Having a big forward area open is nice in calm, but when the seas whip up it's nice to have a full wall in front of you. If you like the forward-common-areas layout, put the door to the bow in the side, rather than in the front, so you don't take as much spray/waves into the boat. This layout does keep the captain in the middle of the party, which can be fun, but it's good to have the bar (if you install one) somewhere away from the wheelhouse. Having the separated layout gives people the choice of a quieter environment in the wheelhouse and a more raucous party aft.
    The helm needs to be forward of course, and having some convertible seating up there is good as captains do get lonely otherwise. I would put large sliding side windows, and an outward-swinging door to the bow.
    Having a galley and saloon aft is quite convenient- I'd suggest a big pair of sliding glass doors to the aft deck, leaving a nice wide passage when open. You might lay it out so the aft deck and galley/saloon act as one room when the doors are open.
    One of the nice things about having sleeping etc. in the middle is that this area of the boat has the least violent pitching motions and so is a lot more comfortable than the bow or extreme stern when you're trying to sleep in wavy weather.
  6. Eric Sponberg
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    Eric Sponberg Senior Member

    Amelia and all,

    I have recently designed a series of "floating homes" for Flagler Beach Marina in Flagler Beach, Florida (just south of St. Augustine) which you might find of interest. I have just posted information on my website at:


    We call these floating homes because they do not have propulsion power. They are meant to me moored only in a marina. By not having installed power, the purchase price and maintenance costs are considerably lower. To move them, they could be towed or powered by a smaller boat tied alongside.

    I hope you find these of interest. Let me know if you have any questions.


  7. george allard
    Joined: Jul 2005
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    george allard Junior Member

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