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Luxury On the Water: The New Breed of Houseboat

Here at Rightboat.com we’ve always found it fascinating just what the word ‘leisure boat’ can mean. This little term can be used to describe anything from a 6 foot (2 metre) fishing skiff with an outboard engine, to a 300 foot (100 metre) superyacht. Plus the huge line-up of everything in between. So when we think about the concept of living on a boat, the images and ideas it can conjure are seemingly endless. Some will imagine sailing the world on a sailboat or catamaran, living the transient and adventurous lifestyle. Others will envisage a more static life on an inland waterway tucked up in a cosy canal boat. The reality is both of these options, plus a whole host of ones you may not have even considered. We’re talking converted barges, spacious trawlers, wide-beam canal boats and luxury water mansions.

Living on a boat is fast gaining popularity across the world. As cities fill up, and prime real estate is at a growing premium, the water offers an extended space where boats, whether static or not, can create magnificent and surprisingly spacious homes. Water-friendly cities such as Amsterdam, London and Portland are paving the way for this new lifestyle, and the current is certainly changing when it comes to modern, contemporary designs centred around spacious living.

Back to Basics: Life on a Houseboat

Before looking at what boats are available to live on, the first thing you need to consider is whether living on a boat is right for you? The benefits are tantalising; a relaxed and unhurried lifestyle, a healthier way of life filled with fresh air and exercise, and a connection to nature, wildlife and the seasons. Add to that an often lower cost of living and a strong sense of community of like-minded people and the picture is certainly alluring. On the flip side, many smaller traditional boats such as sailboats or narrow boats, have a lack of space and require a constant maintenance programme. Other people’s perceptions of those who live on houseboats can affect you, and inclement weather and insects are an added consideration. Yet a new breed of on-water vessels are remedying some of these perceived downsides, with ever-increasing luxury and innovation. So if life bobbing on a sailboat in a marina doesn’t quite whet your appetite, then you may be pleasantly surprised at some other options in store.

Life on the Water: Which Boats Can you Live on?

Quite simply, you can live on almost any boat. You might find it cramped, but it’s doable. Sailing boats remain one of the most popular types of live aboard choices the world over, their slim line profiles meaning moorings are easier to find, and their economical purchase and maintenance prices making them appealing. They provide the freedom to travel, yet they have their limitations when it comes to space, especially on smaller models, and many modern conveniences will have to be forfeited. Canal boats and narrowboats, especially in the UK, are equally popular permanent residences, and as they measure up to 20 metres in length they provide more living space than a sailboat. However, they live up to their names and at about 6 feet 10 inches (2.08 metres) storage and personal space is at a premium. So what are your other choices when it comes to a more spacious life on the water?

Wide Beam Canal Boats: Expanding the Interior Living Space

These are a great option for those wanting the extra space which a traditional narrowboat simply can’t offer. At 13 feet (4 metres) wide, and with full-sized kitchens, appliances and multiple bedrooms with fixed beds (versus beds which convert from tables) they can be customised to suit your lifestyle and choices. However, because of their size, they cannot fit along all canals and through the locks so their cruising area is limited. If you’re looking for space and comfort in a more static environment however, these types of boats are excellent value for money.

Converted Barges: A Blank Canvas for Open-Plan Living

In addition to wide beam canal boats, there is an impressive array of converted barges, both English and Dutch, on the market. These types of boats can range from 40 feet (12 metres) to 120 feet (36 metres) in length, with the larger models suitable only on rivers, or as static structures. Once again, barges offer an impressive amount of internal space, and the on-land trend of open-plan living is seeing a huge boom in the design of newly converted barges. From huge skylights allowing natural light to flood in, to wood burners, open-plan kitchen and living spaces, hard wood flooring, and contemporary, minimalist décor, they offer a sophisticated and spacious style of living.

Trawlers: Contemporary Chic on a Compact, Ocean-Going Vessel

Trawlers are a unique type of powerboat designed for long distance cruising and perfectly suited to living on. While their origins can be traced back to commercial fishing boats – and there is plenty of these full- displacement, ballasted hull models still in operation - modern trawlers are a very different animal. Wide hulls, less draft, below-deck headroom and plenty of space for mod cons make these a hugely popular choice. You’ll find full-sized kitchens, showers, and multi-level living space, especially on the larger models. In fact, they don’t even need to be that much longer – a 35-foot (10 metre) trawler is much roomier than a 35-foot (10 metre) sailboat, for example.

New and converted trawlers are cropping up everywhere, and the modern designs are a far cry from the fishing vessels they once were. Décor is often penthouse chic, bringing cosmopolitan living to the open ocean. Reminiscent of superyachts, trawlers offer spacious interiors with huge windows and double doors, as well as plenty of deck space for alfresco living.

Prime Real Estate and Luxury Houseboats

Architects have unleashed their imaginations with a new range of luxurious, creative and innovative designs for static houseboats and powered houseboats, which push the boundaries of water living. These bespoke creations can have a high price tag, especially when found in the heart of some of the world’s most desirable cities. Static houseboats offer architects the opportunity to be ultra-creative, as they are unhindered by the regulations of marine engineering, yet you’ll find houseboats of all size and movability. Imagine floor-to-ceiling windows facing out over the water, roaring fireplaces and rooftop hot tubs.

Hugely spacious, houseboats are popping up everywhere from California to the Czech Republic and Australia. In Dubai, the revolutionary Floating Seahorse vessels have underwater bedrooms for an incredible and immersive ocean experience. In London’s St Catherine’s Dock, in the heart of the city, converted steel barges boast open-plan, two-storey living with panoramic views, a suite of luxury conveniences and even gardens.

Start Your Search

Whether you want to embark on the journey of converting a barge, are in the market to buy a new houseboat, or want to set sail on a trawler, Rightboat.com has a vast collection of boats, both used and new boats and yachts for sale. Get connected with Boat brokers and private vendors all around the world to sell your boats, and discover the endless possibilities for living a completely new – but uncompromised and luxurious – life on the water.



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Written By: Samantha Wilson

Samantha Wilson has spent her entire life on and around boats, from tiny sailing dinghies all the way up to superyachts. She writes for many boating and yachting publications, top charter agencies, and some of the largest travel businesses in the industry, combining her knowledge and passion of boating, travel and writing to create topical, useful and engaging content.

Get in touch:Linkedin

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