My Introduction to Small Houseboats

I’m an outdoors kind of guy. I’ve lived in Ontario for most of my life. I’m a middle ager now and I have kids who also like to be outdoors. A long time ago I started to visit friends’ cottages just North of Toronto where I grew up. In those days lots of kids’ parents had cottages. Toronto itself lies on the North shore of Lake Ontario. In Ontario we have hundreds of thousands of lakes. So what does all this have to do with houseboats you ask?

You might think that because a region has lots of water, that everyone who might want to access the water would be able to do so. Unfortunately, in Southern Ontario where most people live, prices of recreational properties have sky-rocketed. A typical cottage property has risen from $50,000 to several hundred thousand dollars over the past 20 years. I live in a small city called Peterborough which lies on the Trent Severn Waterway. This is a series of rivers, lakes and canals connected to allow navigation throughout a large region of Southern Ontario. We’re about an hour and a half north of Toronto.

This year I decided looking into houseboats as a viable option for spending time on the water. You don’t see too many houseboats here and when you do, the boats tend to be rental units. People rent these houseboats for a few days or a week and travel around the system of rivers and lakes in our region. Through the internet I learned that in other regions of the world, houseboating is very common and people even live on their boats year round.

The first thing I wanted to find out was how expensive it would be to put a houseboat on the water and to moor it (to dock the boat) at a place close to home. I put a small ad up on Kijiji, (an on-line classified) seeking a spot to moor the boat for the summer. In a short time I was offered four locations from Marina operators (and one cottager who had dock space). I chose the location on a lake which was close to a favourite town of ours called Buckhorn, only a half hour from home. The resort is gorgeous and the cost for mooring for the summer is an amazing $500.00 for the season. The other locations all averaged around $800. for the season, still, a great deal for season-long access to the water.

So what about the boat? Well, I looked around on the classifieds to check out a reasonable houseboat but I soon found that they aren’t cheap. A nice, small houseboat, even used, starts at about $7,000 and you can easily spend much more. So, I started looking into the option of building a boat from scratch. I found that a pontoon approach would be the most effective and least costly. For more on houseboat pontoons, platform and cabin design, check out my website link, located at the bottom of the article. After researching all the aspects of putting a boat together from scratch, I found out that we could put a nice 20 x 10 foot boat together for under $5000.00.

On-line, I found out that houseboating is very popular in locations around the world. In England, many people have resided in canal and river houseboats for decades. In Asia, of course, the junks and sampans have been a way of life for centuries. Amsterdam in the Nertherlands has an urban canal houseboat community. Houseboats are common throughout Eastern Europe. There are remarkable structures — restaurants, houses and all sizes of houseboats found floating around the world. The world’s largest floating restaurant is called the Jumbo and is found in Hong Kong.

My family and I are about to join the boating world through recreational houseboating. I didn’t realize how cost-effective it would be to build a small houseboat from scratch and to dock it at a location close to home. The houseboating world is full of amazing structures. There are individuals renting boats for a week long vacation and residential boat communities where people reside year round. All in all, we’ll be joining a floating world and we can’t wait to get on board.

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