Towable houseboats give you the best of both worlds

I've had a towable houseboat and it gave me best of both worlds: A home on the water and a movable home on the land.

A houseboat is a boat that provides most of the functions of a normal house, although usually in a smaller package and in a form that floats. Some are moored permanently, some move around on the water. For me, the most flexible and wonderful are the towable houseboats.

A towable house boat is just a houseboat that can go on a trailer or on the back of a truck to be relocated to another body of water.

Most houseboats have outdoor areas as part of the boat and these may be still usable when you are using it on the land as a caravan or travel trailer.

Ours had a roof deck which meant that we could use it as a viewing platform when we went to sporting and other events. The roof gave us almost double the living area that we had with just the downstairs part.

The boat had a combined kitchen, dining and steering cabin at the front or bow.

Behind that was a large cabin with a lounge on each side. One became a pair of single bunks. The other became a double bed.

Behind that was a good-sized bathroom on one side and a storage and services area with batteries and other support gear there.

The passageway between the bathroom and service area led onto a roofed rear deck area which was open on three sides and was large enough for several people to sleep on a hot summer night. It was a great place to sit and eat, catch fish, look at the changing view or just be.

A ladder led up from that onto the roof deck which was almost the full length and width of the boat. Up here you could fish, lounge, catch the view, dive, and even sleep on a not summer night. There was also a solar water heater for the shower.

The boat was roomy enough for a family of two adults and two teenagers and could accommodate more with very little adjustment, particularly in summer.

Obviously there are compromises such as:

  • Because a houseboat is a boxy shape rather than a cruiser shape or streamlined shape, it is bulky and often heavy and this makes for a rougher ride on the water. Most towable houseboats are not particularly good in rough water. If you're happy to take your boat on calm waters or accept thumping and bumping when you take it on rougher waters, you can have a great time afloat. Rough-water or ocean-going houseboats tend not to be towable because they are even larger and heavier and are too much to tow.
  • Because of the boxy shape, the bulk and the weight, towing a houseboat on the road is more difficult and usually more wearing on the driver and tow vehicle. Most towable houseboats weigh a couple of tons or more and thus require a large or powerful towing vehicle.
  • When you are not using it as a boat - just as a land yacht - you'll probably still be carrying around a motor and fuel that you're not using. This adds to the weight and complications.
  • The trailer is quite heavy compared to a chassis for a similar-sized caravan or travel trailer.
  • A towable houseboat is unsuited to rough tracks, the length of the trailer makes it very difficult to go over large bumps and around tight turns, because of the height of the boat, the bottom of the trailer tends to be as low as possible to keep the overall height down and this limits clearance on bumps and in ruts.
  • On corrugated roads the weight and corrugations combine to give tires a punishing ride and increase the risk of a blowout.
  • Plus there is usually an outboard motor attached to the transom or rear of the boat and on rough roads this is bouncing up and down, and even with a strut or strap or both to minimize these, the impact is significant.

Our towable houseboat had all these negative aspects, but it was still a wonderful RV on land and a great water holiday boat.

It was a dog in rough waters and on narrow roads. The boat was 6.5 m (21 feet) long and 2.4 m (8 foot) wide and around 3.2 m (11 feet) high. This made it a handful on roads where lanes got narrow , such as in many situations we took it in. It required a high level of concentration and used a lot of fuel getting to and from the water. On the water it used a fair bit as well, because it had a very square bow or front which pushed the water rather than cut through it.

Because at the time I lived two hours from the water and about 700 m (2200 feet) above sea level, every weekend trip involved traveling on major highways and through some heavy suburban traffic on major arterial roads. And then back.

But we had a lot of fun on it, it provided us with a great living space, some great experiences and helped me to choose my next RV and get something much closer to what I wanted.

The kids loved driving the boat and it was good experience for them, including a couple of interesting incidents that helped them to develop the skills to handle emergency situations better.

We could fish from it, and this provided us with some food and excitement.

We could drop anchor almost anywhere to watch the world go by.

We could stay the night in a different spot each night and there were no camping fees, this was waterborne boondocking.

And there's nothing quite as peaceful as being rocked to sleep in a boat on a quiet waterway with just you and the kids. It's peaceful, refreshing, connected with nature and certainly builds resilience and connection in the family.

There is no hull cleaning involved as there is with most other houseboats. This is because the hull does not grow any barnacles or weed if you pull it out of the water between trips rather than leave it in.

For most towable houseboats, launch and retrieval do not take a lot of time.

Towable houseboats are a fabulous way to have an RV that can go on land and water and be usable for emergency accommodation, as a bug-out vehicle and as an escape pod.

There are extra costs and time in fuel and maintenance, but the benefits are dramatically increased. If a towable houseboat fits into your life, it can be an ideal multipurpose RV.

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