Summer boating is not what you might expect in Florida. The daily downpours and sheer ferocity of lightning quickly puts a damper on any ideas of a quick trip after work or a nice sunset cruise. Mornings are somewhat better, but even they have been hampered by wet, windy weather this year.
The weather forecast must’ve been good last Sunday, because I was surrounded by boats on trailers as I gassed up at the local station. One was a newish bow-rider. Brightly colored with lots of seats and a sturdy V bottom, this boat was ready to take its owners on a fun filled trip with a possible beaching at a rookery or small island for a lunch picnic.
The second boat was a sportsman’s fancy. Tall seats with pole carriers and multiple hatches for bait and catches promised a great day of fishing.
The third boat was a mystery to me. Old in style, it had a look unto itself. It was closed off like a cabin cruiser, but was too boxy to be that. It had what looked like to be a W bottom, so it couldn’t be made for deep water and rough waves. It looked too luxurious for a fishing boat, and yet it seemed too small for houseboat. What was it? Being probably the only person on the planet who doesn’t have a smart phone or cell internet, I went home and looked it up.
It was a Sea Camper.
A Sea Camper was a unique boat experiment in the late 60’s to mid 70’s. The idea behind it was to have a houseboat that more stable than those on pontoons and yet small enough to be towed and used as a travel trailer. Basically it was intended to be the VW campervan of the boat world.
At 24 feet in length, it was easy to tow and the boxiness of it allowed for good headroom and lots of living space inside.
These boats weren’t cheap though. In an era of $4,500 Trans Ams and $10,000 Eldorados, the Sea Camper would cost you $50,000. To put in in another way, you could have that one boat at $50K or roughly six Jaguar Series III E-Type convertibles with the 12 cylinder engine!
Besides their high price, I can see some other problems with them. First is the optional flying bridge on them. Sure it opens up a lot more room and gives a commanding view of what’s going on, but low bridges, tree limbs, and other low hanging items would wreak havoc on that not so little extra. The other problem would be convincing the manager/owner of the campground that your boat is also an honest travel trailer as well. Even today, many class-B conversion vans are turned away from campgrounds stating that they are not true RVs. If they give these vehicles a hard time, imagine what they did to the person pulling in with a boat!
Eventually Sea Camper Inc. was sold off to another person who cut costs to lower the price and quickly sank into the history of boating. The idea is interesting and I’d love to see someone try it again at a much more realistic price, but I still see the same argument that dogged the original latch onto the new version. Mainly, how do you convince campgrounds to allow the thing into their sites?
Thinking of this and the idea vacationing on a boat brought back another idea I had. With the high price of renting an apartment, why not buy a cheap boat and live on that instead? Browsing through CraigsList I found many boats of liveaboard size for $2000 or less. (Including a 27’ Morgan) Rent is ranging from $750 to $900 a month for a single bedroom to two bedroom apartment with kitchen, bath, and living room. The local Marina is renting out their docks at $11 per linear foot of boat. That means if you own that 27’ foot sailboat, your rent would be $297 a month. Sure that doesn’t include electricity, cable, water, and sewer; but you have to throw in water and electricity on top of your apartment rent as well. Plus you have that deposit, first and last to deal with. The money going into that could easily pay for the boat.
Some will argue that you don’t have anywhere near the room on a boat that you have with an apartment, and that’s true, but when can you go ever on a trip and take your apartment and all your belongings with you? You can do that with a boat. (If you bought one that is working and not just a platform.) Heating and cooling are trickier, but I’m sure that if you do the research, you will find many articles, videos, and such that will show you how to deal with this situation easily and cost effectively. Laundry is done at the local laundry mat and if your bathroom/head starts feeling too small, you can always use the dock lavatory set aside for renters only.
Your car is as safe at the marina parking lot as it would be at the apartment complex.
Summer is ending and many marinas will have open docks available for rent. If you live in the rest of the United States, or a place in the world where it snows and freezes, you can buy a “bubbler” that sends air up around your boat and prevents the water from freezing. This lets the boat stay in the water year round.
Unfortunately some marinas close up entirely for the winter, so do your research and see you can rent a dock where you want to be during the winter. Who knows? You might find yourself living in a way you never expected.