It’s been a bit spooky out here on the sidelines of the Tiny Floating House wave. We love the charm of smaller homes that float. But it’s scary how seemingly unaware smaller floating home makers are of the nautical engineering realities of self-contained little, floating human worlds.
On many levels, “Floating Homes” are different than yachts. They do not need to be easily driven through the water. They do not carry sails. Most don’t have motors. And often, floating homes have more consistent and lower-cost access to shoreside infrastructure.
But these miss the point — and risks — of a floating home: Their systems really do need to be essentially self-sufficient and efficient; their arrangements must be compact and clever; their exteriors must withstand maritime weather and endure the tests of nature and time with minimal maintenance.
Most of all, just like everything else that floats, floating homes must make sense in terms of balance, buoyancy and safety.
The Little Floating Bear
We’re not sure we love this analogy of thinking about floating homes: the fairy tale “Goldilocks,” with three sizes: small, large, and “just right”. But it is surprisingly apt. So here you will just have to grin and eh … bear it.
The “Baby Bear” floating home is essentially a trailer that sits on water. It is equivalent to the ever-popular Airstream trailer of yore. Just more of a maritime experience. We can easily imagine designing such a floating Airstream: It would live happily on a lake and on the shore of that lake. (Think about that million dollar idea!) Such an amphibious live-aboard would be specially engineered to fit on a flatbed trailer: 8’ wide to fit on a highway. And say, 20 – 30 feet long to be easily towed on land and in water. That’s just 160-240 square feet. But compared to a boat, that’s a lot. Here’s a quick punchlist of features: Standing headroom. A shower. A full galley. She would sleeps four with ease. We love the idea, in theory. And eventually we’ll delve into it.
But not now.
The “Papa Bear” floating home is an essentially stationary residence. It is moored and firmly connected to city plumbing and electric. It puts you there, dockside, in a Seattle or other hub of hipster culture. The Papa Bear floating residence looks like a house or modern condo, potentially part of a floating neighborhood of lifelong residents or exciting AirBnB possibilities. Naval architecture very much still applies. Let’s not place heavy appliances or hot tubs on one side without balancing that mass with similar bulk on the other.
But this is a house that floats. We love this idea.
It Floats. And It’s Just Right.
It is the “Just Right” marine residence that attracts: Compact, efficient and modern, this floating structure would be light enough to haul out of the water seasonally. It would be big enough for real comfort, like a luxury yacht. But kinda’ scaled down to be roomy, yet cozy. We see 1 or 2 bedrooms with an attractive, modern aesthetic decor that marries great living with life on the water. We see larger exterior decks for social and living spaces and beautiful awnings systems for sun and rain protection. What about dockage and access for a family day boat or water toys. There would be ample room for a genuine guest house accommodation to a waterfront estate. Think self-sufficiency with modern systems for “off-the-grid” living — or, for you doomsday-inspired, a REAL getaway in the case of emergency. There’s plenty of opportunity for solar and wind power, ample power storage, low-voltage lighting, capabilities for running any appliance, HVAC, all systems will be go in our Just Right Floating Home.
No sense at all of roughing it.
Here are the basics: A single master and guest room in a 12-foot by 40-feet. That’s about 500 square feet. It would feel like the coolest one-story ranch with a nice loft. Like a cabin, but with more effective floorspace. We widen that to 20 feet by 40 feet for more bedrooms, more space. Easy to haul out at most marine yards up to catamaran widths, for those times of maintenance and repair.
Make the floating hull of low-cost molded fiberglass. That’s the “basement.” The fresh-water tankage, black water and gray-water tankage all live there, safe and out of the way. We would finesse in all pumps and filters, battery storage and other unsightly systems and related mechanicals. All incorporated below with super easy to remove hatches and access.
Everything will be easy to maintain and replace.
We would make her — our floating homes would definitely be ladies — barge-shaped. There is no need for hydrodynamic efficiency or maneuvering of this floating home. The hull will be easily-towed so it can be relocated or tugged into a shore repair facility. Plan on lots of floor-to-ceiling windows, maybe one end is open for a water’s-edge deck. Figure sliding doors to bring the outdoors in. And enough dockage for a cute runabout and a sailing dinghy.
Water tanks can be topped by a water maker or gathered from roof-captured rainfall; holding tanks will be serviced by the local pump-out barge. Solar panel arrays on the roof, and underwater power generation below gather electricity for the hyper-efficient low-draw system. There will be efficient, highly-insulated foam/composite panels for roof and walls, along with high-efficiency modern windows to provide energy savings and help create not just a 2-season hangout, but taut enough structure for all-season weather.
Great Marine Living, at a Fraction of the Cost.
Now comes the magical part: The cost. Consider the location of the truly large boat lifts that could handle the structure we’re imagining. We all know where they are — right smack in in heart the most exclusive marine environments on the planet. Our rough estimate say an SoT Guest Cottage would run a 5th of the cost of a super-yacht, with similar systems and space. And at least a tenth of the cost the cost of land, construction, taxes and maintenance on a similar landed home in that location.
Can anybody tell us a reason why not to own one of these?
The grand kids are coming, after all. And we all know how much you love them — And how much they need their own space.