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Convert fishing boat to house on land?

 
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There's an old fishing boat for sale, cheap, near here. It is floating and apparently the engine runs but that is notwhat I would want it for. I am wondering about the feasibility of hauling this to our new land and turning it into the start of a house, or at least a studio.

It's not exactly a tiny house - 85 ft long and 24 wide. Currently is set up below as a liveaboard for fishing trips with 2 showers, 2 heads, bunk space for 10, galley. Probably large freezer capacity. Large battery banks and radiator heat. Above deck there's a wheelhouse and a large flat deck with a hatch to the fish storage. The vessel is about 85 years old, hull is fir, apparently sound.

I imagine the cost of hauling it outof water and onto a house moving truck would be considerably more than the ridiculously cheap asking price. But I also think this could make a very cool house with the deck closed in and turned into main part of the house.

I am looking for feedback on the feasibility. Maybe this is a crazy idea. I do get them.
 
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Hi Andrea;  What a cool idea!
Yes, loading , hauling , unloading is not cheap...but neither is building a 24' x 85' ready to move in house!
You would need a crane to off load on site and more important a ready place to sit it.
Do you have any idea what the bottom looks like?  Flat, shallow keel or deep keel?
Might be cost prohibitive but maybe not!
I say investigate further!
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Andrea Locke
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Hi Thomas,
Thanks for the moral support! I like that image you attached - was thinking a greenhouse on the top level might be a fun idea, and the one in your image even has fishing nets draped over it, LOL. That's a MUCH fancier boat than the one I'm contemplating. I think the one here would need a heck of a lot of renovating to make it comfortable and cosy. It does have crew accommodations below but I would say from having spent a lot of time on boats (marine biologist, here) they are probably very basic and not intended for long-term habitation. Still, the boat is already set up to be off grid, has a battery bank, plumbing, drinking water storage tanks, and so forth, so has already a lot of the relevant mechanical systems in place. Probably a lot of equipment needing to be removed too, to free up space, from the photos. It's still set up as a working seiner. Potentially some things one could sell to offset some of the costs, or maybe repurpose for uses around the farm.

No info about the hull configuration but I would say with almost 100% certainty it is not a flat hull, since this has been an offshore fishing vessel. So it would need to sit in some kind of cradle/foundation to keep it upright. I've seen large vessels sitting in cement cradles in drydock, so it could be lowered into something like that I guess. i have a contact at a house moving company since I've been looking into finding a repurposed house to move onto the lot, so I may give him a call and ask about the logistics. They move all kinds of huge industrial stuff so this should be well within their skill set. He did tell me a single-storey house would be easy to move onto our land. I suspect the wheelhouse on this boat would be taller and require some jigging with overhead wires. which would increase the transportation cost.

I found some articles online that show a little subdivision with a dozen or so retired ships on land in the Netherlands, and a few other individual ship-houses in the US mostly. Some pretty fancy custom interiors. So apparently I am not completely nuts, or at least other people have the same insanity.

No idea what would be involved in getting a building permit/occupancy permit for something like this. This was one reason I was thinking possibly studio rather than house, as the requirements would be less strict. On the other hand, if it is off-grid and sitting on a cement cradle maybe it is just a stored boat and not actually a building. All things to look into, but I think I will follow up at the building permit office and find out, as this would be a fun thing to do.
 
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How flat is the land where you would put this boat? If there is a slope, you would be able to have a modest ramp/gangplank for entry to the main deck, which would probably be more comfortable than having to go upstairs every time you want to go in. The probable deep keel would as you know make the cradle pretty tall. It would be fun to have a "dock" by the parking area with the deck about level with that...

The dock could even conceal a storage shed underneath, if topography allows.
 
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You wouldn't need flood insurance...
 
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This strikes me as a great idea.
Boats are off grid by definition,  and weather resistant as well.
Boat's can have almost negative value, as they are not attached to a piece of land,  but they still must have ways to come ashore.
I've even seen trailers given away for free,  as long as you take the boat!
These boats are small and not intended to be lived on long term, at best camped on short term,  but they are as long and wide as some tiny houses and frequently include built in berths.
They could be suitable platforms for builds, generally being streamlined and having a "foundation" that was at least built solid and water proof .


I wonder if the boat could be bermed after it was stabilized?

 
Andrea Locke
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I just had a quick chat with my contact at the house moving company, and he says they have moved equally big boats before, although I think not for living in on land. But he doesn't think it is a crazy idea. And thinks it would not require a building permit. They weld up a metal cradle to support the hull on a non-flat boat when it sits on their flatbed moving trucks, and probably that same cradle setup could be used to support the boat in its land-based location.

The cost of moving the boat, as I suspected, is likely to be an order of magnitude higher than the price of the boat itself. Buddy wouldn't commit to an amount before knowing more details, which is fair, but did give me a sort of range with the understanding this was a wild guesstimate. Further details from the seller (location, height of the boat, etc.) will be required to decide if this whole thing is remotely feasible.

The land is sloped, so the deck level could be at ground level and the below-deck could be like a walk-out basement with an entrance on the other side. The idea of building a sort of dock and gangplank is pretty cute. It may or not be a good idea to berm the hull in after installation - in the same way that shipping containers aren't really designed to be buried? On the other hand, the sides of a boat have to withstand the water pressing up against them and the hull shape is basically an arch so it is pretty strong...so maybe. I'd want to talk to an engineer about that. It would certainly save having to insulate on the inside (no idea whether there is currently insulation in the hull or not in an older vessel like that, something else to ask about), which would mean saving living or storage space in what might be relatively tight space below-decks.

 
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Love the idea, Andrea, and sounds like it could be a really fun and unique living arrangement!

You have probably already considered this, but I found I had to be very disciplined when developing my infrastructure to avoid getting sucked into expensive temporary solutions.

In other words, while I really wanted to rehab the smelly, leaky old camper I was staying in on weekends, I forced myself to keep my eye on the prize and kept my dollars for what I really wanted/needed - a well, fencing, and the endless list of expensive things that go into developing raw land. And I spent weekends for a few years in a smelly old leaky camper to get those things.

So at the end of the day, will you want an old boat on your land as a guest quarters, or would you rather build your real housing 6 months sooner, or however it works out?  No idea what the costs are or your budget, and no right answer, it’s just always a trade-off, and another way to analyze it can sometimes help.
 
Jordan Holland
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I would REALLY not try to set it into the ground. Just like a casket or septic tank, it CAN float out! I would try to have some kind of foundation like piers under the frame, below the frost line. I would want the hull accessible for maintenance, but insulation would be tempting. You could build a wall around it later if needed, I guess. You could also cut a hole for a door in the hull if needed.
 
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1. No, you're not crazy. I've heard of someone doing something similar with a houseboat when he couldn't get a building permit (Saltspring Isl, BC - Small island near Ganges).

2. Personally I would not change the integrity of the vessel under the waterline if you think you may have to use the 'just storing this boat while I refurbish it' excuse for having it act as your tiny home.

3. A friend who was doing the "live-aboard" thing had bought a boat which had *really* crappy insulation and it was a bane in his side for a long time. I would keep that in mind as you renovate. Space is nice, but uncomfortable space is not nice - long term, adding good insulation as you renovate could save money on heating and make it a more sustainable living space.

It sounds adorable and it would be nice to give it a long life - good luck! (and post pictures if you decide to go with the plan!)
 
Andrea Locke
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Artie that is a good point. I need to keep my eye on the prize and not get distracted by shiny things. It is possible this is a shiny thing. On the other hand our long term plan has always included a studio/farm store and if the price is right this could be a good one. Lots of character for sure. And it could be the equivalent of your camper while getting permanent housing in place. And then circle back and renovate the boat as studio.

Jordan, the soil at the new place is pretty sandy and will drain fast so I don't think floating up is likely to be an issue there. But attaching the cradle to solid piers sounds like a smart idea regardless of whether the hull would be exposed or buried.

Jay, I live on Salt Spring now! Haven't seen the houseboat you mentioned. But many houses here are not visible from the road.  
Good point about cutting holes in the hull if we are trying to fly below the permit radar.
Insulation good. Cold bad. I did the math and the upper deck space of this puppy is 2000 square feet. Somewhat smaller footage inside the hull. But one could certainly afford to give up some of that for insulated comfort.

A little progress on this. Contacted the seller and the boat is moored in Vancouver. My daughter and her partner were already planning a trip to the mainland and could likely make a little detour to see the boat. In the meantime I will continue to try to get info on the overall height as themoving cost if we had to move overhed wires would be what makes this practical or not at this time.
 
Andrea Locke
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Time for an update. We've decided to let this particular opportunity go by. In part because of complications associated with actually getting over to see the vessel...provincial medical officer has recommended no non-essential travel to/from Vancouver (where the boat is) at this time due to high COVID levels. We've been very cautious as the kids and I all have asthma and my older daughter also has disabilities and a sketchy immune system. So none of us will be going to mainland now, anytime soon.

Also while I don't have confirmation of the exact height of the boat from keel to top of wheelhouse it is certainly more than 15 feet which means it won't fit under wires along the route. That gets expensive...possibly in the $40-50k range.

We also have a vast amount of work already to get the new place set up and get fully moved over there. This is probably one project too many for right now.

Not ruling out possibility of a boat-to-house conversion with a different boat in future.
 
Jordan Holland
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Expense kills all my best ideas.😕
 
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 It would be interesting to live on the water in the boat. Travel somewhere warm each winter.
 
Andrea Locke
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Ron West wrote:  It would be interesting to live on the water in the boat. Travel somewhere warm each winter.



Would get crowded with 3 dogs, 1 cat, 5 goats, 41 chickens and 6 geese....
 
thomas rubino
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Well they say Noah did it with more than that  Andrea!  Couldn't be that bad...
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Late to the party, folks, but I have to ask: why on earth would you drag a floatable boat onto land? It doesn't make sense to me.

Yes, I have some sense of the "floating derelicts, scallywags and slums" drama in BC. The next homeless camp, as it were, on the water, in areas that consider themselves in a "socially ascendent" trajectory.

But -- as an experiment at least -- why not live on the water and commute to the homestead? Just speculating.
 
Andrea Locke
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thomas rubino wrote:Well they say Noah did it with more than that  Andrea!  Couldn't be that bad...



Do you know, after reading your post now I've got the chorus of 'The Unicorn' stuck in my head.

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=_EPsuOEH1fY

 
Andrea Locke
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Douglas Alpenstock wrote:Late to the party, folks, but I have to ask: why on earth would you drag a floatable boat onto land? It doesn't make sense to me.

Yes, I have some sense of the "floating derelicts, scallywags and slums" drama in BC. The next homeless camp, as it were, on the water, in areas that consider themselves in a "socially ascendent" trajectory.

But -- as an experiment at least -- why not live on the water and commute to the homestead? Just speculating.



In my case the notion of living in a boat on land was a momentary insanity that I think I have now recovered from. The particular boat I had in mind, while currently floating, didn't strike me as particularly seaworthy in the long run. I suppose one could, as you say, live in a boat on water and commute to the farm. Nothing wrong with that idea, actually. A bit awkward for a farm with livestock, where one might need to be midwifing goats or otherwise attending to livestock emergencies that might arise during the night. And I think the workload involved in keeping a boat functioning and afloat is probably more than most serious homesteaders would have time for. But no doubt this could work for some people.
 
Jay Angler
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Andrea's already in a very damp climate. I wouldn't under-estimate just how damp it is living on a boat full time. As Douglass implies, yes, BC has a huge problem with derelict and abandoned boats, which risk sinking in storms and polluting an already stressed ocean. If someone wants to re-claim a boat and rebuild it on dry land, one could end up with a unique "tiny home" and reuse resources that would otherwise be a source of pollution, I'm good with that. That said, I suspect it would involve a *lot* of work!
 
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Enjoyed this thread while researching the same thing. I’ve lived and worked at sea many years, from a 22’ sailboat to a 4000 passenger cruise ship. In a flood prone area like New Orleans, I thought it was perfectly sensible to buy a sailboat and live on it for 4 years! Smaller is better for upkeep and maintenance, and tiny house is the way to go for a land yacht off grid. They use completely different systems from a house (water, power, waste pump generally run on 12v solar system, engines, etc. Wind turbines are noisy and I’ve seen them come apart in high winds.

A 2000 sq. foot deck sounds fairly large...length, beam, and draft & clearance of the boat are more descriptive than area. (Remember the bow is shaped funny and there are differing designs with narrow or broad beam and transom.) Transporting a boat above 30-40’ length overland may not be possible with Interstate bridge clearances etc, but on a sailboat you can have the mast removed & reinstalled. From my experience a boat’s interior space grows by a factor the longer it gets, and you’d be surprised how comfy it can be living on one. Specifically I wanted to know about burying a boat to the waterline for insulation, but perhaps it could be filled in with dirt above ground and accomplish the same thing. They’re built heavy though, so the steel frame & foundation are good ideas.

Dave Hull the sailing piano man.
 
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But -- as an experiment at least -- why not live on the water and commute to the homestead? Just speculating.



I did it, except my commute was a big easy one between Lake Pontchartrain and Bourbon Street where I worked in bars, restaurants etc. playing piano. Lots of folks lived on their boats out there.
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Andrea Locke wrote:
Also while I don't have confirmation of the exact height of the boat from keel to top of wheelhouse it is certainly more than 15 feet which means it won't fit under wires along the route. That gets expensive...possibly in the $40-50k range.



If you woud not had given up on it already i would have recommended not to do it.

I have quite some background with (used) boats so some things to consider:

- Boats are designed for structural stability when in water...there are some smaller boats where you can just stomp through the hull when its not in water
- Insulation on a boat takes into account that it is not freezing or hot from below. A boat on land in even partial sun can become a serious hellhole where you cannot breath anymore
- You have less windows for light/ventilation than on anything you can buy as house
- The resins used tend to gas off, most of them are NOT wateresistant...so many boats that have been neglected may float, but may also fall apart at the slightest stress
- You don't want to know how munch mould can build up on places you may not even know the boat has

I think it is an ok-ish temporary solution if you can aquire it cheap and if it's not a healt hazard.
However for $40-50k you can buy serious houses/tiny houses so i would not even consider the boat "solution" in this price range.
 
Andrea Locke
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Thanks R Han...I was aware of some but not all of those issues, which when put together with the likely costs of moving the vessel were prohibitive. Useful to know about those other issues you mentioned too. I suspect that in almost all situations a project like that would not be practical, sadly.
 
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long time ago when i was a kid, there used to be some homes on the East side of Hayling Island, which is on the south coast of England, all these homes were made from old trawlers that had been upturned, with doors and windows cut into the hull.
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I wouldn't under-estimate just how damp it is living on a boat full time.  [/quote wrote:

You’re right about that in rainier climates. They’re built sturdy, but leaks need to be addressed constantly. My old boat came with a dehumidifier, but could only work on 30 Amp shore power.

 
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I just bought a 42ft converted trawler to Cabin Cruiser.  They put in $100K in finishing it with red cedar beams and yellow cedar T&G roof plus tons of teak in the wheelhouse.  I'm dropping it in the ground to the waterline and cementing it level with rebar through the keel.  A boat won't try to float unless it is below the waterline with high water level.  I'm tying it into an existing septic system so I can have flush toilets and shower, sinks, etc.  Also tying into the town water system directly and 220V line power.

I've done this with a 36' boat I live on in the summer and works great as a house boat.  I did put a leak detector and pressure valve to avoid flooding the boat with a blowout.  The leak detector will shutoff if it detects a leak and I've tested it, pretty smart really.  You can run automatic leak test, turn off/on remotely and setup detailed notices assuming you will have WiFi.

I say all this because I've been thinking about it for 10yrs since I started Airbnb'ing my boat and house in California swapping my living accommodations back and forth based on demand.  I was getting $180/night for the boat and $200/night for the house and if.they both booked I'd go on a paid vacation.  I have over 50 rentals and rated Superhost with neat 5 stars for both places.

Here is the problem, boat moorage is expensive, $800/mo and a lot of people don't know the basic so lots of questions and mini emergencies.  A few people even got seasick.  By putting a boat on my property and using the built-in oil heater in the winter,  I live in Bella Coola BC, Canada so small town where you don't have a lot of rules and regulations.  I don't think I'd try it in the city without a lot of homework.

I have been patiently waiting for the right boat to come along. I've bought and sold a lot of boats and I know all of the problems that come along with it. Sounds like you got a lot of work to do where mine is pretty much finished and ready to go after the modifications. Previous owner put in over $100,000 I'm finishing work but then the guy died and the family wants nothing to do with it. I bought it for C$5,000 with a condition to have it moved before the snow flies.  It is only about 10 miles from my home and has been in a shed for 15yrs.  To move it will be a challenge but I have a lot of experts here in my small town as it is a fishing village so not uncommon to move large boats.  With a 15' boat plus trailer height it will be well above some of the power lines so the trick is to move in the middle of the night and push the lines up over the wheelhouse as you go along.  Remember, we live in a small town so if the cops get involved it will only be to help out out vs. write tickets, no so in a city, you need all kinds of permits and expensive professional movers with flag men, caution cars, etc.

Cost estimates:
$5, 000 boat
$1, 000 teardown shed and prep hull
$10, 000 move/dig/concrete/waterproof
$10, 000 finishing, plumbing, electrical, etc.
$4, 000 misc expenses
------------
$30, 000  (keep in mind, I'm retired and there will be 100's of hours I'm putting in but I've done lots of this type of work so won't need much paid help)

Airbnb Rental (start low and get a dozen quickly to streamline the process and shoot for 5 stars)  Raise the price slowly like $50, $80, $100, $120, $150, etc.  You will find the happy price,  I shoot for 80% occupancy so I have flexibility.   I block off weeks when I have friends and family come to town and I'll also rent local for trade like fish, crab, prawns, moose, veggies, etc.  

I think I might start a Facebook page for folks that want to follow this adventure.  I can't find anything like this on Airbnb so should be an unique experience.

Good luck but my advice is to check with regulations to make sure you can do it where you live. Talk to your neighbours, you don't want to start a war.



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