Some might remember awhile back when I talked about the Ultimate Rig and what I thought would make a great combination to go out exploring with. One of the parts that made up the combination was a Floating Houseboat, or Trailerable Liveaboard. Cindy and I have talked about these for years now with ideas being thrown around on a daily basis. We’ve driven around the state of Florida on multiple trips to walk through different models, or look at one’s we’ve found on Boat Trader, but never found one that sold us. All of them needed too much work, or just didn’t scream “Buy Me!”
Last month, I was looking through the various boat forums I frequent and came upon a Catamaran Cruiser, or Lil’ Hobo that was for sale. I put a bid on it on Ebay, and ended up winning the bid (I was a bit surprised by this). This meant Cindy and I drove to Tennessee in one day, picked it up from the awesome couple that was selling it, and spent two days towing it home.
The Catamaran Cruiser was one of the trailerable houseboats that we had looked at multiple times, and searched for when typing in Key Words. Cindy really wanted one of these because of how much more roomier they are than the C-Dory or the Twin-Vee’s I was originally looking at. This was somewhat of a compromise between us as I’d much rather have one of the other models because we can go off shore. Cindy claims to be terrified of going off shore thinking she’ll sink, or get caught in a storm. She is always the Glass Half Empty and always thinks something bad is going to happen. When I tell her I want to get certified to dive, so when we’re in the springs taking underwater photos I don’t have to resurface every few seconds to grab a breath of air. Her first response is “No, people get killed diving and I don’t want to lose you in a diving accident!” When I remind her that the springs aren’t deeper than 20′, so if anything was to happen, I can just resurface, she still says “No, just the thought of it scares me!” So you see what I’m dealing with when I try and say I want a boat capable of going off shore.
The compromise was the Catamaran Cruiser. It’s basically a big pontoon, with a RV atop the fiberglass hulls. It’s perfect for calm water, big lakes or the Intercoastal Waterway. We figured it would be a great learning tool to get us camping on the water, and doing some multi-day trips around the State of Florida. It has a small bathroom, a small refrigerator, stove top, and a twin bed that is always made up. The roof is walkable, being solid fiberglass, so the view from up there is amazing.
The best thing about a Trailerable Houseboat is that while towing it from Point A, to Point B, you basically have a normal RV. While on our way home from Tennessee, we even stayed true to our Redneck Roots and camped in a Wal-Mart parking lot in the boat. Everything works just the same out of the water as it does in the water, so you basically have an RV that floats.
The ‘Floating Brick‘ name is something that came up as we were towing the 10,000lb boat through the Appalachian Mountains on our way home to Florida. Our ol’ Ford 6.0L Diesel was throwing some serious coal while climbing those 10% grades. At one point, Cindy and I were doing nothing but laughing as we passed a Toyota Prius going up a hill while billowing black smoke out the exhaust. The look on the drivers face was of absolute hatred and their shiny white eco-friendly vehicle was left with a dusting of black charcoal. Sorry, I’m as green as they come, but you have to chuckle at the thought of it.
So we got this new houseboat back to Cedar Key safely, we spent a few days cleaning up the inside, sitting in it with a notepad thinking of items we’d need and showing it off to visitors who wanted a tour…..EVERYONE wants a tour.
The weather turned bad, and the next two weeks we sat there just looking at it, not wanting to put it out on the water with the temps only being in the low 50’s. Thanksgiving came and went, which kept us busy with work and holiday parties. Then this week, the weather turned back into picture perfect conditions. Day time temps in the mid to upper 70’s, with night time temps in the low 60’s. Perfect weather to be out on the water! You’ve got to love Florida in December!!
Our initial plans were to bring a group of us out so we could figure out how everything worked and have extra people there in case anything was to happen. Then Cindy and I got to talking, and I said I’d rather just have her and I put it in the first time so we could figure out how to do it on our own. First thing we learned was Cindy needs to learn how to either tow the boat, so she can back me in, or run the boat, so I can back her in. This was very hard to do by myself with such a large vessel.
Once in the water, my initial thought was, lets put this back on the trailer and go trade it in for something smaller. This thing is HUGE. I’ve never driven a boat that I can’t see out the back of. I’ve never driven a boat with an outboard where I can’t see the outboard. I’ve never driven a boat where I can’t hear the motor to know if it’s even running. It didn’t help that a small crowd had gathered on the dock to watch us launch this beast.
Once we parked the truck, got the dogs loaded up and were underway, things settled down. I got comfortable after about 40 trips of walking back to look at what position the motor was in. It has a JACKPLATE on it, so I can run the motor up and down depending on what conditions we’re in. The Yamaha 50HP High Thrust Outboard has trim/tilt on it, but the Jackplate will lift the motor up without tilting it, which normally loses efficiency. Without being able to see the motor at all, it took awhile to find that sweet spot. Ideally it would be good to put a camera on the back of the boat with a monitor at the helm so you could know what’s going on back there (Add that to the list)
Honey, our crazy dog, had found Nirvana. We’ve now learned that you can not wear this dog out physically. She needs to be worn down mentally. While on a moving boat, with birds flying by, water moving all around us, the boat rocking from side to side…..there is almost too much for her to pay attention to. She’s a Boat Dog and falls right into her sweet spot once the boat gets moving. When we pull up to a beach, we have to make sure we’re holding onto her harness as she jumps right off the front and is running up and down the beach in pure ecstasy. We questioned whether dogs get Seasick or not, but I guess they don’t as neither cared that the boat was rocking or moving.
This thing is tippy! We’re used to our wide, flat bottomed Honey Badger boat that is as stable as the solid ground. This houseboat sways with the waves, it moves when walking from side to side, and is really tippy if someone is up on the roof. It’s something you get used to, but it was downright scary for the first few minutes while on the boat and not used to it.
Although it says it’s rated to sleep up to 6, I can’t imagine how this could be possible? There is a twin bed in the back of the boat that is made up at all times. A couch that folds down to become a second twin bed, and the table collapses to become another bed…..not that we’ll ever do this. After spending the night on this boat with Cindy and I and the two dogs, I can’t see going smaller than this boat to live on. I could see having one of the C-Dory’s or a similar model to just overnight in or do a short trip, but even this boat is small if you’re thinking about living in it or on it for any length of time. Keeping it trailerable is where you weigh out the odds. This is about the smallest I’d go to live comfortably, but towing this is a chore, so you are at both ends of the scale depending on what you’re weighing.
This will be a ton of fun for future adventures. All evening we floated around learning the in’s and out’s of how everything worked on the boat. I kept trying new things with the motor and with the handling functions of the boat and getting comfortable. We learned where we could go, and where we couldnt. This too will be a learning curve around Cedar Key as we’re used to being able to pretty much go anywhere with our tunnel-hulled aluminum boat. Cindy and the dogs fell into their roles and soon it was all 2nd nature. At one point, I heard Cindy say aloud to no one in-particular “Why did it take us so long to figure this out?” When I asked her what she meant, she said “We’ve been talking about this……dreaming about this, for years….Why did it take us so long to actually go out and buy this!?!”
We watched the sun set from the roof of the boat. We anchored by Atsena Otie Key where all the other liveaboards that come and go through this port sleep for the night.
Anchoring your house for the first time is another learning curve we’ll need much more practice with. Cindy was looking up on her phone, the proper amount of rope that should be let out for our length of boat. I was guessing the amount and setting the anchor. With a much bigger boat anchored behind us, my new worry was us breaking lose in the middle of the night and floating into this other boat. Not something I want to happen at anytime, especially as the wind was picking up as the night grew longer.
At one point we’re sitting there listening to the radio watching the moon come up. I sat up and looked at the dogs wondering why they were making such a weird noise? Cindy asked what I was looking at and I said “Didn’t you hear one of the dogs making that weird noise?” We paused the music and realized it was a dolphin that was sitting right beside the boat, breathing out it’s blow-hole, and keeping itself right at the surface. Almost like it was listening to the music with us. We walked out onto the deck and it sunk just below the surface. When I shined my SureFire Flashlight on the water to see if we could see it, the bright light made some fish jump and the dolphin cleared the water, splashing in the light beam as it dove deep. It was a very cool experience. We heard the dolphins come back numerous times to inspect us and swim around the floating house.
We learned that you don’t sleep….pretty much at all….when sleeping on a boat that’s anchored. Around 2am, the winds picked up something crazy as they do here in the Gulf of Mexico. The other boats pulled up anchor and moved into the Lee of the island. I didn’t want to do this in the dark, not really knowing this boat all too well, so we stayed where we were and just swung on our line in the winds. The sounds of the wind, the waves crashing into the hull, the birds, the dolphins…..my mind was racing and it was the middle of the night.
One of us would say “Wow, look at how bright the moon is.” The other would reply “Shhhh, I’m trying to sleep.”
Minutes later…..the other would say “Look, the other boats are moving!“……”Why are we awake at this time of the morning?“……”Should we move?”
“The Moon has set, now look at how bright the stars are!“…..”Shhhh, I’m trying to sleep!”
“Hey look, the sun is coming up!“…..”Want Coffee?“…..”Shit, we forgot to bring the coffee pot!“….”Add that to the list!”
Once up, we motored around again learning new routines and getting more and more comfortable with each passing wave. We waited for High Tide to put the boat back on the trailer so the ramp would be at it’s least of an angle. Loading it onto the trailer was easier than I expected it to be, and our Maiden Voyage went off without a hitch, or sinking, or any causalities.
Hopefully they’ll all go this smooth, but I’m not holding my breath. We’re both already looking forward to our next adventure where we’re planning to float down the Suwannee River for a few days. If any readers know of any good floats around the State of Florida, please drop us a line in the comments section so we can look them up and add them to our list of places to visit. We’re both really anxious to put this houseboat to good use and be back out exploring.