Houseboat Design Contest – Semi-Finalists

April 1, 2016

Avatar The Off Center Crew

Below are the semi-finalists from our houseboat design contest, which has concluded with the grand prize winners, “off center” awards, honorable mentions, and other good entries and ideas.

When we announced The World’s First Houseboat Design Contest, we had no idea how it would turn out. As you can see below, the great ideas and wonderful designs that have been submitted are fantastic.

As expected, most are in the idea stage, but a few have already been built. We hope they inspire you, as they did us.

They are presented in summary fashion, alphabetically by the contestant’s first name, so you can compare them. To see an entire entry, just click on its blue-colored link, which will send you to the full entry in a PDF format.

We’ll be announcing the prize winners next week.


Category: Personal Houseboats

Anthony Croome: Summer House and The Seahouse ( 20′ x 10′ )

“My concept for the competition was to endeavor to couple together my thoughts over many years, of all the elements of a design that would be fundamental to the FUN of having a houseboat, while trying to keep it ‘buildable’, and practically achievable, from a boatbuilders point of view. Its really a design that I would describe as “Glamping”. That’s glamorous camping on water! She is a ‘tented camp… on water’…”



To view the entire entry, please click here.

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Baer – The Floating Fishing House

To view the entire entry, please click the video above.

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Christopher Dundorf: FLOATING PORCH

“When desired, the wedge wings can fold onto the main wings before being lifted to their vertical stowed position using a simple block and tackle. After deployment, the block and tackle can be either left in place or neatly stowed. Arrive at FLOATING PORCH by a launch, canoe, wooden plank or even a swim. A wooden door secures entry and provides initial access from the rear of the structure. Step onto a modest‐sized entry platform (not shown) and open the door. Fixed-light windows above the wing walls and on the sides keep the interior bright when the wings are closed…”

To view the entire entry, please click here.

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David P. Corey: A Houseboat for Sheltered Bay ( 18′ x 9.6″ )

In the summer of 2004, we were telling our own teenagers the legend of the houseboat. As the stories of adventure, freedom and indiscretion tumbled out, my kids and all their cousins decided that they too needed a houseboat, and they would build one together. As they dove into the design and building process, they learned to calculate loads and flotation, to draw plans, to figure material costs, and to use all sorts of saws, drills, drivers and nailers. They learned the hard work needed to complete a big project. And, they did it…”


To view the entire entry, please click here.

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Gary Ensworth: THE MERMAID ( 18′ x 16′ )

I was stuck in a repeating pattern, and I needed to break the cycle. It was then that the idea hit me… Call it a dream, a vision, anything you want, but it has become my obsession to leave the bounds of land-dwellers ashore and move back to the sea. Breathe it, Live it, Love it! I share all this with you just to show how much of a role the sea has played in my life. I could argue that I’m about as close to being a merman as anyone walking around on two legs can be…”


To view the entire entry, please click here.

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Jim Giblin: A Trailerable Floating Home ( 25′ x 9′ )

This houseboat is intended to be trailerable, sleep two, and either be towed or pushed to a sheltered location from the launching site by the houseboat’s outboard powered 12-foot tender. It is not intended to be moved any great distance, and is for summer use only. Construction will be kept light for easy launching and retrieval. Being self-contained is the goal, so as to minimize transporting stuff like ice, water and food from shore by water…”

To view the entire entry, please click here.

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John Stables: JACK’S FLAT ( 30′.6″ x 10′ )

This houseboat would move under her own power, or be towed 20 miles up the Penobscot River, for her annual haulout, thus she can be as heavy and wide as a Travellift can handle. For moving only short distances on protected water, a French canal barge bow makes sense. This beamy, bluff bow is an acceptable tradeoff for the generous interior volume. I took inspiration from British Narrow Boats with their cabin sides at the rail. I wanted a skeg for good tracking and propeller protection, but by raising the outboard she’ll float in only four inches of water…”

To view the entire entry, please click here.

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Kevin Kennedy: A Camp to Explore

I love the back creeks, ditches and marsh of southern New Jersey.  I have a small dory that I built years ago for exploring these back waterways, and fishing, crabbing and clamming. But by time I get down there and back home with my dory, it eats up most of the day, so I was looking for a base camp.  A place to rest, and maybe share some food and drink with good friends…” 

Shanty pulling into Motts

To view the entire entry, please click here.

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Martin Herbert: A Colorful Houseboat Design

What I need is a stable, low platform from which to drysail my Fireball dinghy. It should have a covered space in which to read, make tea, dream and sleep overnight. Minimal footprint. Comes apart for transport and winter storage. Houses two 10M racers…”

To view the entire entry, please click here.

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Philip Myer: A Boat-House-Boat for Enjoying the Pleasure of Small Boats ( Main Body: 22′ x 14′ )

Living on a houseboat from spring through to early autumn means the houseboat has to be comfortable, but it should also be a place where you can keep your 12 1/2 footer tied up alongside, easy to dock, and also shelter your dinghy and be a place for the frequent summer visitors to tie up. In essence, it is a floating base so your family and friends can enjoy the pleasures of small boats…”

To view the entire entry, please click here.

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Ronnie Billings: The Pew E-2 ( 28′ x 16′ )

The how, where and why started with a few ideas batted around on what it would take to make a rugged, secure, low-cost work platform that could be constructed by a bunch of no-talents. From that came a boatload of ideas on how to use such a dandy piece of waterfront. Then, in a moment of serious thought, someone mentioned the need for a pumpout station that manned with regularity that would not just add to the harbor clutter. Hence, the idea of “what if” we could make it attractive enough for people to use during the summer as well as perform a needed service at the same time. Next item, “what about the yuck?” How could we make this a design that doesn’t require special permits or bring on an environmental lawsuit? After the thoughts changed from whimsical to serious, all that was left was to hammer out the details…”

To view the entire entry, please click here.

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Roy Schreyer: DIANNE’S ROSE ( 17′ x 8′ )

This is a tiny houseboat with all that is needed to live aboard simply in the tradition of the shanty boats of old. We use her as a cottage on the water and a camper on land. Our third season with her has displayed this boat’s suitability for our intended use…”

To view the entire entry, please click here.

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Miguel Bombas: A Modular Floating Village

This objective is to build a self-sustainable, modular and ‘green’ floating village. The ‘buildings’ are geodesic domes made of canvas strapped to a steel tubular structure. They rest on floating bases connected to each other…”


To view the entire entry, please click here.

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Patrick Beck and Madeline Gonzalez: TURTLE ( 32.6″ x 11′ )

We imagined the lower Keys being the far limit that the TURTLE would travel; perhaps on a two- or three-week vacation, meandering down in late February after the winter easterlies have subsided. Maybe a flat bottom sailing skiff would be towed to satisfy the sailing urges and tender requirements. On a 70-degree January or February day in South Florida, nothing would be more pleasant than sitting in the salon and feeling a nice cross-breeze, while getting wafts of some bacon sizzling in the galley (and contemplating a sail in the skiff)…”

To view the entire entry, please click here.

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Terry Mason: A Modern Approach ( Small: 31′ x 11′ & Large: 72′.8″ x 21′ )

“These houseboats are inspired by the canal barges of Europe, the houseboats of the West Coast, tugboats, Maine camps, and modern architecture. Their narrow width would make them easy to tow from harbor to harbor. I spoke with The Maine DOT, as well as several local boatyards to find out the limits of over-the-road transport, as well as the parameters for size & weight in regard to launching. These designs take that information into consideration…”



Terry designed two versions of his houseboat – you can view the small version here and the large version here. To learn about his design, you can read his description here.

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Tim Jennings: TERRAPYN – 1969 AquaCamper Houseboat ( 23′ x 7′.3″ )

While my submission for the Off Center Harbor houseboat design contest is not a new design, our experiences with and plans for this houseboat we already own should be of general interest to the followers of the contest, and the dreams and doers who study the submission.” 


To view the entire entry, please click here.


Category: Community Houseboats

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William Smith: A Design to Advance Small Boat Building in the Community ( 52′ x 24′ )

The concept for my design is a flexible sea or lakeshore community facility that could be used for a number of community events, but in this case, as a teaching facility for the advancement of small boat building. This activity should appeal to a very wide range of ages, from school age children to seniors, and therefore accessible to all because of its single level. It could be towed from location to location, then anchored free and clear of the shore, be accessed via a gangway, or be tied up to a pier, depending where it is located…” 

To view the entire entry, please click here.

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Not Eligible For Awards

Category: Personal Houseboats
Below are semi-finalists that are not eligible for any awards as they are either guides, founders or family of the crew.

Eric Blake, Co-Founder

Here’s the “Why?” behind my own houseboat design:

Click the video above to see the entire entry.

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Steve Stone, Co-Founder

In today’s frantic world, it becomes hypnotic for me to think of a quiet little place away from it all, where a simple life afloat is all tidy and neat. It’s a curious condition, fantasizing about such things. One beautiful image of a house afloat can set my imagination spinning, and from a distance it seems so simple and easy.

Profile drawing by architect John Silverio, author of The Book of the Hut

Click here to read the entire entry.

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Scott Mathis: A Couple’s Retreat ( 24′ x 9.5″ )

Like a cabin in the woods, this shantyboat would provide a couple with a simple but comfortable shelter, and a place of peace and detachment. And like boating, it provides a constantly changing horizon and immerses us in the beautiful and endless movement of water from tides, wind and waves…”


To view the entire entry, please click here.

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Walt Ansel: MUD TURTLE ( 22′ x 7′.9″ ) – OCH Guide

“I’ve always loved Thames sailing barges and their Dutch relations. I really don’t know why they sail, but they do and some are even fast according to Maurice Griffiths. The designs have lots of beam, shoal draft and moderately high freeboard, all of which seem well suited for a houseboat. The leeboards, traditionally strange oak wings hung on the topsides, prevent leeway and free the large cabin space from an intrusive centerboard case. This design is more inspired by the Thames barge with its almost box shaped midsection. It provides tons of room inside a small boat and the ability to sit level when grounded, an advantage when exploring tidal creeks. Slow and steady but able to go anywhere where there is two feet of water. Much like the mud turtle…Time slows down and the salt marshes and backwaters with wildlife, beautiful trees and plants are there for you to enjoy…”

To view the entire entry, please click here.


11 Responses So Far to “Houseboat Design Contest – Semi-Finalists”:

  1. Avatar mike kitchen says:

    In Port Dover, on the north shore of Lake Erie, we have a very active waterfront. Both commercial fishing and yachts (and tugs) of all types play an important role in our towns life. Unfortunately the youth of this town do not engage with the waterfront unless they are drawn to become fisherfolk. The local Yacht Club has in recent years taught young people how to sail, safely, in small cat boats or prams of various sorts. When they have learned the skills to sail they retire to the Yacht Club,puchased yachts as adults and leave our waterfront.Shame

  2. Avatar Andy Reynolds says:

    This collection of designs and concepts is terrific! There’s a lot of great ideas and inspiration coming from this project, thanks to you all at OCH for making this happen.
    I’ll just say that my own favorite is Walt Ansel’s Mud Turtle, being the most boat-like and least house-like of the lot. I too have a soft spot for those sailing barges, and canal boats, and the kind of quiet adventuring that Arthur Ransome so well captured in his Swallows and Amazons books.
    Thanks to all you OCHers!

  3. Avatar David Jeffery says:

    All these are much more elegant and practical than my idea: find a suitable used barge then roll on a small used travel trailer.

  4. Avatar Ronnie Billings says:

    As I quickly scan the entries I am delighted to see what idle hands and busy minds can create I am looking forward to checking out each in detail.

  5. Avatar Eigil Rothe says:

    Great contest. I love the many innovative ideas. This has spawned much anticipation among my circle of boatie friends. The Nantuckets and Vineyards are totally out of reach except for the 1% of the 1%, so we need to invent desirable alternatives that provide benefits and satisfaction that exceeds our expectations. Less is more.

  6. Avatar Sarra Hunter-Weston says:

    I have immensely enjoyed looking at everyone’s houseboat designs. They are a wonderful summary of the dreaming nature of most sailors! Well done all.

  7. Avatar Bill Baumner says:

    I vote for Roy Schreyer’s “Diane Rose” for First Place, and Bonnie Billing’s “The Pew” for second place.

  8. Avatar George Yarbrough says:

    Back in the 60’s and 70’s I spent about equal time with my family, either camping with a pop-up tent trailer or cruising the bays on the Gulf Coast of Florida with a large variety of different boats. I always dreamed of combining the two worlds but, with the constraints of my job, and the financial demands of a growing family, I had to settle for what I had. What I wanted to do was to build two 24′ to 26′ pontoons, 4′ wide, that could be secured to a pop-up trailer at the launch site. I came up with all kinds of unique ways to achieve this, ultimately creating a craft that would be about 16′ wide, as the pontoons would be fully outboard of the trailer. Drop in deck sections would be provided fore and aft of the trailer, complete with an outboard bracket. I spent many days dreaming of cruising and spending beautiful nights on the spring-fed rivers of Florida we so often canoed – but I could never make it happen!

  9. Avatar Glenn Holland says:

    A Contender,
    I just remembered this fine vessel. I have a friend from this part of KY. He has seen this beautiful floating palace on the river. She would surely be a contender in the contest. Thanks for all you guys are doing. Glenn

  10. Avatar Robin Van Auken says:

    Wonderful collection of ideas. I’m inspired.

  11. Avatar Ginny Jones says:

    Almost everyone is a fabulous design and I love the innovative solutions to space requirements. Better yet I know some of the designers and can imagine how their thought process worked and how they would build the actual house boat. I can even imagine some of the designs as small houses for all sorts of uses such as affordable housing, a house for an elder single or a accessory dwelling unit for a care giver/family member.

    Dream on!

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