Eat, Sleep, and Boat
The American pastime of spending summer on the water is heightened by a new generation of exceptional houseboats.
Recreational houseboating is more popular in America than in other countries, especially Europe, where top houseboat builders operate around the tradition of stationary, non-motorized houseboats used as primary residences. US lakes Tahoe, Powell, Shasta, Berryessa, Mead, Havasu, Cumberland, and Lake of the Ozarks are all popular houseboat destinations, with much of the houseboat activity from rentals. For parties seeking higher levels of comfort and customization, the following list highlights builders offering extraordinary features—from high-end kitchen appliances and entertainment systems to expandable deck spaces and facilities that enable complete autonomy on the water for several days on end. Of course, the primary benefit of these houseboats is to retreat with a small group of family and friends to a private floating residence, while enjoying the summer on the lake and changing your location at a whim.
More mobile penthouse than houseboat, the Arkup is designed to create a luxury home environment wherever it goes. When it gets there, the Arkup’s four 40-foot-tall hydraulic pilings (known as “spuds” in marine terminology) drive into the ocean or lake floor (as deep as 20 feet below the hull) to create a sturdy foundation completely free from wave roll. This is no easy feat, considering the Arkup’s 75-foot length and 32-foot beam, which affords 2,700 square feet of indoor space and 1,650 square feet of outdoor deck space across two levels. Once owners tire of their location, dual 136-hp electric thrusters can propel all that space to a new location at a maximum speed of 5 knots. The thrusters also rotate 180 degrees for easy maneuverability and docking.
Layout options include an open floor plan with as many as five bedrooms (with en-suite bathrooms) and a large living room at water level that can be divided with a sliding wall. To integrate indoor and outdoor spaces, floor-to-ceiling windows open onto extensive outdoor decks (including an overwater terrace, with an outdoor kitchen and seating) that can be expanded with a retractable extension to 456 square feet. Other highlights include a boat lift deck doubling as a swim platform, as well as a large solar panel roof and a system for collecting and purifying rainwater. Every aspect is completely customizable, with delivery available worldwide and requiring up to 18 months. $5.5 million as shown; arkup.com
Embracing the notion that houseboats can be homes, Bluefield Houseboats of Belfast, Northern Ireland, offers its stationary R-Series models with 500, 750, or 1,600 square feet of living space, and two-, three-, and four-bedroom layouts, respectively. The four-bedroom layout has two levels and includes a second-story balcony, while the smaller models incorporate a rooftop terrace.
Bluefield’s designs have a contemporary European style, with exteriors framed in powder-coated aluminum with machined cedar cladding for an industrial-chic aesthetic. A glass-walled walkway surrounds the perimeter, comprised largely of floor-to-ceiling windows, filling the nearly 8-foot-tall, fully customizable interior with natural light. Layouts include a large space at the front, which opens to the overwater balcony at the bow, and an open design that combines living and dining areas and the kitchen, with natural oak flooring throughout. The kitchen, which is compact but loaded with appliances from Italian brand Smeg, maintains a modern aesthetic with stone countertops and hand-painted matte anthracite-gray doors free from extruding handles. The interior is also smart-home equipped, with lights, sound, heating, and entertainment controlled via in-wall touch panels. Bluefield is currently developing the motorized and self-sufficient M-Series, projected to be available internationally within the next 12 months. From $122,000; bluefieldhouseboats.com
A boutique German company that designs and builds houseboats for Europe’s urban waterways, Nautilus Houseboats are also well suited for recreational stays on lakes. One of its most popular models, simply called the Nautilus, is available in various sizes, from 452 square feet of living space up to 925 square feet (with ceilings taller than 7 feet). It can sleep up to eight adults and two children.
The company works closely with buyers to determine the layout and design of each boat. One feature is a convertible roof system that raises and lowers over the upstairs master bedroom. The roof can also be equipped with solar panels to supply onboard electricity. Among the many outdoor decks is a gangway that wraps all the way around the boat, with a larger deck forward and a rooftop deck accessed by dual curved staircases aft. Most of the interior spaces have large windows; full-height windows surround the salon on the first level. One option for that space is a rotating central fireplace. Motor packages include onboard facilities to stay on thewater for several days without requiring services. Typical delivery turnaround is six months, but boats requiring higher levels of customization may take longer. From $300,000; nautilus-hausboote.de
Created by the Portugal-based Friday company, the modular, self-sufficient FloatWing can function as a floating studio apartment or a fully furnished three-bedroom home. Solar and photovoltaic panels supply all onboard residential power, including air conditioning, dishwasher, stove, and other kitchen appliances. Two outboard fuel or electric motors allow a troll of 5 knots. An optional water-treatment plant that meets European standards for clean water disposal uptakes lake water to be used for the cisterns and outdoor hoses. These systems enable the FloatWing to operate for up to several months under complete autonomy. Ranging in size from the studio (33 feet long; 300 square feet of living space) to the three-bedroom (59 feet long; 560 square feet), the FloatWing can be completely customized.
A wide array of options exist for furnishings, materials, and layout—the company offers 300 different internal layouts with amenities that can include a spa, sauna, satellite Wi-Fi, and hi-fi entertainment systems. Deliveries can be made to most countries and examples are already in operation on three continents. Because of its modular design, Friday can build a boat at its facility, transport it in standard 40-foot shipping containers, and then send a team to its final destination to assemble it. The delivery time is around three months. $162,500–$487,500; gofriday.eu
Defying the notion that houseboats must be floating boxes, the Arizona-based builder’s dual-hulled designs with curvaceous superstructures are inspired by ocean-going yachts but built for lakes. Available with two, three, or four decks, models range from 70 to 100 feet in length, accommodating 10 to more than 30 passengers for overnight stays. Like yachts, interiors and amenities can be highly customized. Launching this summer is the V-Series model (shown here) from the Atlas Line. Its 75-foot length and 22-foot beam afford space for five staterooms and two shared bathrooms across a half deck below the waterline and the main deck above, both of which feature 9-foot ceilings—tall even for ocean-going yachts of this size. The main deck, which is surrounded by panels of floor-to-ceiling windows, features bedrooms forward with a beautifully designed kitchen and living space aft. The kitchen’s full-size stainless steel appliances, including a center-island gas stovetop and hood, as well as quartz countertops and custom cabinetry, make the space feel quite residential, as do the custom oversize sectionals and a large dining table, plus 10 TVs and Bose surround sound speakers throughout. At the stern, a pair of full-height glass doors open the main salon to the swim deck with steps into the water. A portside teak stairway leads to the sundeck, which features lounge chairs, cushioned seating, a waterslide, and a firepit. $1.6 million as shown; bravadayachts.com