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Houseboats In Port Washington

Ahoy, ye land-lubber!!! Come aboard me ship but watch ye step, there’s a Kraken lurkin’ below n’ she be famished.

This was the welcome I was hoping for as I walked through the gates of Haven Marina at the Bay.  However, as I would soon find out, the tenants of Port Washington’s houseboat community don’t spend their days terrorizing the Long Island Sound, plundering sailboats and evading the Coast Guard in search of buried treasure.  

On the contrary, they couldn’t be more ordinary. The community is comprised of 40 houseboats in all, 16 inhabited year-round and the rest lodged seasonally.  Of the year-round residents, there’s a doctor, a lawyer, a few shopkeepers and their families, a couple of marina maintenance workers, and the dock master, Nick Cyprus.

Cyprus, who hasn’t lived in a house that sits upon solid ground in over 30 years, is the unofficial houseboat expert, savvy on everything from thru hull fittings to piling poles. As dock master, Cyprus is essentially the landlord of the marina. He is responsible for the upkeep of the dock’s facilities in addition to handling the day-to-day problems of his tenants. And when your house is literally in deep water, you’re liable to encounter more than a few difficulties.   

A houseboat’s biggest foe is the capricious Mother Nature. Even slight storms disrupt a houseboat’s very foundation.  Rough waters can throw the vessels about, causing major damage to the interior of the house and destroying possessions that aren’t bolted down.  In extreme weather, hurricanes can break windows, drag a houseboat out to sea, and capsize these vessels completely.  During Hurricane Sandy, Cyprus tore multiple ligaments in his arm reeling in a houseboat that was ripped off the marina and taken out to sea.  

Yet living in a houseboat isn’t all runaway houses and torn ligaments.  Once you’ve got your sea legs, you’re free to explore the ocean from the comfort of your own home (if your boat has an engine).   You also have access to a backyard swimming pool that doubles as a fishing post.  And at the end of the day, you can sit aboard your deck while watching the sunset make a crimson and gold canvas of the expanse of ocean laid out in front of you.  The backdrop is so beautiful that USA’s Royal Pains has shot several scenes in Haven Marina at the Bay, the most recent of which took place early last week.

In addition to the picturesque backdrop and water-related perks, a houseboat can be an economical alternative to the traditional, non-floating home.  The boats themselves cost anywhere from $125,000 to $250,000 unfurnished, a marina pass ranges from $200-$1000/month (depending on location), and utilities total at around $950/month, according to Cyprus.  

Life on the sea also has its benefits socially. Owning one of these homes and living on the marina fosters a very close-knit community among the houseboat tenants due to the unique circumstances that each of the tenants lives with on a daily basis.  "You do what you have to do," says Cyprus, "You have to watch out for the guy next to you and you know he’ll do the same for you."

"Overall, it’s pretty relaxing," Cyprus continues, "You get your hands dirty once in a while, but if you love the water and you know what you’re doing, there’s nothing better."

It may be a far cry from Jack Sparrow and Barba Rossa, but I know there are more than a few envious landlubbers out there.