seattle houseboats

Shakes On The Lake: Seattle Floating Homes During An Earthquake

seattle floating homes
Westlake waterfront of Lake Union shows our incredible community form this perspective,

Earthquake Bathtub Sloshing Effect Verified on Seattle Houseboats

Do we feel earthquakes? This is one of the questions Molly and I get when we talk to new prospective neighbors for our Seattle houseboats and Seattle floating homes communities. They want to know how Seattle floating homes feel during an earthquake.

If you have lived in one of the Seattle floating homes (or one of the houseboats) for any number of years, you may have felt the effect of an earthquake somewhere. Every once in a while the floating houses on Lake Union just move for no apparent reason – earthquake or not.  I remember the first time I experienced this strange phantom moving during an inspection for an end of dock floating home in Eastlake. 

Local legend Sid McFarland was checking the house out for us and I asked him what it was.  He told me every once in a while it just happens. Wise words from a lovely man whom we sorely miss in our community. I am also reminded of the time I asked him how people could live on docks with children as I held the hand of my then two year old son wearing a life jacket.  He looked at me sideways and said “they watch them”. He was so great and I am thankful I was able to learn from him early on.

Helpful Reading Resource For More on Our Floating Homes Community

Staying Afloat by Jeri Callahan (hardback)

If you want to read more about Sid, I love the chapter of Jeri Callahan’s Staying Afloat book called The Moving Man. It is sold in the FHA’s Houseboatique if you want a copy – Molly and I are also happy to include it in our housewarming gift to you when you purchase a floating home with us of course!

Later on, I felt those movements.  For Seattle earthquakes, it was a weird vibrating in my house much like the washing machine on spin cycle as the ground shook our dock pilings and moved my mooring arms.  And then there is the occasional sloshing as strange rollers bounce back and forth across Portage Bay for no apparent reason.  There is an explanation though.  Seattle floating homes during an earthquake or similar event can feel more movement from places far away. 

Verifying Seattle Floating Homes During An Earthquake From Some Of The Experts On The Lake

It was my great pleasure to be able to have the privilege of living next to the dear Betty Swift for many years.  She was a fantastic lady and an excellent resource for basically everything.  When I read the 2002 article by floating home resident Ed Waddington published in the Floating Homes Association Newsletter #140 about earthquakes and houseboats, I had to ask my reliable source. 

Betty said oh yes, she had felt many earthquakes over the years. She then described the seiche effect that our houseboats community experienced from an earthquake that occurred in Alaska.  She told me about the house lifting in a swelling of the water and then just kind of dropping. Then of course as the water bounced back and forth across Portage Bay there was a tea cup effect. This lined up very well with the Raleigh waves that Ed Waddington described in the article as feeling much like a “bathtub sloshing”. He went on to say that it feels very different than normal boat traffic wake waves.  Even with this occasional sloshing I personally feel the safest in my floating home during an earthquake.

Funny as I write this and review my notes from the article, I can’t help but notice that Betty is also published in this same issue. She served this community well always and was on the Environmental Committee of the FHA at the time.  Of course she was. What a lady. What a community!

Let us know what your experiences have been during various shakes on the lake. [email protected] If you are interested in living in our community on the lake, please reach out to us. Molly and I work very hard to always serve the community first and love the people here. We are Seattle Afloat. Courtney Cooper 206-850-8841/ Molly Cartwright. 206-841-6800.

Are Houseboats Drifting Away?

2143 North Northlake Way #18

2143 North Northlake Way

Are Seattle Houseboats Drifting Away?

I’ve been hearing a lot of talk about Seattle houseboats in the news lately.  And if you receive your news from just one source, it might sound like Seattle houseboats are drifting away.

So what’s really going on? What is the dispute over?  One could argue it’s really about should private people be taking over public space.

In broad terms, the dispute is about freeing up the shorelines on parts of Lake Union.  According to the state law, water dependent (vs water oriented) businesses and industries, shoreline restoration and public access are all given priority.  With this in mind, some city council members say shorelines should be preserved for recreational and water-dependent uses (aka not houseboats).  Yet other city committee representatives say they want to protect the Seattle lifestyle of houseboats.  Yep, definitely confusing.  But one thing is crystal clear:  current houseboat owners and liveaboards say they’re tired of battling for their chosen lifestyle, investment, and freedom to live and just want to be left alone after years of this with the city.

Big agencies like The Planning Land Use and Sustainability Committee, State Department of Ecology, Coast Guard, and Lake Union Liveaboard Association are all trying to come to an agreement about what defines a houseboat.  The due date of January 14th is fast approaching to make this distinction and it’s complex to say the least.  By current standards, a houseboat is treated as a water oriented vessel.  Most should have propulsion, safety equipment, steering and navigational lights, and all already have a black water holding tank, also title and registration. One must beg the question: How is this standard different than say a sailboat, yacht or ferry which are all legal and not up for debate.

Some LULU members (Lake Union Liveaboard Association) remind city officials that houseboats have been around Seattle waters even before it was a city.  Naturally, anger and resentment have come to an all time high for the liveaboards, houseboat builders, marina owners, local vendors and businesses.

I want to be clear there is a difference between houseboats and floating homes in Seattle.  The 500 floating homes in Lake Union and Portage Bay are completely void of these litigation’s.  Floating homes, unlike houseboats, are floating structures usually consisting of logs or concrete which are connected to city water/sewer and are considered “real property” and remain in place by a very heavy moorage arm and do not move from their location.

I understand with the growing population and the fascination of such an intriguing lifestyle, the state/city would want certain regulations intact.  There are essentially two arguments going on simultaneously:  preserving the shoreline for recreational and “water-dependent” use and the defining a houseboat.  The houseboat community is no stranger to reinforcing their lifestyle to the city.  These are folks who care deeply about their lake and go to great lengths to pacify others in order to remain there.  This will not change and it will not change without a fight.

If you’d like more information about houseboats or floating homes please feel free to contact me via email at [email protected]

 

 

 

Seattle Houseboats: Children on Floating Homes & Safety

Seattle Houseboats:  Children on Floating Homes: How do you raise children on a floating home?  I have asked this question quite a bit and it is always interesting to get the various answers, but I would love to hear your top ten tips for living on a houseboat with a child.

Children and boating: My in laws have a sailboat they sail around the Sound and all the docks at the marinas we stop in and see them at require children to wear a life jacket just to walk on the dock.  I agree with this policy.

Children on floating home docks around Lake Union and Portage Bay: I know some of the policies around the docks for kids and pets, but always wonder how some of the various Seattle houseboats co-ops cover themselves for just this thing.  I asked that question yesterday while previewing a brand new Eastlake floating home on the market (which is very cool by the way).  My question to one of the houseboat neighbors was what is your child policy?  He looked at me funny because of course that was a wacko way to word the question, but he smiled and said: “Parents.”  Perfect answer.

Floating home child safety for houseboats: What do some of the parents do to keep their children safe around the docks when you live in a floating home lifestyle?  I know of one family who keeps life jackets on hooks at every door.  It is just a way of life.  Other answers I have gotten over the years:  Of course they get swim lessons early as well.  Special railings on decks to keep toys, etc. from rolling off. What great solution have you come up with to keep your child safe while living life afloat in one of the very best Seattle waterfront lifestyles? Let us know!  [email protected]

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