Can You Sail a Houseboat?

Houseboats are a popular option for people who love the water and want to spend their life living on the open waves. It’s a great living arrangement for people who love nature, and want to keep their home portable for travel. Sailors and seafarers may find themselves especially drawn
to boat life.

However, Houseboats are not designed for sailing. They are much bigger than a typical sailboat, making it more difficult to maneuver in the water. Additionally, houseboats lack the sails necessary for proper open water sailing.

So, maybe you can’t sail a houseboat, but there are lots of other options for getting around on the water, and living on the waves. If you think you’d like to have a home on the water, keep reading to learn more about other types of boats that might be better suited for a life at sea.

Why Houseboats Aren’t Good for Sailing

There are a few reasons that houseboats aren’t very suited for sailing. Boats have certain characteristics that affect their capability of moving through the water. Take a look at some of the things that make houseboats better for leisurely cruising rather than a jaunty sail.

Dimensions and Size

Houseboats don’t have the appropriate size or dimensions or traveling long distances in water. A houseboat can range in size from 20 feet to 90 feet in length, made with heavy hull materials and often a flat bottom. Houseboats are typically:

  • Large and spacious
  • Flat and wide
  • Built with a rectangular shape

These kinds of dimensions are what make a houseboat significantly less hydrodynamic. This means that because of their larger size and boxy dimensions, houseboats would have a harder time moving through the water quickly like a sleek sailboat.

Living Space

The primary purpose of a houseboat is to have a home floating on the water. It’s not exactly meant to be used as a primary mode of transportation. Houseboats are meant to be comfortably lived in as a person’s forever home, so they offer much more space aboard for people living there to have ample room for:

  • Cooking and eating
  • Entertaining
  • Sleeping comfortably
  • Living normal lives

These activities require more space, so some houseboats are equipped with full kitchens, living and dining rooms. Other boats even have a second level complete with outdoor deck space for enjoying the view of the water. Sailboats are much smaller because they aren’t traditionally meant for long-term living. Consequently, sailboats are much smaller and lighter, making them a better choice for:

  • Cruising through the water
  • Maneuvering quickly
  • Traveling long distances

Having a larger living space as in a houseboat, inevitably comes with owning more things. And these things could easily be knocked over and thrown around the inside of the boat from a strong wave. Sailing in a houseboat would inevitably make a big mess.

Sailing the Ocean

Houseboats are not suitable for going out into the ocean and open waters. Typically, people live in houseboats in lakes, rivers, and inland waterways. They are not built for the harsh open
waves of the ocean.

Sailboats, however, are made to be thinner and more hydrodynamic, so they are more equipped for handling the elements of the open ocean. Most notably, sailboats have sails, which are the key component necessary for actual open water sailing.

While some sailboats do have motor capabilities for emergencies and times with low winds, they are meant to be propelled by the wind blowing the sails. Houseboats, on the other hand, are self-propelled. They are powered entirely by gasoline and a motor. They do not have sails, and
so they cannot be used for sailing.

Boats for Living and Sailing

While houseboats aren’t particularly suited for getting around in the water and traveling the sea long term, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t a whole host of other great options if living on the water is your dream. These other types of boats have different balances between comfort and
speed, so you can choose the right one for your lifestyle!


Also known as a cat for short, this boat is the ultimate hybrid of houseboat and sailboat. Mariners who loved the seafaring lifestyle were looking for a comfier way to do it, and they certainly achieved the best of both worlds!

A Catamaran is a specific type of sailboat designed for sailing across the water, and for providing a decent living space. Catamaran sailboats are equipped with:

  • Two hulls
  • Two engines
  • A bridge deck space for living area
  • More storage

A catamaran is larger than a monohull boat, which generally makes it much more stable in the water. With the two hulls, it doesn’t pitch as much in the waves, so the living area is much more comfortable and balanced. Because of these differences, catamarans are generally considered:

  • Safer
  • Easier to sail
  • More comfortable for onboard living

With the extra space that two hulls and a flat surface in between can provide, many people deciding to take their home on the waves choose a catamaran. It is large enough to provide safety for sailing, but still small and hydrodynamic enough to make it a speedy boat. A cat is a
great option for anyone looking to live at sea.


A monohull is the most traditional type of sailboat. It is the typical boat that one imagines when hearing the word ’sailboat’. As the name implies, monohull sailboats have one hull, with the
living space placed below deck.

While monohull boats do have a living space, tucked inside the hull of the boat, there is very limited space, and it feels a lot more cramped than other live-in boat options. It is certainly possible to live in a monohull boat, but you will need to be much more economical with the
possessions you bring as well as your boat companions. The limited space is better suited for a very small number of people and things aboard.

A monohull is a great option for anyone looking for a traditional sailing experience. Monohulls are:

  • Good at maneuvering sharp turns and narrow passages
  • Great for learning how to sail well
  • Able to self-right in times of very choppy waves

While monohulls can have a quite unsteady experience on deck because of their single hull design, compared to the catamaran, they are better for learning how to sail well because you can feel all of the movements of the water, and learn how to adjust to protect yourself and your boat. Monohulls may tip, but they have the ability to turn themselves right side up, but catamarans can’t.

Life at Sea

There are pros and cons for the two typical options (catamaran and monohull) for living at sea, but there are many more if you’d rather just float on the waves and not move around too much. Other options include:

  • Floating homes
  • Luxury houseboats
  • House barges

These options are becoming increasingly popular though they aren’t suited for sailing. They often have a lot more living space with full kitchens and bedrooms. Floating homes don’t move through the water, they are designed to float in one spot. House barges and luxury houseboats can move in the water, but much slower than a sailboat, and with less stability in choppy water or storms. As you can see, there is a lot to choose from when deciding on a life in the water, so do your own research, and maybe rent some of these boats for a while to see which is the right fit for you!

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