Travel
Navigation Bar
Navigation Bar

Partners:
    Related Items
 
Overnight Success
On the Waterfront: Seattle's Floating Rooms for Rent

By Marilyn Thompson
The Washington Post
Sunday, December 28, 1997; Page E02
   


What: Rental houseboat accommodations in downtown Seattle

How much: $135-$175 per night

Since actor Tom Hanks romanticized houseboat living a few years ago in the film "Sleepless in Seattle," Kent Davis can hardly keep up with the demand for his "floating homes" permanently moored on Seattle's scenic Lake Union.

Hanks's character mourned his wife's death from the deck of a multilevel showplace that, in real life, sold for a cool $500,000. Davis, owner of a lodging service called Houseboat Hideaways, offers tourists his two more modest homes in the same waterfront neighborhood for $135 to $175 a night.

The fully equipped boats are perhaps the only rentals in the city to offer a 180-degree view of the Seattle skyline, a stunning sight at sunset when the city's skyscrapers glow and downtown office workers head for their kayaks. Lake Union, which bisects the city, is only moments away from Seattle's central business hub and most major tourist attractions. Houseboat visitors may join the water-bound throngs by renting a small boat or kayak from one of the many local marinas or just enjoy the cocktail-hour spectacle from a chaise lounge on a houseboat deck.

The more commotion there is on the water the more the houseboat sways, which makes for much of its appeal, particularly for children. On a recent stay aboard the H.H. Endurance, a compact 28-foot houseboat that rents for $135 a night, nothing excited the kids more than the fearsome undertow kicked up by two large sunset cruise boats passing in tandem just outside the living room window. Caught unexpectedly, Mom was tossed about the tiny galley kitchen while the kids squealed, fearing a sudden hurricane. The turbulence settled down only to erupt -- along with the squeals and giggles -- again moments later.

Bedtime was another adventure. After experimenting with a pint-size potty that had to be pumped, not flushed (and no one was sure to where), the young ones stumbled around giggling, trying to maintain enough balance to brush their teeth. The Endurance boasts a queen-size bed (in a bedroom exactly the size of the mattress itself); our family of three (two under age 8) ended up packed like kippered herring into the berth. But the lake's nighttime sounds were so soothing and the rocking motion so gentle that sleep came effortlessly despite the crowd.

The Endurance's interior had the feel of an upscale Winnebago, with breezy French doors opening into a small wood-paneled dining room. Benches surrounding the dining room table doubled as twin beds, and a pull-out living room sofa gave the boat sleeping capacity for up to four. Another family attraction was a television equipped not only with a VCR but also with drawers of recent hit movies (although the 1993 Hanks film was conspicuously missing). The kitchen was tight, but sufficient for an easy dinner and morning breakfast.

A bit more spacious quarters were available in Davis's 36-by-14-foot Lauren Rose, which normally rents for $175 a night. Along with a better view of the city's signature tourist attraction -- the nearby Space Needle at the Seattle Center -- the boat has a wood stove, a covered porch and sleeps up to six.

Both boats are within walking distance of several waterfront restaurants and a short drive away from the charming shops and eateries of the Queen Anne residential neighborhood.

Houseboat living, even for a night, offers a peek at the unusual but thriving year-round waterfront culture in Seattle, where floating homes and large boats house hundreds of permanent residents. At the Boat World marina, where the Endurance is moored, a friendly deli serves morning coffee to groggy water folk before they leave on bikes or cars for downtown jobs. In the evening, houseboat residents putter in rooftop flower gardens or sip wine while watching the sunset. The mood itself is intoxicating. Kayaks and row boats wait at front doors.

Davis, who hopes to eventually expand the business, says the best advice for would-be houseboat adventurers is to plan early, since his boats are booked well in advance. Another houseboat service that offers weekly rentals on Lake Union -- Rent a Home International -- seconds that advice. Its houseboats, ranging in price from $900 to $3,500 a week, are routinely reserved nine months in advance.

For rates and reservations for Houseboat Hideaways on Lake Union, call 206-323-5323; a two-night minimum is sometimes required. No smoking is permitted on boats. A 50 percent deposit is required on reservations. Rent a Home International, 206-789-9377, requires a one-week minimum stay; complete listings are available at http://www.rentavilla.com.

   
© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

Back to the top
Navigation Bar
Navigation Bar