If you’re the kind of person who wants to spend day and night on the water while on vacation, literally, then consider booking a “sleep-aboard.” Companies such as SleepAfloat, which primarily serves the Atlantic coast, specialize in providing short-term stays on private boats. These range from modest houseboats, sailboats and cabin cruisers to luxury yachts capable of pampering a dozen or more guests.

The boats are owned by individuals or small hospitality businesses and remain at the dock for the duration of the rental period, serving as living quarters only. (Some aren’t even equipped with engines!) Nevertheless, they make attractive alternatives to traditional waterfront accommodations.

By booking stays aboard a boat rather than in a hotel, motel or B&B on several recent trips, my wife and I were able to enjoy marina living, surrounded by boats and boaters, and adopt the lifestyle we’ve dreamed of experiencing — even if only for a few days. In doing so, we learned what we liked (and what we didn’t) about “living aboard” and being on the water 24/7 rather than merely next to it.

We also saved some money. Compared to the price of waterfront accommodations at the popular vacation destinations we visited, we not only paid less for our floating quarters, but by being able to cook aboard, we avoided spending even more. In addition to a full galley, many sleep-board boats come with a barbecue grill and deck furniture for alfresco dining. And because of the requisite waterfront locations, finding fresh seafood to prepare is rarely a problem — often within walking distance of the host marina.

At Home or Abroad
VRBO (Vacation Rentals By Owner) provides an online space for homeowners to advertise their vacation properties, and also lists hundreds of stay-aboard boats for rent worldwide. While some are offered as full-service boats and allow qualified guests to operate them, and a few are offered with the option of a captain, most are presented as an alternative to traditional overnight accommodations.

Another rent-by-owner company, GetMyBoat, which dominates the boat rental market, recently began its Sleep Aboard program, which is directed at travelers who wish to stay aboard rather than ashore.

“The culture behind boating is incredible and diverse. Sleep Aboard is an opportunity for people worldwide to experience boating without ever leaving the docks,” said Bryan Petro, CIO at GetMyBoat. “There are boating bed and breakfasts in Newport, Miami and San Francisco; houseboats on landlocked lakes where people want to stop and enjoy some fresh air. In Amsterdam, houseboats are popular, while in the United Kingdom, canal boats are the norm. What’s more, there is a Sleep Aboard for every budget.”

Operating on all seven seas throughout the world, GetMyBoat has 35,000 boats listed in 143 countries. With the addition of Sleep Aboard, GetMyBoat aims to provide additional accommodations during events like the World Cup or the Olympics, or even concerts and festivals that take over cities and result in overbooked, high-priced hotel rooms.

Bonus Boating
Our experiences with SleepAfloat have been excellent; we’ve stayed aboard houseboats that have been clean and comfortably outfitted, with prices averaging $125 per night. On one occasion, we trailered our own powerboat to tie up alongside, which we used for fishing and to explore the nearby waters. Two of the SleepAfloat boats we rented actually came with kayaks for guests to use — a real bonus.

The bottom line is, staying on boats has made our trips extra fun. We obviously enjoy the lifestyle, and we’ve always admired those who live it full-time. We now know that we can follow in their wake — at least for a week or so — thanks to the easy and affordable option offered by on-water, overnight accommodations. Give it a try on your next vacation!

Author: Dan Armitage is a regular contributor to HeartLand Boating