New Houseboats for Flagler Beach, Florida, Marina

Flagler Bridge Boatworks and Marina in Flagler Beach, Florida, hired Sponberg Yacht Design in 2005 to develop a series of houseboat designs for their marina.  The state of Florida has given the marina approval for the mooring of 41 houseboats in a variety of designs.  Flagler Beach is located about midway between Daytona Beach to the south and historic St. Augustine (the oldest city in the United States) to the north, straddling the Intracoastal Waterway where the marina is located.  The marina is less than half a mile as the osprey flies to the Atlantic Ocean, and about 30 miles both north and south to the nearest ocean inlets.  

Fig. 1.  The Prototype Flagler Houseboat has rounded corners and an arched roof, which will be optional on future models.  Naval architect Eric Sponberg's pretty wife Arliss is the model in the photo.

The following story reviews the development of the Flagler-style houseboats from their inception to the present. The prototypes shown in the first series of photographs were built on plywood and fiberglass barges, and a newer model has been developed for a molded fiberglass boat hull. For details on the new hull and house style, scroll down to the end of the article.

The Flagler Houseboats shown here are in two sizes:  Small, 16’ x 40’ or 16' x 44', with about 550 sq. ft. of interior living area on one level; and Medium, 20' x 40', 20' x 44', and 20' x 48', with about 1,400 sq. ft. of interior living area on two levels.  A Large version is anticipated, as are custom versions for discerning clients.  This is a most affordable means for on-the-water living, and it is a full-time cruiser so it can be moved to other locations.

Each living unit is built on a rectilinear plywood and fiberglass hull that is subdivided into several watertight compartments.  The proprietary method of hull construction was developed by Howard Sklar of Flagler Bridge Boatworks and Marina in collaboration with Sponberg Yacht Design to assure high-quality boatbuilding standards and a long life with the minimum amount of maintenance.

The project started with the building of a one-level prototype barge that included rounded corners on the exterior walls and an arched roof.  The construction of this barge was used to work out the hull construction,  building specifications, and techniques that would allow simple, high-quality construction.

Fig. 2.  The Prototype Flagler Houseboat seen from the after end.

While the curved corners and curved roof are quite attractive, they are more expensive to build than square corners and roofs.  These features are not included in the standard designs, but an owner may request them for a correspondingly adjusted price.

The prototype floor plan below shows an arrangement with living room, kitchen, bath, laundry, and a bedroom.  There are access hatches through the floor to get into the hull interior.  Each watertight space in the hull has bilge pumps with automatic switches.  The hull is ventilated at the ends to keep spaces dry.  All interior surfaces in the hull are coated with wood preservatives.


Fig. 3.  The prototype floor plan is a one-bedroom model.

Each houseboat has complete electrical and water services.  There are shore power connections for electricity, television, telephone, and the Internet.  Plumbing service includes fresh water supply to an on-board hot water heater, and all gray water (sink and shower drains) and black water (toilet drains) collect in an on-board black water tank.  The tank is connected to a sewage vacuum system at the dock that can suck it free and dump into the Flagler Beach city sewer system.  No through-hull connections of any sort in the hull are necessary, so chances of any spills or hull flooding are nil.

Fig. 4.  Arliss is shown in the kitchen of the prototype, to be equipped with all of the "mod-cons".


Fig. 5.  This is the view from the kitchen out onto the Intracoastal Waterway at Flagler Marina.


Fig. 6.  This is the view of the bedroom on the prototype looking onto the bath and the hallway back to the living room.


Fig. 7.  The bedroom of the prototype seen in the opposite direction.  The door is for the closet.  Note also that the windows are extra tall all throughout the houseboat to let in the maximum amount of light and view.  The hatches in the floor go into the hull.

Another model that has been built is the small houseboat which is actually much larger than the prototype.  It has two levels wherein the construction techniques for adding the second level were worked out.

Fig. 8.  The "Small" houseboat is built, in this example, with larger porches on the second level.  Compare this photo to the elevation below.

The small houseboat was designed with square corners and a Mansard-style roof.  Porches are at either end of the first level, and another porch is at the aft end of the upper level.  

Fig. 9.  The Small houseboat, as designed.

At the time the photos were taken, the interior of the Small houseboat was still in the rough-framing stage, so there was not anything finished to photograph.

Fig. 10.  The Small houseboat is much bigger than the prototype and includes a living room, kitchen, dining room, great room, and full bath on the lower level.


Fig. 11.  The second floor of the Small houseboat barge has two bedrooms, each with double beds and ensuite bathrooms.

The master bedroom has a porch at the aft end.  The actual model with porches for both bedrooms  necessarily has smaller bedrooms.  However, this shows how interior and exterior spaces may be traded off, depending on how an owner wants to use the houseboat.

LATE NEWS (June 2008):  At Flagler Bridge Boatworks' request, SYDI has redesigned the houseboats to be built on fiberglass hulls.  These houseboats will be 16' wide, 52' long, and have  single-story accommodations with two bedrooms, one and a half baths, kitchen, living room, dining area, and with porches at both ends.  The hulls actually look more like a vessel than a barge and so will have a more nautical character.  Some of the new drawings are shown below:

Fig. 12.  The new houseboat profile on the fiberglass hull.  Outboard power is optional.


Fig. 13.  The new houseboat plan is a 2-bedroom, 1.5-bath arrangement.  If desired, it can also be built on the original plywood epoxy barge.

Interested owners are encouraged to contact Mr. Howard Sklar at the marina for more information on purchasing a houseboat, long-term marina space leasing, and customization inside and out to suit particular tastes.  Customers will work with Sponberg Yacht Design to verify their specifications or to customize their layouts and styling, and we will gladly work with a customer’s own interior designer to include those all-important special touches.  Propulsion power by outboard engine can be provided.  Shipment to locations outside Flagler Beach may be made by the houseboat's own power, by truck, or by barge.

Fig. 14.  The hull is solid fiberglass without core. It does have an extensive internal wood framing structure. The deck is plywood and fiberglassed over to seal it.


Fig. 15.  This is a fisheye view of the hull.

At the IBEX conference in October 2011 in Louisville, KY, I presented a PowerPoint presentation on the Modular Catamaran Houseboat which describes the essense of the design and construction issues with houseboats. I added my speech to the sound track, and you may download the presentation to see it for yourself. Click here on Modular Catamaran Houseboat--you may save it and pass it around to your friends. I am also trying to develop design relationships with other houseboat builders who may be able build the types of houseboats I advocate in this presentation. Also, I am open to discussing new houseboat designs with potential customers. Give me a call if you are interested, or write to me through my CONTACT US page.



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