Houseboat hopping in Seattle

Get an up-close look at the city's most distinctive neighborhood

Houseboat garden
Photo: John Granen

The common denominator of the entire Lake Union community, says Jeri Callahan, who published a book about it two years ago, is "very strong feelings about the value of the life we have here."

Her theory on why people are so enamored with houseboats? Everyone has an innate need to be grounded in nature, she says, but most American homes today work hard to disconnect us ― they're insulated, double-glazed, and air-conditioned so that the outside world hardly intrudes at all. Houseboats, in contrast, respond directly to nature, even rocking with the waves nudged by a modest breeze.

"But instead of being 'grounded,' " says Callahan, "I like to say we're 'watered.' "

Tour the houseboats

The biennial Living on the Lake public tour is on September 10, from noon to 5. Tickets are $25 per person from the Floating Homes Association (206/325-1132).

To see the houseboat community from the outside only, book a guided tour on a quiet electric-powered boat (from $40/person; www.discoverhouseboating.com or 206/322-9157). Or rent a kayak from Northwest Outdoor Center on Lake Union (from $24 for four hours; 206/281-9694).

Jeri Callahan's book about the community, Staying Afloat (Peanut Butter Publishing, 2004; $15), is available from www.discoverhouseboating.com and local bookstores.

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