Whether sifting through sand, or scrambling over a rocky shore, it's about finding treasures in every day. 

Floathouse Dreams

"Do you know of a floathouse for sale in Southeast Alaska?" This question pops up in my inbox once in awhile. The letters usually include the writers' reasons for getting away from where they are plus bits of hopeful dreams.  ...it is so beautiful there in Alaska!...I want to be close to the real world...fish off of the front deck...be in a peaceful cove...run an Alaskan lodge...  So this post is to give you some grist for your daydream mill.

I feel for the people who are drawn to make such an enormous change in their lives. It can be idyllic to live in a cozy floating cabin, tucked into a tree-lined cove, to jump into your skiff to run to town for supplies every few weeks, and to catch a salmon for dinner. Now I'm not going to idealize the floathouse life too much, as there's the difficult part, too. Floathouses are a great place to live if you are strong, energetic, and have a career that doesn't require you to show up in town daily. 

This floating shop is for sale. It needs to be moved to a new location. Info is HERE

This floating shop is for sale. It needs to be moved to a new location. Info is HERE

Living in Alaska is expensive, and the price of land seems astronomical to some people. A floathouse may be an affordable dream.

Floathouse kit: This furnished floathouse is listed with a truck (in town) and a boat HERE.

Floathouse kit: This furnished floathouse is listed with a truck (in town) and a boat HERE.

It is not open and free to live in a floathouse in Alaska, but it is doable in some cases. The State of Alaska, Department of Natural Resources, Division of Mining, Land and Water has an application here (opens a new window) as one part of the process. They want to be sure that the applicant has a solid plan for the footprint of the float, anchoring the float, handling waste, and other considerations. If a permit is issued then State personnel will occasionally come around to be sure that floathouse is in compliance. There is also an annual fee, but I don't know how much it is.

Spring, and the season for selling and buying homes, is here. This year there are several floathouses for sale near Thorne Bay. That is kind of unusual, so when we were out in the skiff today I took a few pictures of available floathouses with my little point-and-shoot camera. It was dreary and starting to rain so use your imagination to add sunshine and dream about life on the water.

Here's a floathouse that has a fun driftwood railing on the upper deck. It is listed on Craigslist with way better pictures HERE.

Here's a floathouse that has a fun driftwood railing on the upper deck. It is listed on Craigslist with way better pictures HERE.

One of the floathouses, shown in the photo below, already has an offer pending and might be off the market soon.

Cute little floathouse for sale in Southeast Alaska

But really, if you are going to dream then dream big, right? This dream includes a floathouse to live in and an amazing lodge business. Even the story of the floathouse is cool - the house started out on land in Ketchikan! Check out McFarland's Floatel at their website, or look up Coastal Real Estate Group to dive right in to living the Alaskan Dream. The older floathouse is a great home - we were there today - thanks for the great visit Jeannie and Jim! - and the cabins are gorgeous.

Floathouse Floatel in Thorne Bay, Southeast Alaska

I have to do this. This post sounds like an ad, but really it is just a response to a lot of requests that I have received. *Disclaimer* I'm providing the links for your entertainment and convenience, and am not representing anyone, and do not receive anything for posting about these floathouses.

So Keep Dreaming, Dear Ones!

Alaska Beachcomber

More floathouse posts: Floathouses, Hello Prince of Wales Island!

More about floathouse living at Alaska For Real (a friend's site)

Hello Prince of Wales Island!

A big chunk of my heart lives on Prince of Wales Island in Southeast Alaska.  When my sweetheart told me that he would be going to work on Prince of Wales Island (P.O.W.) this summer I was ecstatic!

Southeast Alaska has four of the ten biggest islands in the United States, and P.O.W. is the biggest of those four at 2577 square miles. Where POW has it all over Chichagof, Admiralty, and Baranof Islands, even more than just size, is in the number of communities and miles of roads.

Prince of Wales Island has nine communities on the road system: Coffman Cove, Craig, Hollis, Hydaburg, Kasaan, Klawock,  Naukati, Thorne Bay, and Whale Pass. Not connected by roads are Point Baker and Port Protection.

P.O.W. has over 2000 miles of roads. Only 105 miles is paved, and another 150 miles is improved gravel roads. That leaves miles and miles of logging roads to explore!

We ran the boat from Ketchikan, on Revillagigedo Island, to Thorne Bay, on Prince of Wales Island. It is a five hour trip in good weather. It took us six hours, so while Clarence Strait was bouncy, windy, and pretty rough in a couple of spots, it wasn’t so bad as to make an interesting story.

Floathouse and sailboat near Thorne Bay, Alaska. Pretty cool lifestyle, huh?

On the way in to Thorne Bay there are some floathouses anchored in little coves. Doesn’t this look like an interesting and fun way to live? Okay, it’s not for everyone, but it is perfect for some people.  Now you can’t just anchor a floathouse anywhere in Southeast Alaska, but if you talk to the right agencies, and fill out the paperwork, then there is just a chance that you will be able to get a permit to anchor a floathouse. Then keeping the house in place and afloat through wind and tide is its own challenge! But I won't go into that today.

There was a blustery westerly so people were out making sure things were secure around their floathouses.

Sort of gives new meaning to "living on the water," doesn't it?

Thorne Bay has a harbormaster, and he made sure that we were taken care of. This is a friendly town, and everyone has not only been outgoing and nice, they have included us in the community. So welcoming!

On an island with this much road we needed wheels. The Interisland Ferry Authority has daily ferry service between Hollis and Ketchikan. A friend brought our truck over on the ferry, so we had to go for a drive! Or two.

There is a LOT of road construction on P.O.W. this year. There is even a schedule of when the pilot car goes through with wait times of up to two and a half hours.

The views from the Sandy Beach road are just beautiful!

Beachcombers out enjoying the spring day.

There are stretches of nice, sandy beach along the Sandy Beach Road, but tidepools can make the rocky beaches far more interesting.

Parts of the island still have snow in late March and some of the side roads are impassible. The roads connecting communities are open, though.

Some of the roads still look like this in late March.

Many of the lakes still have ice on them.

Neck Lake, near Whale Pass is thawing.

Deer are regularly seen along the roads. On one drive we quit counting at a dozen. Most of them are does and fawns, but there is the occasional buck, too.

Sitka blacktail deer practicing a broadside presentation by the road.

They still have their winter coats on. Overall the winter was not severe, so most of the deer made it through in good condition.  We did see a couple of yearlings that had prominent hip bones, but they should fatten up on spring growth soon.

Sitka blacktail yearling. What a baby face!

By one of the beaches we found this hammock that appears to be crafted of old seine net.

I might just have to try that out on a summer day!

Happy Spring, Everyone!

Alaska Beachcomber

For more on floathouses, click here.

If it was fun to see the deer, check out more wildlife on the Alaskan Critters page!


There are over fourteen thousand RV parks in the United States. Wow, how we love to travel, and to take a dwelling with us.  So how does that work in an archipelago?  You can bring your RV on the Alaska Marine Highway System, our ferry system, and stay at RV parks here.

This post is not about that kind of RV, though. You see, the four round, black pontoons on most RV's work fine on the highway, but won't even float it for a few seconds in the ocean.

Around Southeast there are quite a few floathouses. Kind of a local form of RV. Some are permanent dwellings, too.

Pushing the floathouse back to port. 

Fair damsel, above, is enjoying the cruise in the floathouse tower.

In days past floathouses were built on a raft of logs. Now it is more common to build a wood deck atop plastic floats, and then build the cabin or house on the deck. 

Towing a floathouse with a Mother-in-law cabin!

This isn't like towing a camper down the highway at 60 mph. Floathouses usually tow at about three or four knots...that's four or five miles per hour.

In autumn an Alaska Dept. of Fish and Game floathouse is towed back in to Wrangell for the winter. In the photo below the research vessel "Kestrel" is slowing to disconnect the towline to the floathouse. The small boats by the floathouse will take it the rest of the way in to port.

Alaska Fish and Game research vessel "Kestrel" towing a floathouse.

Most harbors have limits on the number of liveaboards within the harbor. Some harbors allow a number of floathouses, and some don't allow any. Almost all harbors in Southeast Alaska have liveaboard fees.

Floathouse in a harbor. 


Now before you decide on this lifestyle, think about it for a minute...

If you drop your keys while stepping from the dock to the deck, then there is a very small chance that the professional diver can find them in the mud on the bottom of the harbor.  

Your house would rock in the wind, or if a boat throws a wake in passing.

Regular maintenance on the foundation prevents the house from sinking. 

There are advantages, too!  

If you want to move then you don't have to pack. Just tow your house to another town.  

No lawn to mow!

And if it doesn't work out on the water then a sturdy floathouse can be pulled ashore.


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