By Thomas Swick
City & Shore Magazine
South Florida has lots of houses and plenty of boats but very little in the way of houseboats. Why is that? When we think of houseboats we think of, oh, Seattle – a city that’s cold and gray and damp for much of the year. Wouldn’t a warm, sunny city be more conducive to life on a houseboat?
Robert Rowe thinks so. “What better place than South Florida?” he asks rhetorically. “The yachting capital of the world. The vacation capital of the world.”
The CEO of Global Boatworks, LLC is sitting in the living room of Luxuria, which occupies a slip at the Bahia Mar Yachting Center. The houseboat was built at the Lauderdale Marine Center with all the accoutrements of a vessel: motors, anchoring system, marine wiring, helm. But it also has 10-foot ceilings and floor-to-ceiling windows. It’s for people, Rowe says, who enjoy marine living but don’t necessarily appreciate the tight quarters of a boat.
Rowe knows the feeling. In the mid-’80s, coming to Fort Lauderdale from Boston, he’d stay at Marina Bay, which back then featured rooms on houseboats. (Older readers may have seen them on the TV show Flipper.) He was so taken by the concept that he built a houseboat and lived on it for a while in Boston. Photos of that floating home show it with the pitched roof of a small New England house. Luxuria’s look is more modern, with a flat roof and a wealth of glass to relieve its box shape. It sells for $1,495,000.
The interior is even more contemporary. Rowe points to the LED fireplace behind his chair, which includes a heating element. He picks up a remote and brings down the drapes. He walks to the guest bedroom and works the motorized blackout drapes. Then he heads over to the full-service kitchen, with custom-built, bi-fold cabinets that close silently at the touch of his hand. The toilet seat in the bathroom does the same. He opens a trapdoor in the kitchen to reveal the foundation – a steel barge that is five feet deep and has four individual monitored compartments with pumps, alarms and exhaust features.
“It’s a floating mini mansion,” he says, “a penthouse on the water – on the first floor rather than the 50th.”
And if the seas rise, it will simply rise with them.
Outside, he shows the two, 300-horsepower engines. He notes that the houseboat, like a yacht, can be loaded on a transport ship and relocated to any waterfront in the world.
Rowe climbs the sturdy wooden staircase – above a glassed-in wine cabinet – to the spacious master bedroom and bathroom. Standing by the sofa in the former, on the waterproof vinyl floor that resembles wood, he looks out as the Bluefoot Pirate Ship sails past. The waves from the vessel, rather than rocking the houseboat, bounce off its barge. The structure is so sturdy that even people who get seasick at the drop of an anchor can live on it.
“There’s a lot of steel in here,” Rowe says. “There’s no building code because it’s a boat, but we built it stronger than a house.
“Eventually, we’d love to get our own marina and make a village of these.” He’s also working on a smaller version that people with docks could use as an office or guesthouse.
Rowe steps outside to the steering station, which stands on the balcony outside the bedroom, at the top of a winding staircase. From that second-floor perch, the ocean is visible.