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Boats into Buildings

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Gives a whole new meaning to the term "boathouse."

"Remnants of the Naval Research Institute cleared the mirelurks off this wreck about 40 years ago. We were looking for new lab space, and this bucket of bolts just happened to have a well-preserved science bay on it. Everything else just grew up around that lab once we got it up and running."
Horace Pinkerton on Rivet City, Fallout 3

On the occasion that a seafaring vessel is retired, it's usually broken down for scrap or sunk to create an artificial reef. But in some cases, ships get a second lease on life... on land.

When Boats Into Buildings comes into play, marine vessels are hauled out of the water and used to create permanent land-based structures. Homes are the most common example, but businesses, schools, town halls, even secret bases and storage sheds are all options.

The ships might be taken apart for raw material to create new buildings, but more often they're re-purposed without the need for too much deconstruction. In the simplest case, ships can be dragged ashore and hooked up to utilities like an RV. In others, the boats might be flipped upside down to create a sturdy, pre-built roof from the water-tight hull.


Note that these aren't just structures that superficially resemble ships - actual boats must have been used in the construction in order to qualify. This trope also tends to exclude modern craft constructed out of fiberglass, rather focusing on medium-to-large wooden boats and large metal-hulled ships. note 


In fiction, a beached boat such as this might be the home of an extra-quirky Houseboat Hero, or the retired form of a Cool Boat. Compare and Contrast with Saharan Shipwreck (when a boat on dry land serves as a surreal set piece) and City on the Water (wherein cities are constructed so as to float on the water like a boat).


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    Anime & Manga 
  • The human settlers in Trigun eventually deconstructed their colony ships and used the materials to create the various towns that are scattered across the planet of Gunsmoke.

    Comic Books 
  • Asterix and the Cauldron has an inn called "the beached pirate", which is of course, a hastily-converted beached pirate ship.
  • Just a Pilgrim: A downplayed example. As the Earth's oceans have dried up, the caravan the titular Pilgrim is staying with uses the wreck of the Titanic as a temporary shelter, which comes in handy when they're attacked by wasteland raiders. The raiders are wiped out, but so is the caravan, leaving the Pilgrim as the only survivor.

    Fan Works 

    Films — Animation 
  • In Titan A.E., the last remnants of Humanity have chosen to live something of a nomadic life instead of collectively seeking out a new world to settle on. There are drifter colonies all over the galaxy haphazardly cobbled together from the various vessels used to escape from Earth when it was destroyed.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Hook, the pirates' town is mostly built from beached ships stacked on each other, with the stuffed crocodile used as a clock tower in the central place. There was a scripted scene of the pirates strutting up such a ship, with Captain Hook directing them as if hanging a painting, but it wasn't filmed for being too expensive.
  • Shipwreck City in Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End is an Exaggerated example. The town itself is built out of hundreds of scuttled ships piled haphazardly atop each other in a Shipwreck Cove, an inlet found within the dormant volcano known as Shipwreck Island. The structure of Shipwreck City easily reaches over a dozen stories into the air. No one knows precisely how old the city is, though according to legend its foundations consist of Greek triremes, Roman galleys, and dragon-prowed longships.

  • The village of Bilgewater in Dinotopia: Journey to Chandra was built from the hulls of three galleons — the Prince of the Seas, the Royal Vanguard, and the Advance — that wrecked on the reef surrounding the island. With the help of dinosaur muscle for the heavy lifting, the ships were floated to the surface, dragged to their permanent home, sawed in half, and set upright to create a unique community.
  • In Dragonlance, the city of Tarsis was a major port until the Cataclysm changed the sea levels and made it landlocked. Some 200-300 years after the Cataclysm, some of the stranded ships have been converted into buildings.
  • Redwall: In The Legend of Luke, Vilu Daskar's ship is broken in half during the climactic battle. One of the halves, stuck between two rocks, becomes a new home for the battle's survivors.
  • Shine On, Daizy Star: Technically, the boat in Cathy Cassidy's novel never made it onto the ocean, but when Daizy's father realized his scheme to take his family sailing around the world was not one they shared, he gave the boat away and let it become the base for the infant's new pirate-themed playground.
  • In Use of Weapons, Elethiomel converts the battleship Staberinde into a land-based fortress.

    Video Games 
  • The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim: Jorrvaskr, home of the mercenary company The Companions, was built out of the Viking longboat of the same name.
  • Rivet City in Fallout 3 is an aircraft carrier that, following the Great War, was converted into one of the largest and most scientifically advanced settlements in the Capital Wasteland. Among the features that the Lone Wanderer can find onboard are a market, a clinic, a science lab, a bar called the Muddy Rudder, and even a hotel.
  • Fallout 4:
    • A downplayed example can be found in the FMS Northern Star, a ship that apparently ran aground after the bombs fell. Its ghoulified Norwegian crew simply turned it into a raider base.
    • In the Far Harbor DLC, the Children of Atom inhabit a submarine dry dock, complete with a submarine that's clearly not going anywhere soon.
  • Many of the buildings in Lion's Arch and other areas occupied by pirates in Guild Wars 2 appear to be made from ships. Notable examples include the Guild Initiative Headquarters and the Crow's Nest Tavern (both before and after reconstruction).
  • In King's Quest VI: Heir Today, Gone Tomorrow, the Green Isles ferry has been drydocked for so long that it's beyond repair (at least conventional repair). Even so, the ferryman still lives in the ship's cabin.
  • League of Legends and Legends of Runeterra: Boats as parts of buildings are a common architectural feature of the sea-serpent-hunting (and occasionally pirating) city of Bilgewater. When Butcher's Bridge is the active ARAM map in League, you can actually see a few in the background, while the Bilgewater cosmetic board in Legends of Runeterra might also be an in-game case of this.
  • Mad Max: Wasteland leader Gutgash and his tribe live inside of a ship in a dried-up part of the ocean and work on rebuilding it to be sturdy in case the water ever comes back (and to make it more defensible against War Boy marauders).
  • Monster Hunter: WorldAstera's Gathering Hub and the Third Fleet base are both built from the ships the Hunters used to sail to the New World. Quite how Astera's ship made it to the top of a cliff is another story.
  • RuneScape: In Runescape 3, some Player Owned Port bars feature an upper deck made from a boat.
  • In SPY Fox in Dry Cereal, SPY Corp has set up its Acidophilus base in the cabin of a ship that is buried underground. Only the ship's bow can be seen aboveground, where it is disguised as a phone booth. Fox has to enter a special phone number in the "phone booth" in order to activate a secret elevator to access the base.
  • A downplayed example can be found in The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt: a rock troll is accidentally recruited by the Redanian army and joins up with a unit who are trying to protect a fleet of boats that have been "requisitioned" from some peasants. In an unusually literal case of Insane Troll Logic, the troll decides "boats guard boats!" and rips some of the boats apart to use the timber to build a crude fence to protect the rest of the fleet.

    Web Videos 
  • In the Fantasy High campaign of Dimension 20, Fabian Seacaster lives in a giant dry-docked ship, since his father is a semi-retired pirate captain.

    Western Animation 
  • Codename: Kids Next Door: The Bizarrchitecture treehouse bases from which KND agents operate are constructed out of a combination of local buildings, monuments, and vehicles, including ships:
    • The Treehouse in Sector V, out of which the protagonists operate, includes the prow of a large cruise ship.
    • Greek Sector Treehouse has two cruise ships incorporated into the structure.
    • Peruvian Sector Treehouse has what looks like an old fishing trawler incorporated into the structure.
    • Kids Next Door Arctic Training Base and Prison plays with the trope: the "treehouse" is built into the roots of a lone pine tree that appears to grow out of the arctic ice, with salvaged structures including a large cruise ship hidden below the surface. Not technically land-based, but it fits the spirit of the trope.
    • The Central Bike Hub in Sequoia National Park, California is built into the branches of a Redwood tree, and includes a large ship.
    • Zigzagged in the Deep Sea Science Lab, with is underwater. The salvaged oil platform and cruise ship that make up the base are tethered to the bottom of the ocean by seaweed, resembling the treehouses operatives utilize on land.
    • Despite being on the moon, the first KND Moonbase included both a cargo ship and a submarine in the structure.
    • The Seriously Cool Museum of Artifacts and Stuff was built with what looks like a Spanish galleon in the branches of the tree.
    • The Super Convention Center, perched in the branches of a tree atop the Empire State Building, has a large cruise ship parked on top of an airport as part of the design.
    • Sector J's Treehouse base, in Jamaica, is a treehouse built on a palm tree. A large cruise ship with what looks like a cannonball hole in the side is part of the design.
    • The Sector U Treehouse in Guatemala appears to have a small boat hung on a lower bough.
  • How to Train Your Dragon: Most structures in the Viking village of Berk are built out of Viking longships, and the iconography of the dragon figureheads at the prow of the ships is carried over into the architectural trappings. Fearsome "Monstrous Nightmare", "Deadly Nadder", and "Hideous Zippleback" dragon head carvings adorn the gables of houses and the village's meeting hall.
  • Mike, Lu & Og: Lu and Og's houses are built from the wreckage of the ship that brought their ancestors to the island of Albonquetine.
  • Monster High: Escape from Skull Shores: Andy Beast was travelling by boat when a storm stranded it at Skull Shores. It's unknown what happened to the passengers other than Andy — they may have survived and left Andy to fend for himself or they may have perished. Andy, in any case, used his kaiju-esque alternate form to refashion the back half of the boat into a treehouse, which remained his home until he moved to Monster High.
  • The Simpsons: In a flashback from "Gone Maggie Gone", a band of nuns sails to the New World on a ship, which they then flip over to use as their convent.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants: The show Plays With the trope where it overlaps with Shipshape Ship Wreck. The homes and businesses of the underwater city of Bikini Bottom all have a nautical theme to them, naturally including boats and parts of boats (alongside other maritime flotsam, jetsam, lagan and derelict) in the construction. Most of the buildings appear to be made from old smokestacks, but there are examples of structures made from repurposed boats:
  • TaleSpin: The episode "Her Chance To Dream" reveals that Louie's bar is a derelict ship that he remodeled. The ghost of the ship's captain then tries to take it back while romancing Rebecca.
  • Thundarr the Barbarian: In the episode "Raiders of the Abyss" Thundarr visits a tribe that lives in the ancient wreck of a beached cruise ship. The chief of the tribe wears the old captain's hat and uniform as a sign of his authority.

    Real Life 
  • The French village of Équihen-Plage is renowned for the number of boat-roofed houses constructed from small fishing boats stranded on the beach during the early 1900s. The bases of these houses were constructed from wood or stone and the boats (dragged up from the shore) would be turned upside down, covered in tar to ensure they remained watertight, and used as the roof. The village earned the nickname "Quartier des Quilles en l'Air," or, "the neighborhood of keels in the air." Though most of the boat-homes were destroyed during WWII, a resurgence of interest in local history in the 1990s resulted in the reconstruction of a small commune of these houses as rental properties.
  • Fishermen on Lindisfarne recycle their old herring boats by sectioning them out, installing doors, and turning them into small sheds for tools and nets.
  • The house at 200 Descanso Ave. on Santa Catalina Island in California was built using material from ''two'' ships. The second floor of the house still resembles an old ship's bridge.
  • MV Dulous Phos, notable for once being the oldest passenger ship in service (from the year 1914 - 2009), was converted into a stationary hotel upon retiring. Unlike similar conversions however, Dulous Phos was hauled out of the water and dry-docked permanently on a custom-built, anchor-shaped artificial island/ pleasure pavilion in the Riau Archepelago.
  • Star of Kodiak (formerly the liberty ship Albert M. Boe) was moored in Alaska as a floating cannery in 1965. Over the years the cannery's operation expanded considerably, and the ship became completely surrounded by fill and the growing facility. Today the Star of Kodiak is now completely landlocked, and still serves as the main office of Trident Seafoods.
  • Clearman's Galley is a restaurant nicknamed "The Boat" in San Gabriel, CA that used to have its kitchen in a converted vintage boat. It was torn down and moved to make way for a short-lived Kohl's in 2008, with a replica of the boat being used out front of the new location rather than having guests walk through it to order their meals as had been the case previously.
  • During the 1849 California Gold Rush, many ships that arrived in San Francisco were abandoned in the harbor when the crew deserted to go dig for gold. These ships were used as dwelling places and commercial residences for the growing city, and gradually the harbor was filled in and neighborhoods sprung up around them. Few survive today, but construction in San Francisco's financial district sometimes reveals old ships buried underneath skyscrapers.
  • After the American Revolution, Manhattan's shoreline was artificially extended to create more usable land. The river was filled in with scrap material including old ships. As in the San Francisco example, the ships turn up underneath buildings to this day, including one 200-year-old sloop found below the World Trade Center.
  • While it can't be proven, tradition holds that the timbers of the Mayflower, the ship that brought the Pilgrims to the Plymouth Colony in 1620, were used several years later to construct what's now called the Mayflower Barn in Buckinghamshire, England.
  • The Benson Ford Laker, built in 1924 to haul ore across the great lakes for the Ford Motor Co., was turned into a private house after it's sailing days were over. In 1986, the forward superstructure of the ship (including the forecastle deck) was removed and transported by the barge to South Bass Island (also called Put-in-Bay) in Ohio, East of Toledo and South of Detroit. There's even a website dedicated to the structure, complete with photos of the ship while it was still in use and interior photos of the five bedroom, five bath home after renovations.


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