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Houseboat Hero

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Home sweet houseboat.

MacGimmick: Lots of famous detectives have lived on boats. Sonny Crockett from Miami Vice, B.L. Stryker, the team from Simon & Simon and even Quincy all lived on boats!
Girl of the Week: True, but none of them ever converted their boat into a treehouse!
MAD satire

Straightforward trope — the hero is that much cooler because he not only has a Cool Boat, he actually lives on it (in theory, the hero could live on an uncool houseboat, except that houseboats are almost always inherently cool), making it, at the same time, a Cool House. This may be symbolic of the hero's cool detachment from things (or his being Allergic to Routine), since he could (in theory at least) just raise anchor and move his whole life away whenever he wishes. Doesn't apply to people who live on a boat which serves as the home base for dozens or hundreds of occupants, or to those who just work on a boat owned by someone else, even if that's where they spend their nights (in a navy, as a pirate, on a cruise ship).

In Real Life, houseboats are typically mobile homes on pontoons or barges, and are as close to Cool Boat as The Alleged Car is to Cool Car. Some works with Loser Protagonists will have the hero live on such a houseboat to highlight their lack of social skills.


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    Comic Books 
  • A pretty popular Archie story involves one. Archie and Betty find a girl in a swamp, and take her to their friend, an old captain living in a houseboat. The girl is revealed to be an heiress, but her uncle is trying to kill her. Archie and his friends set a trap for him, luring him to the boat, planning on jumping him when he opens the door. However, the uncle decides instead to cut the lines, sending them down toward the Inevitable Waterfall. Of course, the gang had planned for this, and there was a cable that kept the boat from drifting too far down. Makes you wonder why the captain lived so close to a waterfall...
  • Tempest Gale in Pk2 lives on a small, crappy boat.
  • Tim Drake: Robin: Tim moves into a houseboat in the marina and continues acting as a costumed detective hero.

    Fan Works 
  • Vow of Nudity: Serris of Tides, the Guest-Star Party Member of Peril in the Frozen North, is a freelance private investigator/artificer who lives on a boat, crafts his own crime-solving gadgets, and sails the world taking cases for hire.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • In Assault on a Queen, Mark Brittain and Linc Langley live on their fishing charter boat. When the owner the marina threatens to impound their boat for nonpayment of fees, Mark agrees to sign on to Rosa's expedition as diver.
  • Blood Work (Clint Eastwood lives on one); but so does the Big Bad, berthed a few slips down.
  • Cocktail: Bryan Brown lives on a yacht.
  • In Father Goose, The Protagonist starts out as this, but is stranded on an island and spends a fair amount of the movie trying to fix his former home.
  • The undercover cop in Hard Boiled lives on a yacht (which ends up the site of one of the film's gunfight set pieces). The film ends with him sailing away after the "death" of his cover identity.
  • Leon Phelps, the title character of The Ladies Man lives in a beat up old houseboat full of painfully Seventies decor.
  • John Wayne in McQ.
  • Muddy River: One of the more depressing examples of this trope. Shoko is a widow who has turned to prostitution after her husband, who used to work the houseboat, drowned in the river. The family is living in poverty and the houseboat is old and while seaworthy doesn't look like it's in a great state of repair. Shoko's daughter Ginko talks about how they have to lean over the side of the boat to pee, while her son Kiichi wishes that they could live in a real house.
  • The Commodore in the 1980 Popeye lived on a boat. Well, it is about sailors.
  • Shane Falco in The Replacements (2000) ("See that yacht over there with the satellite dish? Mine's the one next to it covered in pigeon crap.")
  • Lorenzo Lamas's character in Snake Eater drives a houseboat.

  • In Jim Butcher's The Dresden Files novel Changes, Harry is living on a houseboat at the end after his apartment is burned out. Briefly. Then after he's revived he moves into a shack on a hidden island.
  • Jasper Fforde:
    • Thursday Next moves into a house-airboat (or should that be flying houseboat?) at the end of Lost in a Good Book.
    • In the Nursery Crime series, which takes places sort of in the same universe, D.S. Mary Mary lives on the same houseboat.
  • The protagonist CDR Mike Montgomery in the novel Scorpion in the Sea. When he isn’t on the US Navy destroyer he is the captain of. The author of that book prefers this trope. The protagonist Jim Hall in another novel Darkside also lives on a houseboat.
  • The Thora series is about a half-mermaid girl who lives on a houseboat with her mermaid mother and a human man who helps raise her.
  • Travis McGee: The title character from the novels by John D. MacDonald lives on a houseboat called The Busted Flush (he won it in a poker game), parked in Slip F-18, Bahia Mar Marina, Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The marina is real (although there hasn't been a Slip F-18 since their last renovation), and maintains a plaque dedicated to the hero and his chronicler.
  • John Kelly in Tom Clancy's Without Remorse has a very nice boat he uses to live on when he's not on the island he rents, until he destroys it at the end as part of faking his own death.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Arrested Development: GOB Bluth made a hearty attempt at this trope, but the boat belonged to the Bluth Company, and his residency there was one of the strings that kept him (in his mind) beholden to his brother Michael.
  • Burn Notice: Sam and Fiona were nearly caught snooping around on the boat belonging to the week's villains. This one's a two-fer, actually, since...
    • ... the villains were a couple running various financial scams while living out of the boat precisely so they could take off on a moment's notice, and...
    • ... when they were about to be caught by the villains, Sam pretended to be a guy claiming he lived on the boat in order to score with Fiona.
  • Bobby from Cougartown lives on a boat. A boat that never leaves the parking lot. In the second season, Jules and the others move it to the marina to surprise Bobby. It promptly sinks. They do fish it back out, leaving Bobby back where he started. At the end of the season, Bobby [[spoiler:moves into an apartment and leaves the houseboat to a depressed Travis. In the third season, Travis moves to a dorm and Bobby is back on the boat.]
  • A rare female example: Kate from Fairly Legal. Although she admits in the first season finale that she doesn't actually sail ...and in the season two premiere her boat blows up.
  • Harrow lives on his sailboat anchored on the Brisbane river.
  • On Haven, Duke lives in a barge he won in a poker game when he was younger. It's a cargo boat, but at least part of it has been converted into living quarters. In a subversion of the trope, he's on the other side of the law: he's a Venturous Smuggler, who works with the local Haven detectives only reluctantly.
  • Duncan MacLeod in Highlander: The Series lived off and on in a péniche on the Seine in Paris.
  • Kellerman from Homicide: Life on the Street. Of course his coolness got deconstructed as time went on.
  • MacGyver (1985) lived on a houseboat for several seasons.
  • Miami Vice: Crockett has two boats; one for racing, one where he lives with his alligator.
  • On the Animal Planet show Pit Boss, main character Shorty lives on a boat. With pit bulls. It's a reality/documentary thing about a group that rescues abandoned pit bulls, so he fits the "heroic" requirement too.
  • Quincy, M.E. lived on a boat, until the episode "Quincy's Wedding, Part 2" when he arranged to sell it, because his fiancee and soon-to-be-wife Emily didn't want to live on it.
  • Cody in Riptide runs the series detective agency out of his boat; his partners Nick and Murray live on the boat as well.
  • On Simon & Simon, Rick lives on a boat parked in A.J.'s front yard.
  • The early '60s detective series Surfside 6 had its heroes living on the title boat in Miami Beach (cha-cha-cha, CHA).
  • Joe and Brian accidentally sink Lowell's houseboat on Wings.

    Tabletop Games 
  • BattleTech: Mercenary outfits often live in their dropships, which is basically the 31st/32nd Century equivalent of living in a boat. Few merc groups have permanent landholds, and they have to move around a lot between contracts, so there's little incentive for them to actually buy a home on a planet that they'll be leaving in a few months and probably won't return to.

    Video Games 
  • Assassin's Creed plays with this trope in games that feature/revolve around sailing:
    • In Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag, Edward makes the Jackdaw his base of operation at least until he takes the island of Great Inagua under his control from an Templar agent.
    • Assassin's Creed Rogue averts this: while Shay uses the Morrigan much like Edward, he also gains a mansion residence in New York immediately after joining the Templars.
    • Played straight in Assassin's Creed: Odyssey where the Misthios make their ship the Adrestia as their residence after leaving their childhood home in Kephallonia.
  • Endless Ocean's base of operations for your character is the trusty Gabbiano.
  • The crew of Shadowrun Hong Kong live in the Bolthole, a derelict fishing ship moored near Kowloon Walled City. While spacious and a decent place tto live by Shadowrun standards, it's so rusted and old that everybody claims it would crumble down or sink the second it leaves harbour.
  • Wei Shen's third safehouse in Sleeping Dogs (2012) is a houseboat down by the Aberdeen docks; not his fanciest abode, but still much nicer than his tiny starting apartment.
  • Suikoden V has the Oboro Detective Agency, whose members live together on a small boat as both coworkers and surrogate family. This lets them pick up and go whenever they want; if the player isn't careful, this can lead to them being lost forever, courtesy of them leaving before the Prince can convince them to join his cause.

  • Derelict: The main character's base of operations.

    Western Animation 
  • In the first season of Avatar: The Last Airbender, Zuko lives on a small, crappy warship. Also more of an example of Houseboat Villain than Houseboat Hero.
  • Donald Duck:
    • "Hero" is questionable, but in The Little Wise Hen, the very first Donald Duck shorts, he lived on a houseboat. Fittingly, since he was more of an actual duck back then, so you'd think he'd live close to water.
    • His house at the Disney Theme Parks is a boat, called the Miss Daisy, which was carried over into the Mickey Mouse Works shorts.
    • In DuckTales (2017), Donald and his nephews are living in an old boat. By the end of the pilot, it relocates to Scrooge McDuck's swimming pool after it catches fire due to the nephews trying to hotwire it.
  • Joshua Jones, a stop-motion series by the creators of Fireman Sam, puts a uniquely British spin on this thanks to the title character being a Narrowboat Hero.
  • Miraculous Ladybug: Marinette's classmate Juleka lives on a houseboat with her mother Anarka and brother Luka. Anarka fancies herself a modern-day pirate who lives by very few rules (and fails to get the proper permits for mooring her home). She once worked with rock star Jagged Stone who is also the father of her children and considers his life on tour to be too erratic, so the houseboat seems to be a compromise. Luka is cool and somewhat aloof, while also sincere enough to become Marinette's Romantic False Lead. Juleka, meanwhile, fits the socially awkward variant; she's shy and has trouble making friendships.
  • The Simpsons:
    • Once, the family moves to Terror Lake as part of a Witness Protection deal in which they become The Thompsons.
      Homer: Oh, come on, Marge. You've always wanted a house by the lake. And besides, if you don't like your neighbors, you just lift anchor and sail away!
      The Simpsons: [laughing]
      [all the other houseboats sail off as quickly as possible]
    • Chief Wiggum lives on one (The Big Queasy) in the Chief Wiggum, P.I. segment from The Simpsons Spin-Off Showcase.

    Real Life 
  • In the legal case of Lozman v. City of Riviera Beach, Fane Lozman was a local political troublemaker who lived in a houseboat, which was condemned and destroyed by the city in an effort to get rid of him. He filed a lawsuit and had to take it all the way up to the Supreme Court before he won his case, using his winnings to buy a new houseboat which he sailed right back into the town.