Winterproofed houseboat with a rooftop deck is a tiny hotel on the river (Video)

The River Den
© The River Den

There's a houseboat for every kind of stripe: for the ultra-modern, or those who swear by Passivhaus, for the bike-lover, and even those just looking to get out of the rent trap.

Now the picturesque town of Wakefield, Quebec, has its own hand-built houseboat on the Gatineau River that you can actually rent for the night. Dubbed The River Den (La Tannière en français), creator Bonnie was inspired to create this fully insulated tiny home after wanting to buy an affordable small home that she could move. Noting that her ancestors were all log-drivers whom spent lots of time on the river, she also relates how a friend encouraged her to go down the houseboat path. Watch Bonnie give Mat and Danielle of Exploring Alternatives (a Canadian couple who previously converted a van to live in full-time) a tour:

The River Den© The River Den
Exploring AlternativesExploring Alternatives/Video screen capture
Exploring AlternativesExploring Alternatives/Video screen capture

Built by Bonnie and her friend Denis Tremblay (known locally as the Wakefield Pirate), the Den is 33 feet long and 11 feet wide, with 253 square feet of interior space that's heated by an antique wood stove. It's built as a four-season space, fully insulated and outfitted with double-paned glass windows -- some of them custom-cut in interesting shapes -- to withstand the winter. According to Exploring Alternatives:

The boat is built on 5 pontoons that are designed to provide flotation while still taking on some water to keep the boat weighed down in the water for stability. The pontoons are also designed to freeze in the ice and are made by a local company called Les Quais Navigables.

There's small kitchen with a sink that's fed with a pump drawing up river water for dish-washing. A beautiful round window gives a generous view outside.

The River Den© The River Den
The River Den© The River Den
The River Den© The River Den

The second floor is for sleeping, and features steel grill for the flooring, allowing heat to rise up to warm the space during the winter, and to also keep cleaning simple -- all dust will fall to the first floor to be swept up. There's a sweet cedar rooftop deck, accessible from the sleeping loft. The specially designed removable wedge roof allows Bonnie to make the roof height lower if she ever needs to relocate and needs to make the structure road-legal. The bathroom has a Separett composting toilet.

Exploring AlternativesExploring Alternatives/Video screen capture

The houseboat has a custom-made helm for steering and a 60-horsepower motor. For electricity to power the lights and pumps, the houseboat uses a 12-volt deep cycle marine battery whose charge lasts about a month. Bonnie says that she's thinking about installing some solar panels to power a real refrigerator someday, instead of using the ice cooler she has now, and has therefore left some space on the roof deck for them.

Exploring AlternativesExploring Alternatives/Video screen capture
Exploring AlternativesExploring Alternatives/Video screen capture

Simple but charming, this is a real bohemian delight of a houseboat, with lots of creative ideas to enlarge the usable space and make it easier to clean. You can rent The River Den for a stay -- when Bonnie's not living in it -- or even ask for river tours via Airbnb; you can also visit Exploring Alternatives for more tips on van life and long-term travel.

Tags: Boats | Less Is More | Living With Less | Quebec | Small Spaces

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