Life on a Houseboat: Surviving A New York Winter

Tales of houseboat livin'... 

Words & Images by Jay Wen

Cuddling up with my animal babies, feeling the gentle sway of the sea, and with the heat turned up, most winter nights were really nice and cozy. The bedroom faced South and I got to witness some of the most incredible sunrises and sunsets. Every morning I woke up to birds - usually a family of swans or a pair of ducks, sometimes new visitors from elsewhere. It was the closest to living in/with nature as I could get as someone who grew up in urban New York. 

Living on the houseboat in the warmer months was a lot easier than winter time. From March through October we could be outside on the deck. Thin fiberglass walls separated us from the outdoor elements. Without much insulation, the boat needed to be heated most of the time. Houseboats need a lot more maintenance than apartments - filling up the water tank, keeping the pipes warm enough from freezing, shoveling snow from the roof deck, securing objects down from flying away or thrusting all over the place, and generally making sure we stay afloat. Luckily, last winter was mostly mild. 

We (Jason and I) wanted to learn what it was like to live in a vulnerable place in the environment. So we chose to live in this area of Sheepshead Bay because it is a part of Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge and was severly effected by Hurricane Sandy.  The location of the marina in Sheepshead Bay was pretty far away from civilization (hi, Manhattan!) so it was challenging to get to and from places, especially when MTA buses don't show up or decide to switch routes. I did discover the BM3 express bus from Sheepshead Bay to Manhattan that made life a little easier.

I always breathed a sigh of relief coming home to the houseboat because it felt like a retreat, a sanctuary. I'm lucky to have spent some time living on water, learning about birds, and nature, and getting the chance to shoot some of the most beautiful pictures.