Economy style and space in new Havana live aboard

Living on board is a lifestyle that many boating enthusiasts dream about – but never achieve.

Cost is an important issue; a boat large enough for comfort and space is surely to cost an arm and a leg.

Havana Houseboats on Queensland’s Gold Coast has solved both the space and cost issues with the launch of its latest model, the F45. Together with the new owners, Havana’s managing director Matt Duncan developed a package which has put a spacious new two-cabin boat – a floating apartment – on the water for less than $150,000.

The Havana F45 includes a large master stateroom that runs half the length of the boat on the starboard side with enough wardrobe space for even the most fashion conscious. The second double cabin on the port side is only slightly more modest in size.

For owners Shayne and Pauline Fowler, the decision to buy was driven mainly by lifestyle but also with a strong eye on cost.

“We have rid ourselves of a mortgage and we have all the space we need,” says Pauline.

“And we can change scenery whenever we want to,” adds Shayne.

Their only dependent is the Maltese terrier, Missy.

 “We now own a comfortable apartment on the water,” explains Shayne. “Our ‘body corporate’ fees – berthing – are about $8,500 a year and that includes water and electricity!”

Shayne has been into boating since he was a young teenager in New Zealand.

“I bought my first boat when I was about 14,” he says. “It was a runabout. Since then I think I must have owned more than 20 boats including trailer-sailers, yachts and motor boats. The last was a Formosa aluminium fishing boat.

“Both Pauline and I had always longed to be able to afford something large enough to live on board. At first we thought of buying a second-hand houseboat but everything we looked at was going to need a lot of work or it simply did not have the interior layout to suit our lifestyle.

“A new boat large enough to be comfortable was way outside our budget until we talked to Matt.

“He not only provided us with this option, but he took on board many of our own design requirements and suggestions to custom build exactly what we wanted.”

The boat includes all the conveniences of a modern apartment, including a laundry, plenty of storage for linen and supplies, an apartment-size kitchen (galley) forward with open plan dining/lounge space. And views over the water and marina.

They key to keeping cost down is that Havana finished the new boat to lock-up stage while  Shayne and Pauline will complete the interior fitout as finances allow. Just a few weeks after launch, it is already well enough advanced for them to move on board at a Gold Coast marina.

The Havana F45 is built with two fibreglass hulls, each with three watertight compartments and collision bulkheads forward. Each compartment is fitted with a large gulper bilge pump. The centre section of each hull holds 1,200-litre water tanks. Fuel and waste tanks are also included, with an electric marine toilet and ‘C’ Grade toilet treatment system. The package also includes hot and cold fresh water pumps, waste tank discharge pump and has all deck fillers, skin fittings and mains water hook-up all ready to go. Even 12v LED lighting, battery and charger are included.

The enclosed cabin area is a fibreglass skin over aluminium frame.

Looking at the bow of the boat suggests that it is a tri-hull design, not a catamaran. In fact, the third ‘hull’ is less than two metres long. It is simply a wave piercing anchor pod capable of holding 50 metres of chain. The wing deck clearance is almost a meter on this F45, a height that most houseboats and even some catamarans find hard to attain. Its cruise speed will be in the 10-12 knot range and, with the high water clearance, will easily cruise Moreton Bay.

According to Matt Duncan, the lightweight construction does not compromise rigidity or overall strength as all of the remaining fitout is simply cosmetic.

The boat is 13.7 metres long overall with the cabin space measuring 10 metres. That leaves plenty of outdoor entertaining space on fore and aft decks and the Fowlers can throw a big party on the massive upper deck space covering the entire roof, accessed by moulded a staircase that runs up from the aft deck.

Mirrored stainless steel handrails give this Havana its trademark quality finish.

“The fitout will add very little to overall cost or weigh to the boat,” says Shayne. “The interior framing is covered with 10mm lightweight cored PVC panelling. This material is so light that you can pick a whole sheet up with one hand. We simply glue it to the frames and it clips together almost seamlessly. More important, it doesn’t require specialist skills to assemble or install.

“The main plumbing was already installed by Matt and the boys at Havana. We are installing the 12-volt electrical ourselves and we will need specialists only for the 240 volt shore power.”

Shayne is no builder or carpenter.

“But I’m smart enough to learn on the job and Matt is happy to offer advice as we go,” he says. “If I make a mistake, it is simple and low cost to start again. It’s not like trying to fit out a normal boat with all its odd shapes and curves. This is a rectangle.”

By the time the couple moved on board, Shayne had already built wardrobes and the kitchen cabinetry.

With careful time and budget control, Shayne and Pauline expect to spend 12 months completing the fitout.

“Then we can relax, put our feet up and watch the water lap under us,” says Shayne.



LOA                                                                                       13.7 metres

Beam                                                                                      6.2 metres

Draft                                                                                       0.5 metres

Displacement                                                                            8,500 kg

Hull Construction                                                                     Fibreglass

Superstructure                                    Aluminium frame with fibreglass skin

Fuel Capacity                                                                            400 litres

Water Capacity                                                                       2,300 litres

Designer                                                                              Matt Duncan

Builder                                                                       Havana Houseboats

Pricing                                                                                       $139,000