Can Houseboats Sink? 7 Examples Included!

If you are considering renting or buying a houseboat you are probably curious if a houseboat can sink. Knowing how safe a houseboat is will certainly be an important thing to know. 

Houseboats can sink but under normal circumstances they are one of the safest boats on the water. High waves and too much weight on board are what causes most of the issues with houseboats that flood or sink.

In this article I will explore some of the main reasons that a houseboat will sink but I will also give you 7 examples of houseboats that have sunk in the past. 

Rough Water

This is the most common reason that a houseboat will sink. Houseboats are not designed to be in areas where there are high waves as the deck can easily become swamped. When that happens, water will often find its way into the interior of the boat which can become dangerous very quickly. 

One of the ways to avoid this is to not take your houseboat onto waterways that are in danger of having high waves. Taking a houseboat out on the ocean or at the mouth of a river can cause issues if there are many waves at all. Houseboats just simply aren’t designed to handle very tall waves. 

If you are interested in learning more about taking your houseboat on the ocean you can read an article I wrote about it by clicking here. 

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Too Much Weight

Another thing that can cause a houseboat to sink is having too much weight on board. The weight that a houseboat can safely carry on board will vary from manufacturer to manufacturer and also vary depending on the size of your boat. 

You can contact most manufacturers to get an exact amount but most of the time you will be fine as long as everyone and everything doesn’t shift to one side of the boat. If you also have an entire NFL team on board your houseboat it also might cause issues! 

The weight that is on board your boat will need to be balanced as well. That is why you will often have the heaviest tanks and equipment in the middle of the boat so that your boat doesn’t list to one side or the other. 

The problem with having too much weight on board or not having the weight evenly distributed is that the water can flood over the deck which of course will cause water to enter the interior and eventually sink the boat. 

This is why if you are building your own houseboat or having someone build one for you it is vital that they make sure all the weight on board is distributed properly. I have heard of multiple people who built a houseboat and as soon as they launched it it immediately sank! They hadn’t properly distributed the weight so when it hit water it leaned so much to one side that it allowed water on board and immediately began sinking. 

Weight is something that you have to consider if you are worried about whether a houseboat can sink! 

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7 Examples of Houseboats That Sank

1. Lake Don Pedro, California

One of the most recent examples of a houseboat sinking was a 3 story houseboat that sank in August of 2019. The boat was participating in the “Poker Run” and capsized when too many people got on one side of the boat. A pontoon boat that was tied  on the side of the houseboat sank as well. You can read the entire article here

2. Lake Powell, Utah

In June of 2018 a boater took their houseboat out on Lake Powell. The boat quickly began taking on water and the 15 people on board had to be rescued by the coast guard. Multiple videos have since emerged of the dramatic event! Those videos can be found here

3. Far Rockaway, New York

A houseboat being used as an AirBnB was sunk by guests in July of 2016. The boat was owned by Ben Sargent. No one was able to determine how exactly the boat was sunk. The renters of the boat partied through the night and the boat began to sink at approximately 5am. More info about the houseboat sinking can be found at the following link.

4. Lake Union, Washington 

In July of 2014 a woman returned home to her houseboat at approximately 3am. When she started to get on board she realized her not was taking on water. The boat sinking was caused by a crack in the hull of the boat. The news article about the sinking can be found here.

5. Lake Pontchartrain, Louisiana

September of 2018 a houseboat on Lake Pontchartrain began sinking at 9:30pm. There were 35 people on board when the boat began sinking. No one was injured in the event. The boat apparently began taking on water during a major storm. The story was reported by WDSU

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6. Lake Powell, Arizona 

In September of 2017 there was a late afternoon storm that blew across Lake Powell. That microburst overturned a houseboat with 14 people on board. One of the passengers on board had to have her arm amputated because of the accident while another passenger reported having head injuries. You can learn more about the boat overturning here.

7. Lake River, Washington 

A derelict houseboat was being towed by another vessel when the towing vessel started sinking. Soon after the houseboat started sinking as well. The houseboat sank in a precarious location with no easy way to retrieve it off of the river floor. The owner abandoned both sunken boats and the local officials had no money in the budget to get the boat off the bottom. You can read more about it at the Columbian


As evidenced by the seven examples of houseboats that sank, houseboats are not immune to sinking. Most of the issues that caused the siblings mentioned could have been avoided by paying attention to the weather and the weight that the houseboat was carrying. 

Sometimes you can’t avoid a freak storm (as evidenced by the microburst) but in most cases using common sense will keep your boat on the water rather than in it! 

As Always, 

Happy Boating 

Matthew Robbs

I love the outdoors and especially spending time with my family. Whether on a boat or at the beach, my happy place is near the water.

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