You are not dreaming. No, this is not a scam:
“Cozy house on the water (literally) in the islands, amidst a 3,000-square-mile national marine sanctuary, in a private cove ringed by mangrove shoreline, gentle currents of the shallow water drifting past fish tank windows, tropical breeze blowing through shotgun rooms, dinghy parked two feet from the entrance door. No neighbors next door, full views of the daily sunset, frequent sightings of dolphin and manatee. $100/night, This price is for the ENTIRE houseboat, there is no per person charge.”
But wait—it gets better:
“Fishing off your front AND back porch, in-house stereo, large chest freezer that keeps ice for days on end, free kayaks, snorkeling gear, and fishing rods and tackle, full kitchen on board with all the cookware so you can dine by candlelight ON the water and sip on a cold drink fixed at your private bar, and snack on hors d’ouvres during entertaining chat time, and when bed-time rolls around, if you haven’t lost track of time by then, you can spread blankets and cushions out on the roof and lose yourself in the stars blazing across the night sky, stars that shine bright and thick due to the absence of city lights and the remoteness of these islands which stretch from the Florida mainland 200 miles into the ocean."
Could you get all this at the best hotel room in Key West, or at an RV campground? For $100/night?
My name is Mike, I have been an avid boater and resident of the Florida Keys for seventeen years. I own and operate a licensed company called Florida Keys Yacht and Houseboat Rentals based out of Summerland Key, Florida.
This old wood and fiberglass houseboat, warmly remodeled by myself and my (interior decorator and sewing artist) sister Jo from Durham, N.C., is anchored in seven feet of water in a wide tidal channel a few hundred yards from shore. Access to the houseboat is made by the aforementioned dinghy with a trolling motor. Secure parking (on gated property) for your car is provided just a few steps from where the dinghy is tendered.
As this Airbnb listing specifies, this is an "entire house/apt" offering, not a "shared" rental or a "private room." The kayaks, the dinghy, the snorkeling gear, etc. are not shared with others either.
Before I get into the details about this rental package, I must include a very important caveat, which is frequently repeated in the customer reviews: Staying on a boat is not in any way like staying in a hotel. You will encounter a few challenges and inconveniences such as the extra effort it takes to load yourself and bags into a dinghy and motor out to the houseboat, if it is at anchor or on a mooring ball. There is no AC on the boat--only fans and the ocean breeze--because an AC unit would drain and deplete the 12-volt battery system. For the same reason, there is no refrigerator on board. Instead, you must keep your food and drinks cold by filling coolers with ice. While on shore, you probably will encounter mosquitoes and no-see-ums, especially at sunset and sunrise. When you are ferrying back and forth from shore to the houseboat--again, if it is on an anchor or on a mooring ball--you may have to do so in the rain and strong winds. While on the dinghy, the motor may break down and you will have to row to shore. If the winds are really strong, you may not be able to use the dinghy at all and must get to and from the houseboat by kayak--or we can plan ahead of inclement weather and choose to bring the houseboat to the safety of the docks. My point is, there is a little bit of roughing it. Some guests have likened staying on a boat to being in an RV on the water. There is a little bit more effort and work involved. If you do not like camping, you probably will not like staying on a boat. Having said all that, there usually is a payoff for the extra work and effort of staying on a boat: sights and experiences of the natural world (blazing stars at night, fish jumping, dolphins coming by to say hello, sipping margaritas while watching a red sun sink into the water), sights and experiences you will never get at a hotel.
Okay--if I haven't dropped you by now, on to the details about your rental package and the boats.
The houseboat, which is 45 feet long and twelve feet wide, has one large bedroom with a king-size bed, a full bathroom with a tiled shower and toilet (NOT a porta-potty) a complete kitchen with a dinette area, and a spacious living room with a sofa large enough to double as a bed. An air mattress is stored in the hold, meaning that, if two people share the bed in the main bedroom, then the houseboat sleeps four.
A twelve-volt battery system (charged by a solar panel on the roof) provides power for the lights and water pumps on the boat, and a small inverter is also available to charge your cell phones and plug in laptops, fans, and other (small) 110-volt appliances. Water pressure for the kitchen faucet and the shower is made possible by a 12-volt water pump that pumps water from two potable water tanks that hold a total of 90 gallons of water. The shower is fully functional with hot water heated by an automatic propane water heater.
As mentioned earlier, the houseboat does not have air-conditioning-- but fans, screened windows everywhere, and the shotgun layout of the houseboat (interior breeze flows from the front door to the rear door, since the bow of the houseboat always points into the wind) keeps the inside cool even during the hottest days of summer.
A large (unplugged) chest freezer at the rear deck of the houseboat is insulated enough and big enough to stock ten bags of ice that, in trial runs, I have found will keep food and drinks cold for a week or longer.
All the windows have screens for protection from mosquitoes and no-see-ums. If any mosquitoes get inside the houseboat, you can spray the interior (and the screens) with flying insect spray which is stored in the cabinets below the kitchen sink.
A full propane tank supplies all the gas guests require for cooking on a four-burner stove.
You can buy bulk 20 pounds of ice at a 24 hour automatic dispenser nearby for $2.00--which is a great price because ice at a convenience store normally goes for $2 or $3 for a TEN pound bag.
For the same reason that the houseboat does not have a refrigerator or AC on board, there is no electric coffee maker or a toaster on board. A French coffee press, however, is provided. (A French coffee press makes fresh-brewed coffee as good as any coffee maker, but you need to boil the water on the stove.)
There is no wi-fi out on the water, but I-Phone and Smart-phone signal/reception at Ramrod Key for internet access is generally pretty good. Keep in mind that using too many computers and other appliances at night will quickly deplete the houseboat batteries. Day-time battery consumption is not normally an issue because power is supplied directly from the solar panel rather than from the batteries.
Charters for day trips, overnight cruising, reef trips, and fishing trips can be arranged (for an additional fee) by the property manager.
Clean linen, blankets, fans, dishware, silverware, cookware, cooking utensils, etc are provided at no extra charge.
The water tanks, when full, should last the duration of your stay.If the tanks need to be replenished during your stay, this is an indication of over-usage or wasteful usage. Therefore, please try to be conscious of your water consumption (don't let the water run in the shower the whole time you are in the shower; don't let the kitchen faucet run while washing dishes). An additional fee of $25 for water tank refills will be required.
Guests who book this rental are required to leave a $50 cash deposit on arrival to cover potential out-of- the-ordinary cleaning expenses and damage. This deposit will be returned to you if you leave the yacht in reasonably good shape upon departure. The vast majority of guests are very responsible and leave the yacht in great condition, but every once in a while I get guests who leave the boats a total disaster--food all over the carpets and sofas, unwashed dishes in the sink, boat gear and equipment scattered all over the place or lost overboard.
If this boating retreat sounds like a fit for the getaway you are seeking, it would be my pleasure to help bring you and your friends and family members an awesome experience on your next visit to the Keys. Many people come to the Keys for their vacations, but only a small percentage of visitors get to see and experience up close and personal the Keys' magical natural wonder of its near shore waters.
Florida Keys Yacht and Houseboat Rentals
Summerland, Ramrod and Big Pine Key Florida
Mike was an amazing host. He was very friendly, easy going, and helpful (not to mention patient with teaching us how to use the dinghy.) The houseboat was gorgeous and simple, as was the nature surrounding it. Twilight on the boat was like a shot to the heart and the stars at night made it seem as if sea and space were one and the same. We fished for our dinner with success and the kayaks were a nice way to explore. I wish we could have stayed longer!
This was the BEST decision we made as a married couple! We came to the Keys for our honeymoon and absolutely loved the houseboat and the amazing scenery there. Definitely a great idea for adventurous people who don't mind "camping out" on the water:)
It was a very fun place to stay! The bed was comfortable, living space was bright and cheery, and the kitchen was easy to work in. Mike was very thorough in explaining how everything worked and was available when we had questions.
Wow!! What a wonderful place and experienced. Is really not as rough as Mike makes it to be, however, he has to do this to set the right expectations. My wife and I had an amazing time. The location is beautiful, the water is nice and clear, kayaking around the area is awesome, and the stars at night are nothing but breath taking. I totally recommend this place. You won't regret it, it will be a trip to remember!!!
Our stay on Mike's houseboat was great! It was so relaxing to sit on the boat and fish during the day, then have a drink and look up at a million stars at night. It was fun to drive the dinghy out to the houseboat and we took the kayak out our first night to get a closer look at dolphins playing in the channel. Dolphins also woke us up early one morning splashing right outside of the bedroom window. I would definitely recommend staying if you're looking for an adventure!
A great find and a great value! Beautiful sunsets and star gazing, perfect space, amazing kayak adventure, and some brilliant fishing stories to come out of our stay. We couldn't have asked for anything more, thanks a million Mike!
My boyfriend and I had a fabulous time on Mike's houseboat! The weather was perfect and we really enjoyed the remote location of the boat! You definitely need to be able to rough it a bit, but if you are an outdoor lover this will be a perfect fit! We plan on staying again!
Amazing!!! The houseboat is anchored in a quiet, secluded cove surrounded by mangroves. We sat on the front deck every evening and watched the sunset over the water and waited for the dolphins to come into the cove. It was beautiful!
Very cosy and romantic place to stay!
Our experience on the houseboat was exactly as Mike described in the listing. It's just like camping on the water. Navigating the dingy from the dock to the houseboat was initially a little scary for me, but I quickly gained confidence in stepping from one to the other and tying the dingy securely. My husband had no discomfort in captaining the dingy. The houseboat was anchored in an isolated bay, surrounded on three sides by mangroves. We never saw another person while on the boat. The only sounds, other than the sounds of nature, were the quiet sounds of traffic on the bridge in the distance and a bit of construction work due to installation of a new sewer line. The sounds were not loud enough to bother us. We had a pleasant breeze every night but one, such that air conditioning was not missed, and were not bothered by mosquitoes or other insects, except on that one really still night. We simply used the bug spray Mike provided on the screens, tracked down the couple of mosquitoes that had gotten in, and that took care of it. Mike responded promptly to our texts and phone calls and provided some much appreciated suggestions for activities and dining. We would love to go back!
This is the final rate, including any fees from the host and Airbnb.