With this weekend’s DC houseboat tour a day away, UrbanTurf thought it only fitting to republish the article that we wrote last June about the Gangplank Marina, which gave readers a sense of what it is like to live on the water all year round.

The article (see below) was part of UrbanTurf’s Unique Spaces series, where we take a look at properties that could be considered “one-of-a-kind” in the DC area. If you have a home that you think fits the bill, send an email to [email protected]. See all of our past Unique Spaces articles here.


Not all of DC’s residential communities are “on the hard.” That’s how residents of the 100 live-aboard boats at The Gangplank Marina in Southwest refer to buildings built into the earth. The homes of Gangplank Marina bob up and down with the daily tides – and the occasional motorboat that violates the no-wake zone.

The live-aboards (boats that serve as year-round residences) comprise about one-third of all the boat slips (the areas where boats are docked) available at the marina, making the Gangplank Marina the largest live-aboard community on the east coast, according to General Manager J. Nickerson. Nickerson told UrbanTurf that residents over the years have included members of Congress, agency heads, artists, and “just regular folk.”

“I think it makes the marina a really unique community,” he said.  Gangplank surely is the only live-aboard marina across the street from a renowned theater (Arena Stage), and with a priceless view of national monuments.

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A Live-Aboard Boat at The Gangplank Marina

“The Washington Monument and the Jefferson Memorial are like my lawn ornaments,” says Julianne Waesche, a real estate agent with McEnearney Associates who lives on the end of I dock, which also provides her with sweeping, corner-lot views of the Potomac River and Hains Point.

Waesche and her neighbors are an exclusive group: As of three years ago, the marina put a cap on the 100 live-aboard slips, which meant the people who had been on a five-year waiting list were out of luck, unless a current resident sells his or her live-aboard-designated boat.

While living right on the water may sound like complete paradise, Gangplank Marina is not without its cons. Snowmaggedon may have crushed some landscaping and caused leaky roofs on land, but the heaping snow made one office barge in the marina fall on its side into the water, pulling part of the floating dock where it was moored down with it.

The other con is aircraft noise. Many residents of Georgetown and the Palisades regularly hear airplanes fly overhead toward Reagan National Airport, but it’s nothing like the sound of helicopters streaking down the river every few minutes, day and night. There is one bonus Waesche says: “When there’s three of them together, you know it’s the president.”

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Julianne Waesche and her dog Bruno, in their “front yard” – the Potomac River and Hains Point.

However, everyday amenities and recreation are not out of reach. The big recent news for the marina neighborhood came when a gleaming new Safeway opened within walking distance, replacing the “armpit” that had previously been there.

“It was like a Wal-Mart opening in a small town,” Waesche says.

As for recreation, residents don’t have to go far. Waesche loads her dog Bruno onto a dinghy and rows over to Hains Point with her in-line skates, where they do three laps around the point – 10 miles total.

So how much does it cost to live in this little waterbound community? Well, years ago Waesche paid $30,000 for a very run-down boat that came with the slip, and put $30,000 in improvements into it. She pays between $800 and $900 per month in fees for the slip, its live-aboard status, and the privilege of “living on the T” – the end of the dock. Prices aren’t that cheap anymore as a home recently went on the market for $178,000.

Aside from her front-row view of the July 4th fireworks and the cherry blossoms when they are in full force, Waesche appreciates her home for the relative calm that it offers.

“You never get the feeling that you’re living in the city.”

Former UrbanTurf contributor Jennifer Sergent is the brains behind the DC By Design blog, and is the marketing director of the Washington Design Center.

Here is a video of the Gangplank Marina and below are a series of photos of Waesche’s boat.

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Living Room

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Kitchen

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Bedroom

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Desk in Bedroom