Address: Marina 3, Santa Barbara Harbor

Status: On the market

Price: $650,000

I went on my first cruise this month. I grew up at the beach and love the ocean, but I’ve never had much desire to go on a cruise, preferring slightly more spontaneous travel. But the opportunity for the cruise presented itself, so I went and had a great time. We sailed from Long Beach to Ensenada and back in just three days and nights, which was just long enough to learn all sorts of seafaring lingo: We had to muster, our cabin was aft, and the kitchen was a galley. It was fun and relaxing, and everything was taken care of for us. The cruise was a nice little respite from real life and gave me a taste of the lure of the open sea.

That Monday back in the office, I was invited to take a tour of Santa Barbara’s only houseboat. Shiver me timbers! Of course I said yes, so the next day found me down at Santa Barbara Harbor, walking for the first time through the gate at Marina 3 and aboard the Thomas Jefferson. The first thing I asked Peter Crane — the owner, captain, and seller of the Thomas Jefferson — was what made his houseboat unique. It turns out it is, quite literally, the only houseboat in Santa Barbara Harbor. Built in 1972 and designated a “floating home,” it is a classic Sausalito-style houseboat. And though a designation change last year prevents any new floating homes in the harbor, the Thomas Jefferson has been grandfathered in as legal.

Another one-of-a-kind feature is the inclusion of an adjacent 40-foot sidetie, which means your boat can be permanently moored alongside your houseboat. This houseboat slip and its sidetie total 80 feet, the largest combination in the harbor. Slips themselves are highly regulated and have an extremely high market value; one can pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for larger slips. Crane worked diligently with the city and the Harbor Commission to create this configuration, which can never be duplicated in Santa Barbara Harbor.

It was great to get educated about the houseboat, but what I really wanted to do was explore it. After stepping off the gangway onto the stern of the boat, we sat on a cute back patio area with a comfortable wicker settee, providing the perfect cozy setting to relax and gaze at the harbor activity and the horizon beyond. Inside the house, the downstairs space starts with a wood-paneled large dining/living/office room that has custom touches everywhere and is big enough to configure to your needs. The open floor plan leads into the kitchen, er, galley, where everything is compact and efficient but still somehow spacious. Beyond the galley is a utility room with a large sink and work station, and next to it is one of my favorite discoveries on the houseboat: a glass-ceilinged hot tub room. There’s also a comfortable shower and an inside stairwell that lets you climb up to the upper deck. The top floor is one open, airy bedroom that can easily be chopped up or arranged to fit your needs. There are lots of windows, as well as great light, cross-ventilation, and a deck that goes all the way around the outside. Did I mention the incredible views? You’d have a front-row view of the sunrise every morning and unparalleled views of the harbor at sunset every evening.

I absolutely fell in love with this houseboat, both as a house and a boat. Crane and his family lived aboard it for 19 years, and he built and refurbished almost all of it. His love for it is evident, and I could certainly see why. The houseboat combines the romance of my recent cruise with the adventure of my usual sense of travel; it’s an all-in-one floating home-sweet-home.

The Houseboat Thomas Jefferson is currently for sale in Santa Barbara Harbor, listed by owner Peter Crane of Peter Crane Yacht Sales. Reach Peter at (805) 895-1873 or


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