Last Chance to Tour DC’s Floating Homes Before Wharf Grand Opening

Southwest DC is gearing up for the grand opening of the Wharf, and one community of Southwesters will be dramatically transformed by the new development. On Saturday, Oct. 7, the live-aboard residents of Gangplank Marina will open their doors for the tour of floating homes—the last chance for visitors to experience this community in transition before it’s changed forever by the massive Wharf redevelopment, said to be the largest such project currently in the United States.

Gangplank Marina is home to the eastern United States’s largest community of “live-aboards”—people and families who make their homes on-board boats and barges. The Gangplank community dates back many decades, however the Southwest waterfront had long been the site of boat homes, as far back as its origins as a working waterfront in the District’s early days. Over the years, the live-aboard community has continually evolved, and been home to all types of Washingtonians. Drawn by the allure of the water, the close-knit community, or the uniquely affordable location, many have called Gangplank home. From the famous (or infamous) residents such as scandalous senators, to the everyday families just making a life on the water, throughout its history the marina has seen all stripes of residents on its docks.

Those docks now show quite a bit of wear and tear, and the Wharf has already begun a much-needed facelift and redesign of Gangplank Marina. The first of the marina’s new docks opened last year, giving residents a taste of the “world class” marina in their future. Many are excited for the new facilities on the water, and for the vibrant tableau of restaurants and businesses soon to open on land. Though for some, the excitement is tempered with a touch of bittersweet nostalgia for days gone by.

The Oct. 7 tour is a chance to celebrate the current and past live-aboard life, and to welcome the bright future of the Wharf era. Visitors will have a chance to peek inside about 23 boats and barges, and see the unique and quirky spaces of life afloat. The homes are as singular as the people who live aboard them. Step aboard a 34-foot houseboat that’s home to its owner and two dogs. Check out a 55-foot trawler inhabited by a couple and their two small children. See the painstaking restoration work two empty nesters have been doing themselves on a beautiful 60-foot cruiser, including a musical salon that often hosts neighbors for singing and play-along evenings. No two floating homes are the same!

The Southwest DC Waterfront Boat-Home Tour will take place between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 7 (rain or shine), and will feature 23 or more floating homes at Gangplank Marina, 600 Water St. SW. Tickets and more information are available at www.dchouseboat.org. The live-aboards especially enjoy welcoming their Southwest neighbors, so residents of the 20024 zip code get a discounted ticket price of $20 (the usual ticket price is $25). Proceeds from the tour go to organizations doing great work in Southwest: Recipients of funds raised from the tour will go to Friends of the Southwest Library, Amidon-Bowen Elementary School PTA, St. Augustine’s neighborhood initiatives, DC Sail’s local youth programs, and Potomac Riverkeeper’s work keeping the waterways clean.­

See you on Oct. 7!

By: Margaret L. Johnson

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