By Margaret L. Johnson

From the waterfront along the Washington Channel, you’ve probably seen the liveaboard boats and barges of the Wharf Marina, south of the District Wharf’s recreational pier. Maybe you’ve wondered what it’s like to live in such an unusual environment. This fall, you’ll have the chance to see inside some of those homes and find out!

On Saturday, October 1, the residents of the marina will hold their seventh home tour of the floating neighborhood.  It’s the first time the homes have been open to the public since 2019. In that time, construction of the new Wharf Marina was completed, moving the marina about 200 yards downriver and growing to over 300 slips. The liveaboard community weathers all seasons, and after the waterways go quiet as summer boaters pack up for the season, the liveaboard boaters can be found enjoying local shops and restaurants, volunteering for mutual aid services, and bringing holiday cheer to thousands of spectators during the Holiday Boat Parade.  

The modern-day liveaboard community dates back more than 45 years, however since the earliest days of the capital, the Southwest waterfront has been home to people who lived and worked on boats. Comprising the largest liveaboard population on the East Coast, “Gangplankers” are a tight-knit and diverse community. As planning for the Wharf began, the liveaboard community faced a great deal of uncertainty about their future on the waterfront, but came together with the city and the Wharf to preserve this unique and historic enclave of the Washington Channel. The marina has evolved over the years, and many people have been attracted by the unique lifestyle. 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.

Over 20 of these floating homes will open their doors—or in some cases, hatches—to visitors for self-guided touring. The boat owners and hosts will be on hand to answer questions. The homes are as singular as the people who live aboard them. Check out a renovated barge with a beautiful and spacious open-plan kitchen. Step aboard a sailboat that’s home to a family. Inside the largest housebarge in the marina, you may even forget you’re on the water… until you catch the beautiful views out the window. No two floating homes are alike!

Can you garden on a boat?  Have dogs and cats?  Take your home out on the water for a weekend getaway? Find out all the answers on October 1.

The Boat-Home Tour will take place between 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m., rain or shine, and will feature over 20 floating homes at Wharf Marina, 650 Wharf Street, SW. Tickets and more information are available at  

The liveaboards 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 include Amidon-Bowen Elementary School PTA, St. Augustine’s neighborhood initiatives, DC Sail’s local youth programs, the Southwest Methodist Church’s food pantry, and Potomac Riverkeeper’s work keeping the waterways clean.

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