This creative couple built a floating tiny home

There are times, especially during the summer, that you feel like you’re never home. There’s work, hiking trips, time at the beach and First Friday art walks. Yet regardless of how much time you spend in your abode, your rent or mortgage is still your biggest expense.

That was beginning to get to Jessie and Jared Temple, the creative couple behind the brand Bunkerfish.

Jared and Jesse Temple’s “Bunkhouse” is as stylish as you might imagine. Photo: Jon Coen

“We had this ridiculous monthly rent bill for a place we just laid our heads after a 12-hour work day,” says Jared, a native of Beach Haven, Long Beach Island, New Jersey. So, in 2012, he bought an old sailboat that the pair lived on for the summer.

“We fell in love with the simplicity and coziness of a tiny space and overall life afloat.”

That fall, Superstorm Sandy changed the face of the Temples’ community. Then came some great life moments: starting the business, adopting a rescue pup and marriage. They found themselves spending the entire winter in Puerto Rico. And when they were home, they were surfing, working or out with friends.

Jared Temple, working for the winter in Puerto Rico. Photo: Courtesy of Rincon Surf

“We were both simultaneously thinking, ‘What about a houseboat?'” Jared remembers. “One Craigslist search later and we found ‘Great Project Boat.'”

That’s how this inspired pair came to live in a tiny, custom, floating home called The Bunkhouse.

On the way to see the used 1960s-era boat, Jared and Jessie envisioned the fun upgrades they could do, the painting and decorating. But one look at the wobbly upper structure suggested an entire rebuild.

“After having her shipped to our work site, I started by taking exact measurements of how it was originally built, then tore the entire thing down until it was just the hull. Jessie and I designed our interior layout in a CAD program. That was the hardest part in making this tiny space as thoughtfully laid out as possible and keep the boat balanced side to side, so she wouldn’t list in the water,” says Jared.

What’s a tiny houseboat without a single-fin? Photo: Jon Coen

They went to work pulling rusty hull fittings, laying a new subfloor, framing the upper structure and fully fiberglassing the whole thing to prevent leaks. While the rough plumbing and electrical were underway, Jared was in his father’s shop, building the cabinetry and vanity. They installed windows and gorgeous cedar shiplap.

“The front door I made out of a salvaged rainbow poplar tree and gave it a porthole to let in some air and light,” Jared adds.

They chose quarter-inch cedar tongue-and-groove for the ceiling on account of its lightness. There’s a bilge front and aft for emergencies.

The whole thing came together pretty quickly before they left for their winter of Caribbean swells and building up their business in Puerto Rico. When the couple returned, the boat went back into the water and became their summer residence.

The Bunkhouse with first mate Squid. Photo: Courtesy of Jessie Temple

“She sits perfectly in the water and is very comfortable all around. I compare our kitchen to [Rush drummer] Neil Peart’s drum set, as everything seems to only be an arm’s reach away,” jokes Jared.

“Neighboring boat dwellers have been more than hospitable as we entered their community. Like-minded people have definitely created the vibe here and we feel right at home.”

While they love and understand the economics of their beach town, it’s one that has become increasingly dotted with larger homes that sit vacant most of the year.

Jessie Temple, folding clothes in the tiny stateroom. Laundry doesn’t take too long when you don’t have room for a lot of clothes. Photo: Jon Coen

“I get really fired up looking at all of these ridiculously large, luxurious homes. So much money, and for what? An ego boost? A jealous eye from a neighbor?” says Jessie.

“We live in such a beautiful part of the country, a sweet little barrier island, and people build these monster houses to close themselves up with their air conditioners, giant televisions and pools. Knowing that I am doing my part to keep life sweet and simple is really exciting for me. I hate what money does to people and I feel like my life has been constantly evolving for the past few years, learning and feeling more inspired every day by just living and experiencing it.

“It doesn’t take much to make me happy, and this boat experience has been a wild ride so far.”

The Temples’ pooch, Squid, has become a sea dog, although it took some getting used to.

“He didn’t even want to walk down the dock at first. Jared had to carry him on and off the first time. Keep in mind he is an 80-pound, all-meat pit bull. He even pooped his pants on the way off the boat — Squid, not Jared,” Jessie points out with a laugh.

“Now he walks himself down the dock with his leash in his mouth and jumps on and off like a pro.”

Yes, of course they have “Thug Kitchen.” Everyone needs this whether they’re on land or sea. Photo: Jon Coen

They’ve since planted a rooftop garden and are floating right through another busy summer. But they’re only paying for the boat slip — a fraction of their former rent. It’s been a learning experience and a journey toward self-reliance.

“The hardest to get used to is the whole sea-legs thing,” says Jessie. “After spending a few hours on the boat and walking around on land, you feel like a drunk, or a toddler, or some weird combination of the two.”

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