Houseboats have been a feature of Bembridge Harbour for many years. At the time of writing there are 25, but there were a lot fewer in the 1940s – just a few WWI motorboats and various others including The Ark (aka the Queen Victoria – an old Bembridge lifeboat, later restored by Martin Woodward) and a racing yacht wistfully named The Wander Bird, presumably harking back to the days prior to her wings being clipped, when she famously sailed ‘the wrong way’ round Cape Horn. Houseboat numbers almost tripled after WWII when 12 personnel landing craft arrived in the Harbour. Built locally at St Helens, not all of them saw action but they served their civvie role well enough, some for over 65 years. However, back then few people actually lived on the houseboats. They were seen as a cheap alternative to a ‘real’ house since there was no mains electricity and the only freshwater was from the standpipe at Dustbin Corner (so-called because of the row of pig bins that used to stand at the entrance to Marsh Farm). There was no mains gas for central heating back then either (there is now) so whilst the old boats made for some positively idyllic Swallows and Amazons type holidays in the Summer, once the weather turned and the mildew crept back in houseboat living was less of a storybook existence. Over the years, as some of the older craft slowly disintegrated, they were patched, pitched and propped until eventually they no longer touched the water, leaving few visible signs of their nautical origins. Still clearly recognisable are MTB 24 aka Little Susie (a WWII Motor Torpedo Boat, now sadly derelict) and Xoron, a historic Fairmile Type C Motor Gun Boat with the rare distinction of having been awarded a wartime medal (yes, the boat herself). This grand old lady is home to the embankment’s longest residents, the Traquairs, who run her as a B&B, and is well known as ‘the houseboat with the pirates outside’. But times are changing and as the oldest boats crumble gently into the mud, they are gradually being replaced with purpose-built vessels. At a time when building land is at a premium, houseboats are increasingly being seen as the ideal low flood-risk option, and now with the added security of 99-year leases, Bembridge houseboat owners are able to sensibly invest in their homes, with some interesting and innovative results.