Faced with high rents, long commutes and cramped city life, some Kiwis are increasingly opting for life on a boat.
It was the 20 hours a week spent commuting to and from Auckland's CBD that finally forced the Armstrong family to rethink their lifestyle.
Apart from the hours spent on the motorway, rural life at Otaua, south of Waiuku near the mouth of the Waikato River, was pretty good.
Mother-of-two Vicki Armstrong says they grew their own fruit and vegetables and bred chickens for eggs and meat. Their daughters had plenty of space in which to play. But her husband Matt worked in the city and increasingly spent long hours commuting as the traffic congestion grew worse.
They thought about selling their house and quarter acre and renting nearer to the city. "But it's hard to give up your lifestyle for something that is worse. It's not good for morale," Armstrong says.
When she read a story about a family living aboard their boat, she sent the link to her husband. The next thing they knew they owned a 13.7-metre launch at Bayswater Marina on the North Shore.
They sold the house, gave the chickens away, put their furniture into storage and moved aboard. Having to part with the family cat was nearly a deal-breaker but the Armstrongs found kind new owners at the last minute.
That was 18 months ago and since then the Armstrongs, including their two daughters Madeleine, 13, and Carmen, 7, have been part of the 50 to 60-strong, live-aboard community at Bayswater.
Commuting is a breeze
Summers are a dream but life onboard in the winter has its drawbacks. The boat is cramped down below in wet weather and the dehumidifier is on constantly to stop the condensation from dripping down the cabin's walls.
When the cold weather came, Armstrong had to dash to the storage unit to swap Jandals and shorts for boots, sweaters and coats. Suddenly the cabin filled up with clothing.
But there are plenty of upsides. For $400 a week they get views across the water to the Harbour Bridge and the city, and Matt Armstrong's commute is a breeze. The weekly rate includes rental for the marina berth, their living aboard fee, water, Wifi, rubbish collection and sewage pump-out.
No hot water but power is cheap
There's no instant hot water on board but the family use the coin-operated showers and the laundry at the marina. Power is cheap; $10 a month in summer, $80 a month in winter when the fan heater and dehumidifier are in use. Their two storage units are another cost.
Armstrong says they'll be living in the best spot when it comes to the launch of Emirates Team New Zealand's new AC75 boat and the upcoming America's Cup. From their home, they'll be able to watch ETNZ leave its base each day and they'll be part of the action as a spectator boat.
"I'm looking forward to it. I've got a feeling it's going to be buzzing here," says Armstrong.
When the Armstrongs first arrived they knew little about boating and didn't venture outside the marina. Bayswater Marina manager Gareth Wilson offered to put them in touch with instructors who could teach them boating skills and how to manoeuvre their launch on and off the marina.
Six months later, Wilson says, the Armstrongs were fully converted boaties, confidently taking friends out on their boat and going away for weekends.
They did day skipper's courses, learned about boating, and accepted help and advice from more experienced skippers at the marina.
At this stage, the family has no plans to move ashore. They'll stay at least until Madeleine has finished at Takapuna Grammar. Armstrong is studying horticulture and is keen to plant vegetables in the marina's communal garden beds.
A domestic escapee rabbit called Stewart keeps eating everything and chewing through the plastic fencing.
The family don't have a TV on board by choice but the girls watch movies on the family laptop and the marina's lounge has Sky TV and computers.
For winter holidays the Armstrongs will go skiing, staying at the Ohakune holiday home they bought with the rest of the money from the sale of their Otaua house.
By far the largest live-aboard community is at Hobsonville Marina where around 95 people are living on 80 boats. Marina manager Shane McInnes says there's a real mixture of people including young families, professional couples, single men and retired people.
He says people either can't afford, or don't want to buy, a house, or simply want to downsize. McInnes warns that living on a marina is not as cheap as people think. The cost on average is $1200 a month but boat maintenance can be high, he says.
The high cost of renting and constantly moving drove Aucklander Gordon Blakeborough to live on a boat six years ago and he's never regretted it. Fed up with paying rent and having to move because of leaky building issues, he spotted a 12-metre yacht, Wendella, on Trade Me.
His partner, Christina Meikle, was doubtful at first when Blakeborough announced he was going to buy a yacht and live on a Panmure River mooring. Her own house was for sale at the time and she knew nothing about boating.
"What if I don't like it?" she asked Blakeborough. "There is no Plan B." he replied.
After six years the boat was paid off
The repayments on the boat were less than the rent Blakeborough was paying and six years later the boat is paid off. With a mooring fee of $20 a week and power drawn from solar, their outgoings are cheap compared to living ashore.
Meikle took an instant liking to living aboard. The couple has hot water, a TV and stereo, a fridge and freezer, and even a bath, installed by the yacht's previous owners so they could wash while the yacht was heeling on their round-the-world voyage.
When Blakeborough and Meikle arrived on the river there were between six and eight people living aboard their boats and the couple got to know them all. Now there are up to 25 live-aboards at any one time.
"We don't know the new people," Blakeborough says. They don't belong to the club (the Panmure Yacht and Boating Club on Kings Rd)."
Some of the newcomers have bought old boats, coming and going between Panmure and Waiheke, just to have somewhere to live. The boats became increasingly derelict Blakeborough says.
"One was left on the beach, then burned. Then they buy another boat."
As club members, Blakeborough and Meikle can use the showers and club rooms, where meals are served from Wednesday to Sunday. Laundry is done either at a local laundromat or Meikle puts on a load while visiting obliging friends.
She's learned to adapt, sleeping with clothes spread flat under her pillow to keep them warm and to reduce creases. She's found a 12-volt hairdryer but, sadly, not 12-volt hair straighteners.
Weekends are spent either sailing in the Gulf or on their lifestyle block near Kaitaia. The couple plan to live aboard for at least another year before retiring up north.
Meikle loved the life so much she gave friends the confidence to try it themselves. Now a work colleague of Blakeborough's and his wife live on their boat on the other side of the river.
Pine Harbour began accepting live-aboards for the first time in 30 years when the marina was bought by Empire Capital, which also owns Bayswater and Hobsonville, in 2015. But the marina administrator, Julie Vazey, says only a handful live aboard because there are no facilities like sewage pump-out, laundry, shop, or internet café that make other marinas more attractive.
Some marinas either don't encourage long-term live-aboards or don't allow it at all. Auckland's Westhaven Marina only allows the owners and crew of visiting foreign-flagged vessels to live aboard during their can stay but not local owners.
We don't want our marina to become a trailer park
Half Moon Bay doesn't want to turn into a "trailer park" and has no facilities for people living aboard. And the Auckland Council won't allow people to live aboard at Orakei Marina at Okahu Bay.
While Whangarei Marina allows some locals to live on their boats, they monitor it closely, turning down applications for people who want to live on derelict boats as a cheap way to live.
"We don't encourage people to buy a boat to live aboard, " says the marina's assistant manager, Sharon Beck. " We want people to use their boats. We don't want the marina turning into a caravan park."
Instead, they welcome hundreds of offshore boats whose owners clear Customs at Whangarei and stay on. Compared to Auckland, it's a cheap stopover. Whangarei charges $60 a month for a single person, $90 a month for a couple, plus power, laundry and showers.
It's a similar story at the Bay of Islands Marina which welcomes about 500 offshore boats a year that clear Customs, at Opua. Marina manager Paul Stringer says some locals own their berth and live aboard, while others live out on pile moorings for $200 to $300 a year.
But the majority of live-aboards, particularly in the summer months, are offshore visitors cruising the world. The crew are allowed to stay for up to six months while the boat can stay for two years.
A pretty good place to stay
Says Stringer, with plenty of shore maintenance available, a yacht club with restaurant, a fish and chip shop and a general store that does pizzas, it's a pretty good place to stay. A 12-metre marina costs $29 a day, plus power, to live on while a 30-metre berth is $128 a night.
Auckland Harbourmaster Andrew Hayton says there are no rules stopping people from living on boats on moorings as long as they comply with pollution regulations, and the boat remains seaworthy. A vessel must not be anchored in the same position for longer than 14 days without prior approval from the Harbourmaster.
Neither is there anything to stop people from living on their boats while anchored in a bay. Three boats spent the summer anchored off Karaka Bay, Glendowie, with the owners living on board.
The crew of an old converted fishing vessel, Southern Progress, has been anchored off Karaka Bay for most of this year, disappearing for a night or two to Rangitoto or Waiheke and then returning to Karaka.
The vessel's owner, Craig Koning, runs the Floating Foundation charity mission which has done work in the Pacific. According to a Stuff story, some of his crew abandoned ship last year after allegations against Koning.