Creative photos and essays from the San Juan Islands


Liveaboard Lament

P1000085Liveaboard LamentMy brother, who used to live in the islands, can’t understand why I’d want to live on a boat. Nor, I believe, do the individuals at the Washington Dept. of Natural Resources. They, in their wisdom (?), seem to think that everyone should live in a house just like they do, and that the waters of the state are for recreational use, not residential. Every few years another stink arrises to ban liveaboards altogether, or limit them as much as possible. It’s not just the State, the city of Seattle has recently tried to pass more regulations making it very difficult for those living aboard the houseboats on Lake Union to do so. Something about any structure built with 2×4′s (houses) don’t belong on the water?!

Though I’m not living aboard my boat at the present, I miss the lifestyle, for it is more than just habitation, it’s a way of life. Ask any liveaboard individual or family and they will tell you they put up with the regulations, and walking up to a quarter of a mile from their car to their home because they relish the attractions of living on the water.

They don’t have curbside garbage pickup. They don’t have a heated attached garage from which to unload their groceries. Insurance is difficult to obtain, not to mention loans on their dwellings! I even know rugged individuals who dinghy out to their boats on mooring buoys, rain and shine. Their’s is the ultimate in freedom through sacrifice.

I long to return to my houseboat, a 31ft. fiberglass Cruise-a-Home that I call “Cozy.” I miss the seals swimming by my back door, the otter families who play tag at night and wake me with their exuberant splashing. The moon’s reflection off the water and long walks on the deserted breakwater in the winter after dark. And then there’s the gentle rocking during a winter storm at night that works better than Melatonin for inducing sleep.

I carry my garbage and recycle items up to the main pier, and empty my porta-potty in a special receptacle the Port provides. I take showers under the Port offices for $1.50 a pop, usually late at night so I’m not rubbing butts with the other boaterboys in a crowded room. I walk three blocks to the store and up the pier to do my laundry, which usually runs about $10 per laundry day. I call the hike to my truck, garbage can, store, and laundry my ‘slimerizer!’ I even have to worry about tsunami waves cruising through the marina and ripping out my dock and boat. Hardly any land-lubber house owner has that worry! As an unofficial, unpaid security dock watcher (as are all liveaboards simply because of their proximity), I have saved many boats from damage in storms, and others have pulled accident prone marina visitors out of the water. AND I get to pay nearly $50 a month to the marina as a liveaboard fee on top of my moorage fee which is indexed to Seattle where the big money is.

I am part of a close-knit community of like-minded liveaboards. We know our neighbor’s names and look out for each other and their boats. So the question remains: who has the right to decide boat owners should use these waters for recreational boating only? The State keeps the riff-raft who deign to reside on their boats or floating houses to a minimum by making the marinas rent no more than 10% of their slips to liveaboards. In a large marina it’s less of a problem to find a liveaboard slip, but in the smaller marinas an applicant can wait years for a slip.

So there’s my “Liveaboard Lament.” Ahoy, mates!


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