Livin' on the Dock of the Bay

From the Beats to CEOs, the residents of Sausalito’s houseboat community cherish their history and their neighbors

Today, 245 floating homes nose into the five docks at Sausalito's Waldo Point Harbor. (Panoramic Images / Getty Images)

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Cyra McFadden, a writer and editor whose 1977 The Serial peeled the veneer off the Marin social scene, has lived at Waldo Point for 14 years. Her spacious home, with its fireplace, framed artworks and picture-book view of Mount Tamalpais, “is really a town house on a barge,” McFadden acknowledged. “It doesn’t feel particularly like a boat. But it moves—ever so slightly—and the view will change through the window. Or I’ll be at the table having breakfast, suddenly aware that the wind is coming from a different direction. I love the creaking noises, and the bubbling that the boat makes when the tide comes. I love the fact that this house is alive.”

“I think people come here because they don’t want to feel boxed in,” added Susan Neri, a portrait artist who lives aboard the small but cozy landing craft Lonestar. “It’s an ecosystem where the water meets the land, and nothing is quite the same from day to day. There’s also the reflective quality of living here. It may come from the reflections that we live with every day, off the bay and the boats, in the house and all around us.” She looks out her window, a kinetic view of clouds and gulls. “For me, its a bit of living on the edge,” she said. “It’s magical. I can’t imagine living on the land again.”

My final afternoon, I stop by the Evil Eye for a word with Larry Moyer. The waterfront sage greets me warmly and lights up a cigar.

“I’m a bit overwhelmed,” I tell him. “I’ve heard more stories than I can possibly absorb. But I’m still searching for a through-line; something to tie it all together.”

Moyer nods. A war-torn tomcat curls up in his lap. “Look behind you,” he says, “and weep.”

I turn around. There’s a bookshelf above his desk, overflowing with film reels, videotapes and cassettes. During his decades as a photographer and artist, Moyer has shot hundreds of hours of film: scenes of the houseboats, the community, the music, the bawdy shenanigans on the docks. I turn back to him, amazed by this treasure-trove of footage. Moyer grins and shrugs his shoulders.

“I’ve lived here 45 years,” he says. “And I don’t have a through-line!"

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