The liveaboards of Sausalito, on San Francisco Bay, are a universe unto themselves. Passage Notes from our October 2011 issue.
When the landlubbers of Marin County, California, aren’t expressing themselves through free dance, they’re likely sipping Napa varietals or hauling themselves up Mount Tamalpais on sleek two-wheelers. Not so the sailors of the waterfront. They steadfastly stick to their own devices, far more into chainplates than chardonnay.
One liveaboard community in particular, on the periphery of the charming city of Sausalito, north of the Golden Gate Bridge, has seemingly little to do with the bunch inhabiting the hills around them. Yet from what I could tell during a brief stopover in the spring of 2011 before the Strictly Sail Pacific boat show in Oakland, on the other side of San Francisco Bay, this zany little tribe is hardly worse for the wear.
Against an attractive shoreline dotted with sailboats, powerboats, and houseboats at once funky and tasteful, they take leashed kitties for walks in baby strollers; appreciate life-size outdoor art fashioned from flotsam, jetsam, and various other detritus; and catch up on the latest gossip while nursing soup-bowl-sized lattes and tasty, flaky pain au chocolat at the local hangout, Le Garage. Notwithstanding the rig-tearing storms and rumblings from Mother Earth, they lead a charmed, low-key life.
Whatever impression you take away from this enclave, one point is indisputable: Sailors here sail, in whatever they can climb aboard, for every event from beer-can races to singlehanded bluewater pursuits. Many of them own a fleet so they can satisfy the urge to race and the urge to live aboard in one fell swoop.
Picking my way along a waterfront lined with half a dozen marinas, I got an early start to catch up with several of these unique folks. A tip from my friend LaDonna Bubak, an editor at the wonderful sailing monthly Latitude 38, sent me straight to Le Garage, where I fortified myself with breakfast and met with Tim Sell.
Left: Tim Sell
Tim’s the one who should’ve been racking up the calories, for he burns plenty of them as a diver and outrigger canoeist. He’s also a photographer, has worked as a carpenter in Alaska, races his Coronado 25 and a Wiley 30, and is preparing Lucky Star, the 36-foot Brent Swain steel boat he lives aboard in the anchorage, for passage to Hawai’i. “I’ll use Hawai’i as a jumping-off point for the Pacific,” he says. “There’s also a canoe race I want to enter there. My plan is to go back and forth so I can balance my cruising with my job.”
Besides cleaning hulls, Tim also helps rebuild moorings, conduct salvage operations, and execute waterfront construction projects for Dave’s Diving Service, a local business. “It’s gnarly working in winter as a diver,” he says. “It’s amazing what people will ask you to do.”
As for the condition of hulls, he reports that “it varies. I do raceboats that you can hardly see the growth on. Some of it’s pretty nasty, but some of it’s pretty light,” he says. “Ongoing maintenance and inspections are other parts of our work.”
The job helps him achieve his goals. “Diving is where I make my money,” he explains. “I also help friends with projects, as a way to help my community. People here are so diverse. They’re sailors and artists. This is a tremendous place to refit or build a cruising boat. There’s a good network of trades people and gear. I love my friends here. They’ve helped me with my dream.”