All photos by Dennis Bayer

A Neighbourhood on Water

By Kelly Louiseize

Editor: Jennifer J. Lacelle

Date: May 3, 2021

Scott Collins and Arleen Ma often paddled by the rows of floating homes along Richardson Bay in Sausalito, California wishing one day they could afford to purchase one. Five years prior, the couple bought a 36-foot trawler and it was there they spent weekends.

Collins says plenty of sailors make fun of couples like them, buying a boat to have it tied to a dock, but people buy boats for different uses.

“We used ours as a condo.”

That is up until June of 2020.

Real estate prices saw a reduction in the beginning of summer and that was when Collins and Ma jumped at the opportunity to purchase a 1,015-square foot, floating home built in 2010 with two living levels and a rooftop deck the length of the entire house.

“I love being so close to nature, to marine life,” Ma says with a smile. “We work from home, so I look out the window and see bird life, kayakers, fish in the shallows. It’s a feast for your eyes.”

The community along the water’s edge is easy going. Collins often passes a neighbour on the dock who says, “Wow, another beautiful day. Can you believe we live here?”

Respecting Space        

They were lucky to purchase their home. Most people on their dock have been there for years and plan to leave only by stretcher. For the pod to commune harmoniously, there are rules, more out of respect for the environment and each other.

“Because we are sharing the dock with other people something as simple as placing a plant out or where you put your paddle board can create communication with close neighbours,” Collins says. “It’s a collaborative environment almost like family and they aren’t going away so you have to figure out how to solve problems.”

If a neighbour has an event in their home that will impact neighbours, they will speak with them to ensure adherence to Floating Homes Association rules.

“There is very much a give and take here,” Collins says. “We all want to maintain a positive attitude.”

Of course, there is a harbour master to fix the burned-out light bulbs and land maintenance duties. Because salt water erodes everything, it means every screw must be galvanized, wood treated with special paints and bikes, well, bikes seem to corrode just by sitting there.

Populations by Waterside

There are approximately 400 homes in Richardson Bay. It isn’t counting the anchor outs who are 100 yards from the deck. Some people are annoyed with their presence. After all, they’re not using pump outs, but Collins likes the idea of people not wanting to partake in the normal flow of society. It adds to the ambience of the bay.

In all, the community comradery, music festivals, picnics, there are some downsides although Ma wouldn’t consider them anywhere near the benefits to living on water.

First, when the wind is blowing and the rain starts up, house owners still must trek up and down the dock to get to and from your car.

“There is no garage and storage is limited. Some people have storage rentals, but you still have to haul everything up and down the docks,” Ma explains.

Second, there is a saying that whatever goes in the house something old must come out, so it really is minimal living.

Third, if you are a pet owner, it means walking up and down the dock each morning and praying you didn’t forget your sunglasses back at the house. It can be a long way back.

Sausalito floating homes average (US) $1million. It all depends on location and how deep a water your house is anchored in. The deeper the anchor, the more the cost. Property tax rate in the city is 1.1 per cent on land and the dwelling. Since Collins and Ma do not own land, they only pay on the dwelling.

“We may have lower property tax, but we have a berth fee. If you multiply your monthly berth fees and add the dwelling tax it ends up pretty close to a home on land.”

https://www.iinta.ca