Destinations

We moved to Puerto Rico... And bought a house. Here's why.

It's three weeks into 2018, and I'm scared shitless.

We've filed all the paperwork. We've moved to Puerto Rico, and there's no turning back.

We're officially homeowners. We have a mortgage! In a hurricane-ravaged country, with businesses that depend on convincing people we're really great at what we do from thousands of miles away. We've sunk all of our savings into a gorgeous, needy, 200-year-old mansion in an uncertain housing market.

I'm told everyone feels really excited and a little bit nauseous when they buy their first house. 

In addition to being scared, we're also thrilled. Some of you who know us or have been following along on our journey, know the latter half of 2017 hasn't been easy. After being hit by two hurricanes, we are exhausted. Scallywag is looking worse for wear. She's floating, and will be dreamy again one day, but for the moment, our boat home isn't liveable. And our paltry insurance payout means it will take a lot of our own sweat equity to get her back into fighting shape. 

Jon and I decided, a few days into taking respite from post-hurricane rebuilding in our hometown of LA for a few weeks, that our plan to sail back to California just didn't feel like the right next move anymore. Despite everything, we missed Puerto Rico and all it offered us. And we wanted to make a permanent home there.

Why Puerto Rico?

We never planned to cruise full-time forever, but we also never want to give up on cruising. Working while traveling can be murder on you, physically, mentally and tax-return-ally. So we've been looking for a place to base ourselves during our entire trip from New York to Maine and back down. We found towns we fell in love with, but we just couldn't see ourselves staying there. And then we arrived here for hurricane season.

Puerto Rico, specifically San Juan, checked a lot of boxes for us:

-It is a friendly culture that welcomes new people

-It has a ton of great art and lively activities

-The food is killer

-It's beautiful and historical

-There are universities and art schools nearby (we realized all our favorite places had access to a great school.) 

-It's near an ocean 

-It's warm!

-The music is awesome

-It has a strong liberal and progressive community of locals and expats that we feel comfy in. 

-It's still U.S. territory, which makes it easy to relocate our work, but feels like we live in a magical distant land with castles.

-There's an awesome tech community

-There's a major airport just 15 minutes away with cheap flights to lots of cool places.

-Real estate and cost of living is affordable and awesome

-Cell reception and internet are rock solid (when no hurricanes are nearby)

-It's a place where the money we spend matters and contributes to an economy that needs it.

Those are personal reasons we looked toward San Juan, but we can't talk about moving here without talking about how Puerto Rico has been in the news A LOT lately: For its booming tech scene, great tax incentives and its post-storm utilities nightmares. Also for the crypto bros who are moving in by the minute. And for its fight to become a state and the fight for decolonization.

The last few months have intensified all those stories. People are making real choices to commit or to leave.

As stalwart institutions fold, new ideas, businesses and newly arrived friends are also blossoming. In short, after the hurricanes, things are getting better here... and they aren't. There's a lot of awfulness to be had, and half the country is still without electricity. It's a strange, uncertain place to be at the beginning of 2018. 

But it's an interesting place to be, and Jon and I decided we want our land life to be as dynamic as our sea-life is. This is a messy time to be here and not everyone's cup of tea. But for us, it seemed like a move that even if we completely failed with, we wouldn't regret. 

So we did it. 

The move from hell

Or at least we tried to. We began filing paperwork before the hurricane, and put an offer on our house just two days after Irma. It's taken all this time to finalize our new life here and walk through the doors of our new home. 

For a lot of reasons -- hurricane outages, oddball personalities, sketchy bank lending practices, #islandlife -- every part of the process was difficult. While moving apartments about every two weeks for almost six months, we watched our paperwork get lost, our escrow fall through three times and everyone involved in our move and house purchase make money and make the process harder at the same time.

We thought we'd be able to move in by Thanksgiving, then Christmas, then never. It's a longer story for another post, but there was a day, Christmas eve to be exact, when we gave up. We packed up everything, made a list of everything we needed to do to fully exit Puerto Rico, and had a last teary drink to our dream of island life.

A few days before Christmas found us living in a cheap motel with everything we owned pulled from our leaky boat and stored in a rented minivan parked on the street outside. 

One of our friends sent us a text: "Step back and make sure this house is meant to be your and Jon's next move! I hope it is bc it is awesome having you in PR, but shit, you should not be going through this!"

And at that point, we absolutely weren't sure that all the decisions we were making were leading us anywhere.

Looking back, it sounds silly and melodramatic, but the hurricane tore all of our life plans apart and at the end of 2017, we felt emotionally adrift.

Then, just two days before New Year's day, everything suddenly fell into place.

It was so sudden that we still had no place to live when we went to sign our mortgage papers. We had to take Honey to the bank with us.

sail-me-om-dog-mortgage

I'm still shocked that it all came together. We are residents of Puerto Rico. We own a beautiful house in the Unesco World Heritage site of Old San Juan.

So what's the plan?

Our house is divided into two apartments that are exactly the same. Each have three bedrooms and a huge amount of living space. To say it's a change from our 200-square foot boat is a an understatement. 

It's a mansion, built by one of Puerto Rico's first rum barons, 200 years ago. And it has some pretty cool features, including its own 36,000-gallon rainwater cistern. As soon as we recover from the down payment of our purchase, we plan to install solar panels on the ample roof, to bring it completely off the grid. It's not the tiny home we planned on, but we still hope to pursue the alternative lifestyle we've come to love.

We'll be living in the top floor and hosting guests on adventures from around the world on the bottom. In the longer term, I hope to make our home a site for movies, events and retreats.

My secret, lifelong dream has always been to be the next Gertrude Stein -- to be the ultimate host and curator of interesting people. I've always wanted to bring together great thinkers, artists and people with Big Ideas, introducing them to each other, and gently prod forward great work in a place that inspires it. 

I know. That's a really lofty goal. More realistically, Jon has always wanted to invest in something that was more than just a home -- an investment and a place where he could practice the restoration skills we learned through #boatlife.

We both think we got the better end of the deal. (Here's a gallery from our Airbnb page.)

 

But, as I started off this post saying, it's terrifying. We've lived debt-free and relatively without responsibility for several years by living a tiny, off-the-grid life. Now we have a mortgage! And appliances! And a duty to others besides ourselves. 

Business-wise it's also a risky proposition. We'll be running our home as a business, while investing even more in our own businesses (his/mine) that we've run remotely for years. The slow economy here means that our work has to remain top-notch and that we continue to receive the amazing referrals that have kept us going so far. 

That's a big bet to take on ourselves and also that business in general will become increasingly global in the coming years. Luckily, we still strongly believe in both. 

In the long run we hope to restore Scally back into top form and use Puerto Rico as our home base while spending several months a year sailing the Caribbean and nearby shores. We're taking our time on that one, because we know that no matter what, sailing will be a huge part of our lives, so there's no need to rush to get back out on the water. 

What about the dog?

dog-old-san-juan

Yep, Honey definitely misses Scallywag. But the good news is our new home has some excellent sunny balconies that she's already staked out as her own. From little boat to cavernous mansion, she's the most adaptable animal we've ever met. 

 

Boat-Gazing: What visual clues show how you cruise?

When we first started looking at buying a boat, all boats looked the same to me. Some were prettier than others, but that's all I saw, and I got bored quickly.

But a funny thing happens once you buy a boat: all you want to do is stare at others. 

During our early evenings of walking the docks and taking dinghy spins around crowded harbors, it was enough to ooh and ahh at neighbor's pretty boats and gleaming paint jobs. That's still fun!

The longer I cruise, the more my boat eyes see. One of the most interesting things about observing boats is seeing what people have decided is important to them, like power, space, and adventure gear. We’re constantly boat-gazing to get new ideas for how to improve Scallywag. 

While every boater is different, you can tell a lot about a person from their boat. A little visual detective work will allow you to “read” someone’s boat to understand what commonalities you might have or where to start a conversation, or to read a harbor to understand what you're about to get into (mega money? A boat graveyard?). With practice, it’s easy to take an educated guess at your neighbor’s cruising agenda.

For others who stare at a boat and max out their observations at, "that's a boat!", it's fun to reflect on some of the easy clues boats can give off about the style and intentions of their owners. 

A full-time cruising boat, typically a sailboat or a trawler, because they’re more fuel-efficient, is equipped for distance and power. They may have yellow, red and blue jerry cans, a wind generator or solar panels.

 Solar panels, wind generator, kayaks and the telltale brown smudge of an ICW moustache. You can tell we've been around!

Solar panels, wind generator, kayaks and the telltale brown smudge of an ICW moustache. You can tell we've been around!

At anchor, they’re often draped with laundry and while they can look messy, most of the things on deck can be stowed easily since they’re always on the move. That’s not to say cruisers are slobs — Many cruising boats look impeccable (especially the ones that go back to the Northeast in the summer and get a break from the intense Caribbean sun). Some will have peeling or completely wrecked paint or varnish. Longterm cruisers (including us!) often save the time and money that could be spent fixing aesthetics to cruise longer and more happily.

Liveaboard boats may also be in great or poor external condition. Because they aren’t going anywhere, they may have more on deck that isn’t secured. Bikes, DIY shade canopies, extensive gardens or additional plywood construction are all indicators that these boats haven’t made a passage recently. 

If a boat cruising boat looks perfect, it’s usually because the owner is a bit older and has had time to save up more, or the boat is in its first couple of seasons of cruising. Sailors who do 6 months on, 6 months off also have fairly immaculate boats, because they have a bit more time for improvements or repairs. 

 Top left corner: Solar panels, antenna booster, wifi booster, sirius weather booster... check. 

Top left corner: Solar panels, antenna booster, wifi booster, sirius weather booster... check. 

A boat with lots of power-collecting equipment and antennas will usually indicate the owners are still working. Our own boat has never been better equipped or looked more worn on the outside. As younger cruisers, we’re not alone. If you see a boat that may be worse for wear but has new solar panels and the green glow of a wifi or antenna booster, you can make an educated guess that the person who owns it is still be working while sailing and making very strategic investments in what to improve. 

A mint-condition boat without anything secured to the stanchions, looking sleek and clean and just as the boatbuilder intended, is likely used locally or for weekends and holiday trips. Some people run their engines or generators regularly to create power, but most full-time cruisers have invested in some kind of wonky-looking equipment to keep their battery banks full.  

Trawlers, or the comfy condos of the boating world, are typically operated by coastal cruisers doing the Great Loop, heading from Maine on down through the ICW, or cruising in nearby international islands. Trawler owners are smart — the boats are spacious and relatively conservative on fuel. Owners are also typically older, with the bigger boat being a compromise of adventure and comfort. 

Charter boats usually have more than two people on them, and in the Bahamas at least, they’re usually catamarans. These boats are typically without much signage and tend to look fairly generic, save the labeling of the charter company on the sail cover or on a flag in the rigging. In my unscientific observations, if you see a Lagoon (a distinctively large brand of catamaran) there’s a 90% chance that it’s a charter, or has been in charter. 

 When the sunset rolls around, we all share the same ocean.

When the sunset rolls around, we all share the same ocean.

Large fishing boats, speedboats or mega yachts rarely have cruisers on them full-time, unless they’re crew. You can often pick out a mega yacht crew by spotting groups of people walking the docks together. Six or more people, often in the same color shirt or similar clothing, is an obvious indicator that they’re crew of a big ship nearby. If you see people walking the docks who are wearing resort-wear (flowy fabrics, white linen pants) or don’t make eye contact or say hello, they’re likely passengers on a larger yacht. 

What do you look for when you boat gaze? Is there anything I missed that you're always on the lookout for?

4 mindsets for boating en route to the Bahamas.

Almost two weeks ago we finally made the crossing from Florida to the Bahamas. We are in another country! On our boat! Please, hold your applause, because I am very impressed at us for you.

When we crossed the banks of the Bahamas at sunrise the Thursday before last, Jon turned to me and said with uncharacteristic earnestness, "I can't believe we made it." He wasn't talking about the 12-hour trip across the stream, which was uneventful. He meant made it. Here. With all the variables that could have led to our failure or success. Upon reflection we realized we learned a lot about ourselves as boaters and how we fit into this larger world of cruising that we're a part of. 

Cruisers... cut short

We're a long way, physically and mentally, from where we started. We left Maine at the beginning of September and it took us until December to make it to the warm climes of Florida. Not just because our boat goes 6 miles an hour, but because Jon and I have been hard at work building up our businesses and have been flying to clients every few weeks. Then there were the holidays, when we returned home to LA for work and family for an entire month. Boat after boat of people we'd met along the way passed us and made it to the banks of the Bahamas, their Instagram accounts crowing victoriously about warm turquoise waters while we scraped ice off our decks in New Jersey, Virginia, North Carolina. 

(Honestly there's nothing more aggravating than seeing people you've just met a few days or weeks prior get to your destination before you. It's the same feeling I get as when I hear about mean girls from high school being successful and happy as adults. It's just not fair!)

Then, somewhere around our downward pass through New York, we went from cruising to delivering our own boat. The weather was getting colder fast, and the way south more and more complicated.

On the East Coast, more than a century of ferry and barge traffic shaped what's known as the Intracoastal Waterway (or ICW for short). The ICW technically runs all the way from Massachusetts down to the tip of Florida, comprising more than 3000 miles of inland natural and manmade canals. Together, they allow you to run the length of the eastern seaboard protected from storms and waves. 

While the Cape Cod Canal, which we passed through during the summer, counts as part of the ICW, the real action doesn't happen until around the tip of New Jersey, during which time most boaters who haven't already ducked into the Jersey ICW turn into the Chesapeake and then make their way through what might be the most traveled area of the ICW, the cut through Virginia and North Carolina that circumvents Cape Hatteras. 

Once you hit the ICW, there are a lot of factors to contend with: Do we take it at all or go for multi-day trips "on the outside" and knock out hundreds of miles at a go?  (We ended up doing five or six overnights, as long as 48 hours, to get down the coast after taking the ICW through to Georgia). Will the tides allow for the draft of our boat to transit without running aground? (probably not, if we're asking this question.) If we follow those buoys will we run aground? (No. Five times running aground later, we now know to follow the damn buoys and don't pay attention to anything else, including our charts and other boaters.) 

Captains on delivery (of our own boat)

This is where we somehow turned into captains delivering our own boat... to ourselves. The days were long and stressful, waking up in the pre-dawn and motoring as far as we could before sunset, as the ICW is impassable after dark (there are just too many ways to hit something.) Overnights were easier and got us places faster, but it took me several trips to get over an unfortunate incident off the coast of Jersey that had us caught in 10-foot waves for a good 12 hours. (See image below which speaks for itself. OMFG).

Somewhere between New York and North Carolina, we were no longer sailing. We were motoring, hustling, hurrying and, speaking for myself, generally hating life. It's pretty hard to rush on a boat to begin with, but with temperatures dropping, we didn't have much choice. 

Freezing weather and grueling schedule aside, the ICW is a fascinating slice of America. Apart from passing through tiny, historic towns that you'd never otherwise see, to transit the ICW is to be a part of a massive yearly exodus from north to south, in which thousands of boats participate every year. 

The snowbird boaters

As we worked our way farther south, the weather warmed again. It gave us a chance to meet some new people, boaters who weren't going past Florida. Surrounded by folks like these, cruising started feeling even more distant to us. These snowbirds, who began to drop off the route as they found their winter slips, didn't feel like the same folks we had run into in the far north. Their boats were lovely and portable condos, and they hold both an untouchable regard and innate fear of cruising to farther regions. Many of these folks never see the Atlantic -- I spoke to several people who had done the entire trip from Virginia down and never touched "the outside" but lived on their boats half the year or more. Others had 2, 5 or 7 year plans for crossing the Gulf Stream and cruising the Bahamas, which runs a mere 4 miles or so off the coast of Palm Beach. 

Their lists were long -- lists of reasons why they couldn't go yet, and why we should be concerned about going now. Lists of things our boat and their boats needed to have. All of these lists were passed along with the greatest of kindness. It was lucky that we had come this far, or their concerns would have shaken our confidence. It's easy to see how so many people end up in the boatyard for months at a time at the precipice of the Caribbean.

The white wine cruisers

And then suddenly, we were in the Bahamas. We were suddenly here, with no plans except to follow weather and sites that we wanted to explore. We're happy to call ourselves cruisers again.

But something curious has happened since we've arrived, and I can't help but notice and point it out. Somewhere across the Gulf Stream, it became detestable to work. Or rather detestable to others that we still have to work. 

It feels extra odd because of the number of people we've met in getting here that were working toward something: buying their boat, making their 5-year plan to leave, waiting for their kids to go to school so they can set off. We've arrived at the end destination, so to speak, and it's as if no one wants to be reminded about how they got here.

(Surely part of this is due to the fact that we're working on our laptops in the middle of everyone's vacation. Nobody wants to be reminded of the work they left at home.)

But as I work from a diner-cum-liquor-store in the mornings, I find myself getting scolded by cruiser after cruiser to "put the laptop down". One southern fellow, (whom I've taken to calling Foghorn Leghorn), has ranted at me multiple mornings in a row in an exchange that goes something like this:

"Honey, you're a real gigabyte girl aren't ya? I'mma give you five more minutes before I take them gigabytes away so you go outside."

I explain that I have to work so I could enjoy all the island had to offer.

He stares, wide-eyed, unsure how to answer. Then he yells, "Honey, good luck on the gigabytes!" and then walks away, slamming the screen door behind him.

An hour or two later, as I'm walking back to the boat, he pulls up in a golf cart next to me:

"Honey, you get all those gigabytes in?"

"Yup, I got all the gigabytes," I tell him, as he steps on the gas and putters away.

Returning to the boat, on the first day of said exchange, I passed six boats on the dock. Four of them had owners in their cockpits, sharing a bottle of white wine with each other at lunch. Like us, these white wine cruisers no longer have a transit schedule to keep, or a weather window to catch, per se. But they have literally no other demands on their time, and as such look at us as we pass like odd foreign creatures with our laptops and conference calls. We're all cruisers, but once again I'm beginning to realize we're not all the same. 

To try to keep a normal schedule in the face of such luxurious temptation is a challenge. I always thought that the hardest part of cruising would be working, not the peer pressure to stop working.

As of yet, we haven't met anyone in the Bahamas that is our age or working while they go. But we've only just started exploring the Abacos, so I'm sure we'll come across like minds soon. 

As for what we'll call ourselves, I've sort of warmed up to the term Gigabyte Girl. What other nicknames have you heard for cruisers like us? I'm sure that Killjoy is on the list! 

 

How to live on a boat in New York.

Despite the fact that we’re now cruising full-time, I probably get 5-6 emails a week from people who want to learn more about living on a boat, especially in New York City. Since being covered in Forbes, I've gotten a boatload (pun intended) of people asking the same questions, so I figured a blog post was in order! 

There’s a good reason that not that much information is publicly available about this topic: living on a boat in the New York area as your full-time, permanent residence is, as far as I've been able to tell, technically illegal at every marina... so, intrepid aspirational liveaboards, read along at your own risk. 

However, if you have even an inkling that you'd like living on a boat, in NYC or otherwise, you definitely should try it! There are very few of us who actually get it together to do it, and no one I know has ever regretted it. 

With that said, come with me and I’ll drop some knowledge on ya about how to do it. 

Don't live on a boat to save money.

Every boat is different and living on a boat can be an extremely economical way to live in an expensive city. But don’t discount the costs associated with purchasing and maintaining a boat. Every repair you make will cost you thousands instead of hundreds of dollars. That’s why $1000 is affectionately referred to as a “boat buck.” So, consider that whatever you save in rent will likely go back into boat maintenance in the long run. There are tons of blogs that outline their monthly or yearly costs of living and cruising on boats.  Mark Nicholas' classic on being a liveaboard also outlines the general costs of living on your boat. 

Look for marinas with discretion. 

No marina in the NYC area will say they accept liveaboards. Look instead for marinas with "wet winter storage" or in-water storage, and for marinas who accept "frequent stayaboards". 

Many marinas accept stayaboards, but you need a separate permanent address (P.O. box is fine) for legal and tax purposes, and in emergency situations, another place to go. You don’t have the same rights as a renter in an apartment. Your slip doesn’t count as your home. 

In short, it's accepted by many marinas to stay full-time but not quite legal, though many people have done it for years and years. 

 This can be an inconvenience at times -- if they have to fix the water or facilities they work under the assumption every tenant doesn't live there full time, even if they know they do, so you have to make alternative plans. This wasn’t an issue for us but it's different at every marina. 

There are a number of marinas in the same canal, so it's up to you to choose cost and amenities over convenience

You'll have to call around to see about current policies. Lots of people live part or full-time in marinas around New York, but you have to be discreet and respect the rules of the marina hosting you. We've been called out for NOT being discreet, by even noting that we've lived on a boat in NYC, without ever disclosing location. (Hey you, aspiring La Vagabonders, don't even consider starting a YouTube channel if you want to live aboard in NYC.)  

Liveaboard slips are very marina-by-marina. Some people care a lot, and some people don't care at all if you stay all year. Look for places that provide bubblers (sort of like giant versions of the kinds find in aquariums) so that the water around your boat doesn't get iced over. 

As far as more general information, I'd really recommend Mark Nicholas' classic on being a liveaboard as well as Facebook groups on the subject. Sailing and Cruising has a lot of info on living aboard and there are about 5 million blogs on living aboard -- the easiest way to start getting to know all of them is to start liking them on facebook (try ours  -- Sail Me Om and Sailing Chance, who is also in New York) and you'll get suggested more. 

Water.

Remember that when you live on a boat you aren't connected to a water or sewage system.

In summer, water is a no-brainer, just fill up your tank every so often from a hose right at your slip. In the winter, water is annoying but doable. You'll get an extra long hose, or some docks link their hoses together and they fill directly from pumps on land. This is annoying. Sometimes people will leave water in the hose and it'll freeze and you have to do ridiculous things to unfreeze it (like taking 200 feet of hose into the shower to melt it, true story) but totally doable. If you have large water tanks it's a non-issue (we don't, and it was still only an every-two-week affair for us.)

Pumpouts.

In every marina we looked at, they didn’t have pumpout services for heads in the winter (as in, pumps to clear your toilet tanks). Your alternatives for this include: don't use your head at all, or only do #1 and open it straight into the river. Use marina bathrooms for everything else. You can also get a composting head (toilet), which renders this a nonissue. Note that especially in winter, you shouldn't plan on showering on your boat because of the moisture, so you'll be in those bathrooms regularly. Also, most FT boaters keep pee-only heads anyway, because it dramatically reduces smells on your boat. There's the gross explainer on that. 

Know your boats and their capabilities. 

Or at least what kind of boat you hope to live on. Powerboats provide a lot more space but tend to be more expensive to travel on than sailboats. Sailboats tend to have less space, but after the '70s era-runs, they become much roomier inside.

Note that houseboats are neither sailboats nor powerboats. They are meant to be in one space and not move. Just because you live on your boat, this doesn't mean your boat is your houseboat. In any case, basically every boat is expected to have a working engine, and you're expected to have insurance to keep it in almost any marina. Your insurance rates may vary wildly depending on the condition of your boat. Also, don't expect it to be okay for you to tow a derelict boat into a marina to live on. It won't be accepted. 

What size boat can you live on?

There's no rule for this, but we've found that the smaller the better. 37 feet is enough for us two, even though we thought that would be too small when we started. Many people make the mistake of buying big and regret the dock fees (charged by foot) and maintenance fees (which get infinitely more expensive as you go bigger). So if you're not sure, try out a friend's boat for a couple of days or Airbnb a boat of the size you're looking for to see if it's right for you. 

That's it! What other questions you got? I'm happy to answer them. 

Honey tours Block Island by bike, to music.

Ready for two minutes of unadulterated delight? 

With winter undeniably, officially upon us, we took the long weekend to pull together some of our travel footage from our cruise around the Long Island Sound in early fall. 

We started with our most adorable footage by far -- Honey's bike tour across Block Island. 

This beautiful Island, just off the coast of Rhode Island, looks a lot like Ireland in some spots and offered days worth of hiking, empty beaches and beautiful porch views.

We were moored in the Great Salt Pond during our visit and the only way you can get to town without calling a taxi is by bicycle. After a few days of getting left behind on the boat, Honey had had enough, so we took her out for the ride of her life. 

Honey biked from the The Oar at Block Island Boat Basin dock in the Great Salt Pond to Poor People's Pub at the edge of New Shoreham, the Island's main town. The pub's waitress had a piece of bacon waiting for her as a reward for her long journey. 

We found the entire island to be low key and dog friendly. Bikes are available without a reservation in front of the docks and can take you pretty much everywhere. We've heard everything gets more competitive in midsummer, but you can see from Honey's tour that in late September we had the island and its joys to ourselves. 

We promise no Honeys were harmed in the making of this video, but some good laughs were definitely had at her expense. 

Oh, and the music in this is The Bike Song by Mark Ronson, of Uptown Funk fame. I know, you can't believe you've gone your whole life without hearing this song. So good. 

 

7 sublime photos of bohemian boat living in Sausalito.

Have you ever fantasized about living on a houseboat? I have since I first watched Sleepless in Seattle. (This couple did too, and actually bought that house! Jealous.)

There are a few famous houseboat communities across the country, but my favorite has always been Sausalito's. I've long dreamed of commuting from San Francisco on the ferry, watching the sunset with a glass of wine and stepping off to return home to one of those colorfully painted homes.

Unfortunately for us plebs, houseboat living in the bay isn't cheap these days -- many are going for upward of $1 million

But you can't stop a girl from dreaming. So on a recent trip to Mendocino, we took a detour to wander the docks. After a wrong turn, we found something new -- Napa St. Galilee, another completely charming liveaboard community. 

Galilee has been the site of boat homes for more than a hundred years, according to its community association. It's harbored everyone from dock workers to elite society looking to escape the aftermath of the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake. 

These days, it functions as affordable artist housing-cum-co-op for a sliver of Sausalito's creative class.

Napa St. Galilee Harbor Mailboxes

If you're as lucky as we were, you'll be met at the entrance by a woman in costume playing a piano. And maybe some balloons. But the docks seem welcome to visitors any time. Small plaques in front of each boat describe their names and the histories of construction to minimize the number of questions homeowners receive, I'm sure. 

Napa St. Galilee Sausalito Houseboat windows

Unlike other places I've visited, there's a pretty healthy mix between wild structures and normal boats. 

Napa St. Galilee Sausalito Houseboat docks
Napa St. Galilee Sausalito Houseboat dogs

Next to this sailboat, a little house floated at anchor. For a dog? A tiny seal? I am both enamored and confused with this, but I love the idea that someone's pet likes to chill so truly a-sea. 

Napa St. Galilee Sausalito Houseboat research boat

This boat was built for a university class project back in the '70s, and now has a full-time resident aboard.

Napa St. Galilee Sausalito Houseboat Art

There are two long piers of quirky boats to wander around, and an open bay area for boat launching and beach-going along its side. It also has a community garden. 

Napa St. Galilee Sausalito Harbor

Would you dig this way of life? Have you seen other communities that surprised you with their ingenuity or creativity? I'd love to hear about them.