Peggy and I are in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Since the beautiful sandy beaches and an occasional margarita have pulled Peggy away from her guest blogging, I decided to do a quick post on houseboats. Peggy may have soaked up enough sun to get back to blogging later this week. (grin)
As water people go, I’d place myself on the lower end of want-to. Even though I’ve travelled by sailboat, water taxi, gondola, fishing boat, raft, kayak, canoe and cruise ship, I prefer other means of transport— like walking, or bicycling, or driving, or flying. (The flying part, however, thanks to security hassles and the modern cattle car approach to air travel, has worked its way down the list over the years, while kayaking, which I’ve come to think of as walking or backpacking on water, has worked its way up.)
I have a confession to make here, though; I have always dreamed about living on a houseboat. I can’t really explain why. Somehow, it seems romantic. Maybe it appeals to the nascent hippie in me. My introduction to these floating fantasies was in Sausalito during the late 60s. I’d wandered into the town on a whim and there they were: beckoning. I was a responsible adult at the time, however, or at least trying to be. I had a wife, a job, an apartment, and a large basset hound named Socrates who drooled a lot. How much more responsible can you get? (Yeah, I know, have babies who drool a lot.) Anyway, I banished the thought of living on a houseboat and returned to my exciting life in Sacramento.
On my August trip up the Northern California coast, I learned that Don McCoy had helped establish Sausalito’s houseboat community in the mid-60s before he had tuned in and dropped out to found the Chosen Family commune at Olompali. This fact led me to drive thirty minutes south down 101 from Novato to re-explore my lost youth.
Sausalito has changed almost beyond recognition. At least it seems that way to me. I spent most of my time dodging tourists. There were at least a million (slight exaggeration). I didn’t have time to look around when I drove through town for fear of running over one. But the houseboat community felt familiar. Each home had a unique personality, emphasized even more by art and plants surrounding it. If there were a major difference from the 60s, it was in who could afford them. The days of naked hippies joyfully cavorting on the decks had long since passed.
Other areas also have their houseboat communities. Victoria, British Columbia is one. Peggy and I stopped by to check them out on our way home from a weeklong kayak tour on the north coast of Vancouver Island last year.
We found a different kind of houseboat in England. They were six feet wide and up to sixty feet long. (Think of it this way: If we were configured in the same way, our noses would stretch out some 20 feet. Pinocchio would be jealous.) Three summers ago Peggy and I, along with Peggy’s sister Jane and her husband Jim, spent a week piloting one of these “narrowboats” along the Trent and Mercey Canals near Robin Hood’s old hangout. It was a kick— maneuvering our long boat, stopping at pubs and villages along the way, and pulling off at night to camp along the canal. This inexpensive, gypsy-like lifestyle has great appeal for some people and they’ve turned their narrow vessels into gaily painted, imaginatively named houseboats. Sign me up.
NEXT BLOG: Peggy will post her blog on the small towns of Cotswold, England.