Welcome to the Bay Area and all that it promises. The promise of Marin County is actually the promise of Sausalito. The promise of Sausalito, in turn, is the promise of its quaint boulevards and myriad of houseboats. The maritime significance of this sleepy port is up for debate, but what is a verifiable fact is that it has become a very fashionable — and subsequently expensive — place to live. While most of us would be forced to find refuge in any number of the Sausalito hotels, the privileged few can simply relax and feel right at home.
A home in this port town usually means a house boat. While you might think this is a clever way to bypass the breathtaking cost of real estate in Sausalito, the mooring costs are not that much more affordable. Now, there are a number of white collar professionals, artists and others who have willingly embraced the compromises of a houseboat living in order to live in Sausalito.
Why houseboats? How did this housing alternative come into being? It all begins with the pleasure arks of the mid-nineteenth century. The well-to-do would commission barges to be built up in the fashion of Mississippi steamers, which were then moored in desirable locations in and around the Bay. These barges, in essence, became floating vacation homes.
As it happens, when the Big Quake of 1906 struck, most of these families, along with most of the families in the Bay Area, were left destitute and homeless. They quickly moved their belongings into their still-intact arks and turned them into houseboats. While this may have begun the trend, it wasn’t until World War Two that houseboats became ubiquitous. This was a result of all the shipyard workers using houseboats for their lodgings.
Strangely, the proliferation of houseboats in the Bay reached its climax during the so-called Houseboat Wars during the Sixties. This conflict pitted houseboat owners, floating-home owners, and Bay-area harbor master against one another. Through a legal patchwork of zoning legislation, the houseboat became a more and more regulated, until they became little more than floating homes.