Editor's Note: The Life Aquatic

PUTTING TOGETHER another home-related issue brings to mind the joys of creating one’s own personal castle. Reading our feature story, I learned the term “oculus” as it described a peekaboo kitchen window shaped like an eye. This detail was just one stroke of brilliance in designer Fu-Tung Cheng’s work on a hillside Tiburon home. If you’d care to step into our shoes a moment, consider creating an enticing cover headline to evoke that decidedly unique project. My first thought was maybe something sensationalistic like “Calling All Design Geeks: Finally a Chance to See a One-of-a-Kind Home Designed by World-Famous Concrete Master Right Here in Marin.” But as you may have noticed, a cover blurb is usually two to five words tops. So we went at it as a team and wrangled it into a more poetic rendition.


The last time we did an edition about homes, I had just sold ours, and my daughter and I were adjusting to life on a floating rental. Now, three months into our adventure, I’m hooked. I love waking up to seabirds outside my window and being tied into the planet via tides, and most of all, I love the community. Besides living next to one of my best friends, who often hosts movie nights, I’ve found my neighbors are friendly, eclectic and protective.


The dock gardens are a pleasure to walk through. At least on our dock, the plants and artwork change often. When I moved in, I walked down to the Sausalito Ferry Company to buy an array of character-inspired rubber ducks to add to the mélange. Right now there’s a duck chef, a duck surfer, a duck devil, a duck flower child and a duck princess. I like to rearrange them depending on my mood. A neighbor who’s in her 90s makes it her duty to rearrange them to her liking. This means they are often in odd poses or scattered amid the various planters.


I first discovered these floating homes when I met Diane and Jerry Jampolsky, who live on Issaquah Dock. Theirs is truly a home that just so happens to be floating: stucco walls, three floors and a roof deck that screams “write that book.” For my daughter, that scream would be “tanning station, do not disturb.” Here in Sausalito there are about 450 homes in five fully permitted floating home marinas — Commodore, Kappas Marina, Yellow Ferry Harbor, Waldo Point Harbor and Varda Landing. Seattle and Portland are the only other two U.S. cities with official floating home communities, which is surprising to me, because it seems like the ultimate answer to rising tides.


Floating homes are not for everyone. When the storms come through, there is some rocking and rolling. If you follow me on Instagram, you would have seen lots of swaying light fixtures this winter. Bringing in groceries is an effort that calls for one of the dock-assigned shopping carts. And, for us at least, storage is a challenge.


It seems such challenges are not a deterrent for many, as floating homes have gotten more and more expensive. When I first fantasized about living this way, there were some livable options listed at $500,000 or below; today $300,000 just buys you a tear-down, or a float-away, which means you purchase the space, tow away the decrepit structure, build your own home and float it back into the space. I asked Paul Bergeron, a realtor selling a floataway opportunity on Gate 6½, what it would cost to haul out the tear-down and build a new one. He smiled. He’s been doing that kind of thing for 25 years, and he simply said I would need a flexible schedule and a passionate interest in check-writing. Got it.


So I guess I’m not the only one who imagines I can build my own aquatic safe harbor. But I’m not giving up on the dream and, in the meantime, Diane has promised to keep an eye out for any lease-to-buys that don’t need a complete overhaul. Hey Universe, I’m talking to you.

Mimi Towle

Mimi Towle has been the editor of Marin Magazine for over a decade. She lived with her family in Sycamore Park and Strawberry and thoroughly enjoyed raising two daughters in the mayhem of Marin’s youth sports; soccer, swim, volleyball, ballet, hip hop, gymnastics and many many hours spent at Miwok Stables. Her community involvements include volunteering at her daughter’s schools, coaching soccer and volleyball (glorified snack mom), being on the board of both Richardson Bay Audubon Center. Currently residing on a floating home in Sausalito, she enjoys all water activity, including learning how to steer a 6-person canoe for the Tamalpais Outrigger Canoe Club. Born and raised in Hawaii, her fondness for the islands has on occasion made its way into the pages of the magazine.