From Vision Magazine.
The Floating Homes of Sausalito
by David O’ Neal
Living on a houseboat is cool–cool like Andy Garcia, the Toyota Prius hybrid, mango ice-cream, and Independent voters. I moved to Sausalito recently from the East Coast and I intend to stay here. Nature around the Bay Area is startlingly diverse and beautiful. And I live on a floating home to boot.
I treasure the people who live in the “floating homes” (houseboats which have no means of locomotion) of Sausalito. The men here don’t wear ties, and the women don’t sport skirts or high-heeled shoes. And I like the houseboats and the surrounding environment for the same reasons their owners do: it is quiet and peaceful. It is a place to chill out and to heal from whatever ails you real or imaginary) It is a safe-haven, a refuge and a place to repair oneself from the stresses of modern life.
My parrot also likes it here. Her wings are not clipped, and occasionally she escapes into joyous flight and perches on nearby rooftops. It’s a fairly safe environment for her because there is nowhere else for her to fly except other houseboats. We are good friends, my parrot and I, yet she regards me with aloof disdain when I summon her back home.
Other winged creatures make this area their home as well. Between November and March, herring surge through the Golden Gate of San Francisco Bay and make their way into the shallows of Richardson Bay. They spawn near the floating homes. At such times, thousands of birds of different species fly together in formation, skimming a few inches above the water. Then they land and roil the bay in a frenzy of feasting. The Bay Area is on the pacific flyway so there are also gaggles of migrating geese, loons,American Coots, Red-Breasted Mergansers, grebes, Belted Kingfishers, and others. Near my houseboat, a raft of fifty floating logs forms a bird habitat on which mostly gulls and cormorants rest. Because they don’t have waterproofing oil, cormorants can dive deeply without being held up by excessive buoyancy. After swimming and diving for some time, the cormorants rest on the logs and spread their waterlogged wings to dry so they can dive again without sinking. All these birds are an integral part of the seascape; I watch them for hours with curiosity and amusement. When the black and white birds form a chorus line, extending their wings and vocalizing en mass, the choreography resembles a Broadway musical.
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