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Living on the water Print E-mail
April 07, 2010 05:00 am

Dozer, a "boat dog" at the port peeks over cabin roof from his area at the stern of boat. The Pilot/Arwyn RIce
When Eric RuBright looks out his front door there is no lawn, no trees – except in the distance – and no street or driveway.

“The Pacific Ocean is my yard,” RuBright said.

RuBright is one of a small group of people currently living on boats at the Port of Brookings Harbor.

Since the port decided to allow “liveaboards” a few years ago, dozens of people have stepped forward to take advantage of the offer.

Living on a boat can be an affordable, romantic and fun lifestyle, but it also has challenges, inconveniences and annoyances.

The Port of Brookings Harbor puts a limit on how many boat owners can live at the port at a time. Currently the Port Commission allows 20 slips to be occupied by liveaboard owners.

As of April 1, the port had three openings, but no one who can fill the slips.

“We can’t accommodate the longer boats,” Port Manager Ted Fitzgerald told the Port Commission last year.

Owners of 80-foot sailboats  have submitted applications for slips, but the port doesn’t have a slip or pier space long enough.

“We have a waiting list for longer boats to move in,” Fitzgerald said.

The port is currently considering options that would create the larger spaces to fill those requests.

There are currently 17 liveaboard vessels at the Port of Brookings Harbor. The boats are varied, from formidable yachts to cabin sailboats.

This sailboat is one of the larger sailboats used as a residence at the port. The Pilot/Arwyn Rice

There is space for the smaller boats, but life on a small boat isn’t easy and many who try it often find themselves heading back to land-based life.

“We had one couple who came in here; they didn’t last a year,” port secretary Kathy Bond said.

There are two commonalities among those who do live on their boats, RuBright said, the love of the sea and the community spirit.

“You are almost forced to meet your neighbors,” RuBright said. “You don’t have garages to drive into. You see them every day on the docks.”

RuBright, a stone mason, lives on one of those smaller boats with fiancee Richelle Markwood and his St. Bernard dog, Dozer. He admits that the living space inside his cabin sailboat is cramped.

RuBright and Dozer began their lifestyle and journey in San Diego, and have only recently made their way to Brookings.

The community, the lifestyle, and the setting are all major pluses on the side of living on a boat.

RuBright described how the boat’s motion in the water rocks him to sleep at night, but also how violent it can be during a storm.

Brookings isn’t bad, as ports go, he said. Not compared to his stay at Astoria.

“All the weather in the world goes through Astoria,” RuBright said.

On nice days they recline on the deck to enjoy the outdoors. The boat has safety webbing to keep Dozer from falling in the water, and the canine giant has his own space on the boat’s stern. 

Many people who live on boats have dogs or cats. Dozer, at more than 150 pounds, is not one of the more common breeds seen on boats, RuBright admits.

“Dozer has been everywhere with me,” he said.

On days when the weather is less than welcoming,  RuBright may spend time watching videos in the cozy cabin.

Even when watching videos, RuBright is thinking about the sea. On the counter, was “The Blue Planet: Sea of Life,” waiting to be returned to the video store.

A compact galley, designed and built by RuBright, provides a  homey atmosphere, with well-padded cushions for reclining – and dining – on the opposite side of the cabin.

While RuBright lives at the Port of Brookings Harbor for now, he hears the call of the sea.

RuBright plans to eventually move on to other ports, enjoying the open ocean, one port at a time.

It takes time, he says, and is not a place for someone who wants to get anywhere in a hurry.

“It’s a seven-knot world in sailboat,” he said.

RuBright would like a larger boat, he said, but needs to save for a while.

“That’s where I’d like to be in about 20 years,” he said, gazing at one of the larger boats in the port.

However, the size of the boat depends on the number of crew, and he’s not ready for that, preferring to take to the sea with only his own seamanship to depend on.

“I'd cut myself off at 45 to 50 feet,” he said.

Not all liveaboards are as transient as RuBright, nor do they live in such cramped quarters. Near RuBright’s slip is another liveaboard vessel, a yacht almost twice as long as Rubright’s sailboat, with multiple levels of living space.

While many elements of living aboard a boat is not unlike RV life, there is less convenience. Unless the boat is very large liveaboards can't transport their cars from one location to another, and there is a lot of exercise involved.

“The lifestyle is active,” he notes. “You don’t get to park your car at your front door.”

Port residents park in the public parking areas on-shore, where shower and bathroom facilities are also located. Laundry facilities are available at Fely’s Cafe and Laundromat.

“It's not the brighter side of boating,” RuBright said.

Some larger boats have water tanks, basic bathroom and shower facilities, dishwashers and washing machines, but small boats, such as RuBright’s, only carries enough water for essential uses while at sea.

At the Port of Brookings Harbor there is electricity, which is paid for by the boat owners, but there are are no water or sewer hookups. Boat owners have to motor to the port’s facilities to fill their water tanks or pump waste tanks.

The port has two dump sites where boaters must pay a fee to empty their waste.

For those who choose the lifestyle, there is a financial advantage. Slip fees are far cheaper than renting space on land.

Slip fees vary from $675 per year for a 20-foot boat in the sport basin, to about the same price per month for a 100-foot boat in the commercial basin.

For a 38-foot-boat, rental for the space is $1,125 each year, plus a 25 percent liveaboard fee. It works out to about $117 per month.

 

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