Friday, September 16, 2011

Clarification: I’m “Houseless,” not Homeless

Posted: June 16, 10:48 am | (permalink) | (2 comments)
I believe one of our jobs as members of the human race is to help build the world we want to live in. Part of the world I want to live in is one that is welcoming and understanding of why I choose to live not in a suburban house or city apartment, but full time aboard a sailboat. That was why we picked Annapolis, advertised as the Sailing Capital, for our home, and why I started this blog – to help increase the community’s knowledge of what living aboard is all about.

So I think I have some work to do! I really feel a need to respond to two views quoted in Elisha Sauers’ recent article “Back Creek Could Get Anchoring Restriction.” Her article nicely presented views on both sides of the issue of transient –and in some cases long-term – boats anchoring in a cove near the dinghy landing at the end of Sixth Street. It is a convenient location for many, but at the same time, boats anchored there improperly can complicate access for other boats in nearby marina slips, or drag and cause damage.

The first quote I’d like to respond to comes from the manager of Mears Marina, proposing the anchoring ban. She says, "Really, these people [her slipholders] are paying to be here, they're paying into the establishments here, they're paying taxes here, they're contributing to this economy. The others [anchored boats] aren't contributing anything to us." I disagree – I think that anchored boats contribute to the local economy, just not to the marina segment. Many of the anchorers are visitors passing through Annapolis on their way north for the summer or south for the winter. If it were me, I’d pick someplace more tranquil if I was just going to stay aboard my boat for the night. Otherwise, why anchor in a city, near a convenient dinghy landing, if you don’t intend to go ashore? And do what, ashore? Tour the historic district or the Naval Academy or other tourist attractions, go out to dinner, contract for boat repair work. In other words, spend money in our town. Tell friends about your experiences, move on, return, repeat.

The second quote I’d like to respond to is one that compares anchored boats to a “homeless person living in a box in [your] apartment complex." I think this is a bad analogy for two reasons. The first is that an apartment complex is private property that someone living in a box is illegally encroaching on, while the cove on Back Creek is public property and, at present, anchoring there is legal.

The second reason I think this is a bad analogy gets to exactly why I started this blog: liveaboards are not homeless. We have homes, just, floating ones. When I first moved aboard I was pretty quiet about where and how I lived, especially with my new boss, wary that he also might have fallen prey to the image that liveaboards were a bunch of rebels and dropouts and losers. (I blogged about it back in my very first post.) Indeed, there are a few liveaboards that fit that image. But the vast majority of those I’ve met are instead an intelligent community that includes many professionals with an adventurous side. There’s a lawyer I know who so loves life on a boat that she owns two boats – one in D.C. close to her office, and one in Annapolis for weekends. There’s a couple raising their young family, a retired physicist, a shopkeeper, airline pilots and nurses and artists and computer systems analysts. To help further dispel that wrong impression, I’ll try to occasionally profile some long-term Annapolis liveaboards in this blog.

(Side note: I commented in the original article that I think long-term (we’re talking *years*) anchored boats have essentially taken a section of the creek that is public property for themselves, which is wrong; I think it’s equally wrong to take public property and deny others access for the convenience of a private marina. I think banning anchoring should be a last resort after we’ve exhausted all the other options in the existing framework. That includes having the concerned marinas post signs informing visiting boaters of the current regulations prohibiting anchoring within 75 feet, and giving the harbormaster the resources necessary to enforce those regulations quickly and aggressively. The public meeting on the anchoring issue is at 7 p.m. June 28 in City Hall. I’ve unfortunately got a previous commitment; wonder if written comments can be submitted on this issue?)

no anchoring sign small [photo: sign on a piling in a marina on Back Creek]

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