These Boat Dwellers Find Refuge and Community Off the Shores of Sausalito

They don’t have much, but they have each other.

In Richardson Bay, off the coast of Sausalito and just north of San Francisco, an enclave of people known as “anchor-outs” live a solitary life about a quarter mile from the shore. Despite unsteady sea conditions and a mostly impoverished existence, the community that formed on these abandoned boats make due and support each other with what resources they can spare.

Writer Joe Kloc spent a few years interacting with the small seafaring villagers and shared his experience in a recent essay published in Harper’s Magazine. Here’s an excerpt:

“One afternoon, on an early spring day in 2015, I struck up a conversation about the bay with an anchor-out who went by the name Innate Thought, though he was born Nathaniel Archer. Innate had lived on the water for more than a decade and was now almost 50 years old, with a sun-worn face and a generous, worried smile. He was sitting on a bench, listening to a portable radio. He told me he was happier living on the water than he had ever been, and explained his contempt for the world ashore with a story about requesting a free packet of barbecue sauce from a cashier at the local Burger King.

“She said, ‘I’m sorry, I have to charge you 20 cents.’ I said, ‘I know, I remember when we were going through an economic crisis and Burger King replaced those plastic menu boards with TVs. So I know you’ve incurred some costs.’”

“Innate fixed his gaze on me. ‘What was she protecting?’

“I shrugged.

“‘She’s protecting against me coming in every day, taking five sauces, and selling them outside.’ He asked if I understood the damage that is done when everyone expects the worst from one another.

“I nodded politely, and Innate gave me a knowing grin. ‘When we start to be happy, it’s a hard transition—because of how we’ve groomed each other.’”

You can read the entire essay here.

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