Stepping into this unique vintage houseboat community is a little like leaving civilization for the wild desert of Burning Man, landing on the Island of Doctor Moreau and hanging out with Mad Max… all at the same time, complete with a pirate ship, a leftover war-time tugboat and homes set precariously on concrete barges come together in a microcosmic wonderland on a stretch of water in Sausalito, California.
The Gates Co-Op Houseboat Community has congealed into a sprawling mass of nodes over time, accruing new residents and structures in an almost visibly organic fashion. New floating homes are not bought or sold per say. Instead, they are largely pieced together from once-sunk boats and other available parts, often assembled by a combination of new residents and existing neighbors. Some people are born, stay and live off-land for life, others go and return years later. This community is not for sale.
The diverse architecture reflects both the eclectic tastes and personalities of those who dwell on this curious co-op dock while also highlighting changes in style and material availability over time. There is a sense that this place is more lived-in than the manicured luxury houseboat living communities that have since been built and bought at incredible prices in ports around the world. Though clashes with the authorities have rendered local building codes more strict in recent year, much remains of these unique floating home designs and the free-spirited community out of which they were born.
An interesting snippet from Atlas Obscura, where you should head to read more:
“‘It was the wild west back then. I guess it still is.’ Jack who has lived in the Gates for 35 years remembers the early years: ‘New people arrived, we’d help them tow a sunken boat out of the mud, then build a boat and they lived free.’ Notorious all-night, and even all-week parties, were held in the old paddle boat ferry, and for a short time Bill Kreutzman, the drummer for The Grateful Dead, lived on a boat and played all the parties.”
(Many thanks to Gates resident Tre Witkoswki for tipping Dornob to this amazing place).