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Low-rent Liveaboard Life in High-Rent San Francisco Bay

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My father was showing me his old fishing haunts in his former hometown -- the now very touristy, upscale town of Sausalito, CA (my father was born here before the Golden Gate Bridge had gone up, along with home prices) -- when we stumbled upon a hip-looking couple barbecuing outside a houseboat.

I had been wanting to film a video about someone living on a floating home (distinct from houseboats, floating homes are any crafts that aren't self-propelled) so I enlisted my father as second camera and wandered over and interrupted their meal. It turned out that the one grilling was a musician named Fiver Brown who had made his home here.

He's a musician, but according to his bio he's also worked as a pirate, rodeo clown and sushi photographer. Needless to say, he's the kind of guy who can't really afford to buy a home in Sausalito where the average price tag is 2.2 million dollars. So he bought a boat.

Technically, he bought a floating home. It's a former World War Two lifeboat that had been converted into a small home in the sixties and docked at one of the town's historic houseboat communities.

It's just 13 feet by 37 feet (481 square feet), but it feels spacious and the views made my jaw drop. The kitchen slash galley felt more nature observatory with the 180 degree views of the bay and surrounding mountains.

Fiver seems very pleased that his home is completely paid off. He did have to initially buy into the cooperative that manages the community and he still pays a monthly slip rental, but he's living right where he wants to be, in a town known for its arts scene.

He uses his small, buoyant home as headquarters for his local label -- appropriately named Floating Records -- and as an easy access point to his gigs in Marin County and San Francisco.

The floating communities here have always been a sanctuary: first for refugees of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and later for beatniks and hippies. In 1967 Otis Redding wrote the first verse of "Sitting on the Dock of the Bay" while staying on a floating home here. Stewart Brand of the Whole Earth Catalog still lives here on a former tugboat.

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