Anybody can live on the land! You pull your car into the driveway or garage, open the door and you’re inside your house in a few moments. You may or may not even see one of your neighbors. If you do catch a glimpse, it’ll probably be from a distance of 50 to 100 feet. This is an impossible scenario if you live in the houseboat community. Why? Because it really is a community of individuals living together in extraordinary circumstances. After all, who lives bobbing up and down in the water so closely together? We do! Houseboats are aligned on either side of a narrow dock. Both sides of the dock are covered with quirky, beautiful and artistically arrayed plants in lively pots and planters. Each resident takes particular interest and ownership of the vegetation immediately in front of their residence. Of course, sometimes you’ll observe a person whose focus as nothing to do with gardening and you’ll see planters in shambles and a tumbleweed like ghost town scenario suspended about 10 feet over the San Francisco Bay.
As you walk down the dock of 30 (or 50 or 70 boats, depending on which dock you’re on), you’re likely to bump into at least a couple of people you know (and quite possible 5-6 of them!) either walking the same direction as you at a different pace or coming toward you form the opposite direction. Although opportunities for social interaction are more plentifully available than any other living situation I’ve ever experienced, residents’ appetites for social interaction vary tremendously. If you’re private, nobody pressures you to socialize or ostracizes you if you don’t. It’s a place where each person is left to their own devices, but if they choose to participate, they’re welcome with open arms.
Of course not every resident will be a prospect for deep and intimate friendship, but there is a palpable, underlying resonance with other people who are also willing to park their car and walk 2-5 minutes on slated wood boards out over water to their houseboat. The weather may be nasty, they may be carrying groceries, they may be tired, but it doesn’t matter. This lifestyle isn’t about convenience. It’s not about pulling in your car into a garage and walking into your house. It’s about nature and beauty and fun. It’s about those ever-so-brief interactions with your neighbors that provide you with a little bump of well-being. It’s about community. A little feeling of mutual appreciation and familiarity that seems so small at first that it’s almost imperceptible. Gradually you begin to realize the power of these interactions and how remarkable they are and making you feel nourished. Eventually you feel like the community is the most invisible and yet valuable part of living here. It ties in a deep and nurturing way.