San Francisco Community Who Fish and Live on Boats Fighting Against Eviction

by Courtney Blackann
Photographer: Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A dying breed of free-spirited boaters, known only as the ‘anchor-outs’ say authorities are threatening their way of life. In Sausalito, off the coast of San Francisco, the community of boat-dwellers are protesting an eviction. To understand them is to understand both history and the economy.

The ‘anchor-outs’ are generational people, hailing from the 1950s and 60s. They’ve come to live aboard run-down boats which are anchored off the upscale San Franciscan community. Homes dotted along the coast average $1.8 million, according to Yahoo! News. The boats clash with the otherwise picturesque scenery. They live minimally, rowing inshore only for fresh water and dry goods. They also largely rely on solar paneling for power.

Made up of dreamers and artists, the people have live simply but peacefully, as they have for decades. They originally established themselves and the boating community to pursue writing and art – as well as avoid a skyrocketing housing market on the California coast. They fish off their boats for food and stay collectively together. Now an agency that oversees Richardson Bay is cracking down on their lifestyle. The biggest concern? The ‘anchor-outs’ are affecting marine life and boat traffic.

‘Anchor-Outs’ Fight Back

However, the boat-dwellers are fighting back, citing their right to live off-shore. Additionally, the people fear that the agency is forcing them into homelessness – in an area where affordable living is a thing of the past.

“They want to take our homes and shut the anchorage down,” says Jeff Jacob Chase, an anchor-out who’s been a part of the community for 20 years. “They basically want to eradicate a culture.”

The center of the boat community is an area dubbed “Camp Cormorant.” It’s where the 50 or so ‘anchor-outs’ plan protests and political moves. Chase spends a lot of time there organizing, though he still owns an old sailboat he calls Jubilee.

Authorities Worry About Environmental Damage Amid Boat-Dweller Community

Authorities monitoring the situation, on the other hand, are saying it’s time for things to change.

“For a long time, people regarded Richardson’s Bay as this sort of bohemian live-and-let-live situation and the vessel count continued to increase,” patrol officer Curtis Havel says. “Now it’s time for us to enforce our rules.”

The boats are not only causing a myriad of economical problems, Havel continues, but the boaters are violating a 72-hour anchor rule. Though the patrol officer admits it’s gone unenforced for a long time. With the declining conditions of the boats, authorities want them destroyed.

“I hate to even call this a boat; at this point it’s just a shell,” he says of one of the vessels. “That’s a dead boat you’re looking at.”

While authorities claim they’re only seizing and crushing abandoned boats, some of the ‘anchor-outs’ are claiming that to be untrue.

Enter Robyn Kelley, who gave up her apartment when caring for her ill mother forced her into reworking her personal finances. She says her boat disappeared from under her.

“I went away for 24 hours and I came back and it was gone,” said Kelly, who has also filed a lawsuit against the authorities.

Despite this push and pull, authorities said they’re determined to wipe away the ‘anchor-outs’ community within five years time.