Moss Landing’s live-aboards exist by their own rules.
Thursday, October 19, 2006
At the end of a long wooden dock, which passes like a trail between a forest of masts in the Moss Landing Harbor, there’s a beautiful 78-foot sailboat flying the infamous pirate flag the Jolly Roger. On board the vessel, The Rendezvous, self-proclaimed “Captain” Andy Gray works on restoring the ship’s deck as his buddy Tommy Atkinson jokes around with him.
Gray is one of 60 individuals in the harbor that Assistant Harbormaster Annie Schnorf says has a live-aboard permit. Each pays a $92-a-month live-aboard fee, a berth fee of $5.86 per foot of their vessel and a $33 amenities bill, which includes use of a shower and laundry facility.
Gray is one of the many “characters” living in the harbor, Schnorf says. “It’s its own breed,” she says. “It’s its own community.”
Like many of the other things floating in Moss Landing Harbor, Gray and The Rendezvous have interesting backstories. As The Rendezvous lazes in the harbor just feet away from the gleaming metal intestines of the nearby power plant, Gray, a stout man who wears his hair in a ponytail under a skull-and-crossbones handkerchief, describes how he met the current love of his life.
Before purchasing his boat two and a half years ago, Gray previously owned a 68-foot sailboat that he docked in the Bay Area during the ‘80s. After living on the boat with his previous pet, a tamed mountain lion, Gray says, he sold the vessel to actor Brian Dennehy.
But, before purchasing The Rendezvous, Gray hit some hard times living in Arizona. There, far from the water, he worked as an aircraft upholsterer until a stroke and a divorce had him reconsidering his direction in life.
Two summers ago, Gray was on vacation out in California when he spotted The Rendezvous in Moss Landing’s harbor. Despite a 10-foot hole in the boat’s bow, Gray purchased the vessel, moved aboard, and spent his days patching the hole and refurbishing the craft. “When I found The Rendezvous, it was like a godsend,” he says. “I dress like a pirate now. I’m having a good time.”
After pointing out a small four-foot cannon on the ship’s bow—“That there’s a theatrical one,” he says—Gray turns his attention to The Rendezvous’ illustrious past. According to Gray, the massive sailboat was launched in 1935 and was in Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, when the Japanese attacked. Following that historic milestone, Gray says, his vessel appeared in two John Wayne films: 1948’s Wake of the Red Witch and 1963’s Donovan’s Reef.
Despite Gray’s claims that he likes everything about residing on a boat, the live-aboards have unique problems that most landlubbers are not accustomed to. For one, there are the gigantic sea lions that are known to bark day and night. They also pull themselves onto the docks and sometimes charge the residents. “You pee in your pants the first time,” sailboat owner Tim Hess says.
In addition, the area’s strong winter storms can wreak havoc on the floating community. Gray recalls one time during a batch of harsh weather when he looked through a telescope-sized porthole in his ship’s parlor and saw a boat moving past. He quickly discovered that one of his mooring lines had broken and he was floating away from the dock. In a few minutes, Gray had The Rendezvous secured again.
These days, Gray is hoping to cash in on the current pirate craze by turning his craft into a pirate-themed boat. Even if that doesn’t work out for him, Gray has found a community among the live-aboards in the Moss Landing Harbor.
While Gray is eager to tell his story, other live-aboards are unwilling to have their name printed in the paper or to talk about their community. One man, who lives with a cat he calls First Officer Hobart, refuses to give any information at first though he slowly warms up while talking about the pesky sea lions. Still, he confides that: “We [live-aboards] don’t like the land people.”
Disun Dendaas, found sanding his 35-foot sailboat Uhuru in the fall sunlight, is more forthcoming. He says that he sailed his boat into the harbor a decade ago and has been living aboard it in Moss Landing ever since. Dendaas admits there is one superb benefit to residing on a boat in such a high rent area. “It’s pretty affordable,” he says. “That’s why everyone wants to do it.”
Despite being extremely outgoing himself, Dendaas believes the Moss Landing live-aboards are different from Monterey County’s land-based residents.
“We got our own ways here,” he says. “I’ll probably get killed for talking with you.”