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Old 22-10-2017, 18:13   #1
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living aboard in PDX

Hello, I'm relocating back to my hometown of Portland after several years in Southeast Alaska next year. I've spent most of my time up here saving for and preparing for building a houseboat for myself and my partner, however due to unforeseen circumstances I am returning home alone and houseboatless. I've been looking forward to living on the boat for years, so I'm going to take this opportunity to use my houseboat fund to purchase a 30'ish sailboat to live on and prepare for a long term cruise in the next several years. Now that it's just me and probably one tiny cat, there's no need for the whole houseboat and I can live comfortably on a medium sized sailboat. I am a commercial fisherman and experienced with living on a boat and general maintenance and upkeep, and I plan on moving back down with only what will fit in my Honda Accord so too much stuff is not an issue. I'm not interested in being talked out of living aboard, as I am familiar with the pitfalls and problems that come with living aboard and taking care of a boat.

So far, the main problem I am coming across is the issue of where to moor my boat in the Portland area. The homeless problem has created a situation where liveaboard vessels are lumped in with the floating Hoovervilles along the Willamette River, and most marinas claim they do not allow liveaboards. I am not looking for a cheap place to party while my boat gets progressively dirtier and more dilapidated, I just got hooked on living on or near the water while in Alaska and do not want to give that part of my life up. I know how to be a good neighbor on the docks, and mostly just need a quiet and cozy place to read books and sleep while I'm not working (I always work at least full time). I plan on keeping the boat in excellent condition both mechanically and aesthetically, and taking it out sailing fairly often as the long term goal here is to be an extended cruiser.

So my question is this...how likely is it that a marina that claims over the phone to not accept liveaboards will allow me to moor as an "extended cruiser" for a couple months in order to establish that I am not a nuisance before officially sanctioning liveaboard status? Or is it a case by case basis where it is initially "don't ask, don't tell" but they reserve the right to eject me if I become a problem tenant? Like I said, I will keep the boat in excellent condition and no one would be able to tell from looking that it's a liveaboard? (No plants, trash, or drying clothes on deck)

When simply renting a slip on a monthly or quarterly basis, do they typically ask whether you will be living aboard up front? Or is that a conversation they have only if you become a nuisance? From what I've been able to gather online it seems like showing up looking decent with a good looking boat is the litmus test by which harbormasters judge your fitness to be a good tenant, and they often answer all liveaboard inquiries with a blanket "NO" in order to weed out the transients and drunks that simply cannot afford to live elsewhere.

Any input is appreciated, as I'm not wanting to get home and get on a boat only to find that I have no where to put it and end up living on the hook around the the river pirates of the Willamette.

Thanks!
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Old 22-10-2017, 18:50   #2
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Re: living aboard in PDX

Hello mercyfulbait, The Willamette river is not a good choice in Portland. On the Columbia, in the Hayden/Tomahawk island and North Portland Harbor area you have at least 8 marinas with liveaboards: Tomahawk Bay Marina,, Salpare bay Marina, Hayden Bay Marina, Waterside Marina, Tomahawk Island Marina, and McCuddy's Marina, all on the island. On Multnomah channel between the St John's bridge and St Helens there are at least 5 more marinas with liveaboards. There should not be a problem finding space even though most marinas do have liveaboard quotas". Good luck.
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Old 22-10-2017, 19:19   #3
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Re: living aboard in PDX

Thank you! I was not planning on the Willamette, that's just where all the floating shanty towns are located. I was hoping for out HWY 30, and Jantzen Beach/Tomahawk area would be just fine failing that. Although living at Riverplace or Waverly would be pretty nice, I'm trying to be just outside of town.

So you believe that I would have no problem finding a liveaboard slip, or just moorage in general?
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Old 22-10-2017, 20:57   #4
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Re: living aboard in PDX

Yes, mercyfulbait, there will be no problem finding moorage in Portland.
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Old 23-10-2017, 10:05   #5
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Re: living aboard in PDX

Rocky Point Marina is off Highway 30 near St. Helens. Googling it will provide you with contact info. All the boats there are liveaboards. It is on the Multnomah Channel, not the Columbia River, and is quite a distance to motor if you want to sail on the Columbia. But, it does have a nice folksy, neighborhood feel, albeit a little rundown. I believe the owner had it listed for sale.

You can also read our Google Review on Salpare Bay Marina, which we lived aboard for two years. It was fantastic - until the condos went up and the traffic on I-5 became a nightmare. But Salpare is close to everything you might need on Hayden Island. Just don't try to leave during the day if you don't like sitting in traffic.

Because of the bridges on the Willamette, I wouldn't want to live on a sailboat near downtown Portland. (Riverplace Marina is downtown Portland.) Getting a sailboat out of there requires about five bridge lifts. Power boat, no problem.

You will need a heater and a good dehumidifier on board during the nine months of the winter rainy season, unless you are fond of mold and mushrooms. We averaged about a gallon of water per day removed from our 40' sailboat with the dehumidifier. (We have a diesel hydronic heater, so the air coming out of the heater was dry.)

Portland was a great place to moor, live, and work on our boat. It is REALLY cheap to license it with the state, and there is no sales tax for a boat purchased by Oregon residents (no matter where you buy it), parts, or anything purchased online. Oregon is very boat friendly. Too bad the winter weather is what it is.

Portland has some amazing food and breweries. Enjoy!
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Old 23-10-2017, 10:24   #6
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Re: living aboard in PDX

Mercyful, I lived aboard in several marinas in the San Francisco bay area, and in the Salish Sea in the Seattle, area. Granted it was a number of years ago. But I found if I went in and just negotiated a monthly rate on a transit basis I never had any problems. That was as long as I maintained I was transit. If the marina allowed live-aboards, Everett, WA for example, I was able to register and pay a small monthly fee. Now I live-aboard part of the year in Cap Santé, Anacortes, WA.


The best thing is, as you mentioned be quiet, helpful and maintain a clean boat. You will be an ideal tenant, the staff will like you, they will overlook you a bit. Good luck, if you pass through Seattle give me a shout and we can tip a brew. I would love to make it to Alaska maybe next Spring. Sid
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Old 23-10-2017, 10:30   #7
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Re: living aboard in PDX

When I was in a marina down there, it was as you describe... livaeboard officially not sanctioned but if you caused no problems after a while it was winked at. One thing I didn't notice mentioned here is that some marinas have a minimum boat length for liveaboards. I seem to recall it was usually about 36 feet. I don't really understand the reasoning behind that, but something to look into if you have not yet procured a boat.
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Old 23-10-2017, 10:37   #8
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Re: living aboard in PDX

Harbor 1
On the Columbia near the airport.
Secure docks, power water, covered slips ( you might want to dismast) close enough to everything, showers and laundry...I lived there in the cheap a bunch of years ago...they SAID no livesboards, but if you aren't creating problems...
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Old 23-10-2017, 13:07   #9
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Re: living aboard in PDX

Some marinas do cap the number of liveaboards. Best I can tell there is no law or regulation in Oregon that requires this - it seems to be self-imposed. Increasingly folks living aboard here are not so much sailors as people that are one step away from homelessness, and this can result in problems for the marinas. OTOH it is profitable: usually there is a $150/month liveaboard fee. "Sneakaboards" are considered as cheats since they are not paying the fee, and when caught are subject to loss of slip - you don't want to do this.

In addition to the difficulty of finding a marina that will take new liveaboards, if you are bringing a pet you will be further limited. Many marinas prohibit pets, and those few that allow them require them to be on leash. I don't know of any marina here that would allow a cat that was free to wander - it would have to be indoor-only. I certainly don't know all of the marinas here, just a few of the main ones on Hayden/Tomahawk Island, so perhaps some serious searching will find one that fits your needs. Still, this could be a problem so before handing over the money for a boat you should get a commitment from a marina.

No doubt appearance is important for both skipper and boat, but that is not the only test. You should expect that the marina will do a credit/background check. I know one case where the man was given provisional approval, but when the check came back was told to move (he had some criminality in his past). I do suspect that the "no new liveaboard" stance is a bit flexible, but the only way to know is to show up and make your case - they will probably need some confidence in you beyond a phone call.

I am staying at McCuddys Marina on Tomahawk Island. It is a very dog-friendly place (on leash) which makes it unusual, and many liveaboards here have dogs. Also, they are understanding of owners working on their boats (as long as they don't overflow onto the docks for more than brief periods). In that regard, the city Harbor Master does inspect the marinas and requires that the docks are kept clear for emergency access.

Good luck on finding a boat and marina,

Greg
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Old 23-10-2017, 15:16   #10
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Re: living aboard in PDX

[QUOTE=MercyfulBait;2504527]Welcome back to Oregon! I have my boat at the Steamboat Landing Marina across the Columbia on the Vancouver side. Live-aboards are allowed and you have all of the amenities as well as immediate access to the deep-water channel of the Columbia. The live-aboard community there is great, and you have better access to The freeways over the I-205 bridge. Not too busy in the off-season either!!! Good luck with the trip!
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Old 25-10-2017, 14:00   #11
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Re: living aboard in PDX

Thank you, that's very helpful. If I were to have my cat living with me, she is an indoor cat so that wouldn't be an issue. I have a clean record, and my credit score is good but not great, although that is due to a lack of credit history up until a year ago. McCuddy's seems nice, I'm actually going to look at a Catalina 30 at the one is Scappoose next week. They say no liveaboards, but if I could just store it there until spring when I move down I would be able to move it anywhere from there.
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Old 26-10-2017, 00:09   #12
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Re: living aboard in PDX

Where abouts in southeast are you? We just moved to Sitka from the kenai peninsula.
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Old 26-10-2017, 10:58   #13
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Re: living aboard in PDX

I'm in Petersburg, just a couple islands over. I used to unload fish in Sitka, and I was over there a few times this summer selling produce with Dave at Chelan.
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Old 27-10-2017, 00:53   #14
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Re: living aboard in PDX

Quote:
Originally Posted by MercyfulBait View Post
I'm in Petersburg, just a couple islands over. I used to unload fish in Sitka, and I was over there a few times this summer selling produce with Dave at Chelan.

Nice! We bought our boat in Ketchikan and sailed it to seward before moving down here. Good luck in PDX. We drove through PDX a month ago at 2am and all the lights were cool.
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Old 01-12-2017, 20:35   #15
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Re: living aboard in PDX

Hey all! I did a search and found this super useful thread. I am really looking to be a liveaboard when I relocate to Portland, but I am concerned about the marinas I've talked to being full. I haven't tried them all, but does anyone know of a good one - preferably pet friendly - that actually has an open slip? Preferably that openly admits liveaboards as I don't want to be kicked out at a moment's notice.
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