Tops’l Annie and Larry Clinton/Sausalito Historical Society
In the 1940s, the Sausalito News ran a feature on yachts and yachting, under the pen name Tops’l Annie. One of these essays described the joys of living aboard a yacht in Sausalito:
To the land-lubber the yacht harbor is always a fascinating pot . . . there is a constant stream of sight-seers every sunny weekend. Occasionally one overhears an incredulous “Do people LIVE in these boats all the time?” … The remark caused by the sight of a bit of washing strung up in the rigging, or puffs of smoke emitting from the Charley Noble removable kitchen chimney, in case you didn’t know. Of course, people live on ’em . . . and like it. Live on them summer and winter …. or just in the summer-time, as they choose.
It’s a grand sun-tanned life … a perpetual out-of-doors camping experience, highlighted by the fact that you have a good permanent stove in your galley and a main cabin (living room or salon) heated by a fireplace or cheery Shipmate stove. The interior of a ship’s cabin is always a thing of beauty. Hardwoods which have a lovely sheen are used as a finish. Shining brass ship-lamps and other nautical equipment complete the harmony of the room, which will also serve as a dining room, with a polished hardwood folding table The book shelves are lined with tales of the sea and well worn mariners’ books. In the larger boats, sleeping quarters are separate compartments. The galley (kitchen) is compact and efficient.
Living is reduced to its essentials on shipboard, quarters are compact, and housekeeping is at a minimum low. Of course, there are inconveniences …. tub baths are out, unless you have a WANDER BIRD, and there are no Bendix installations for wash day … but the compensations are numerous. There’s an informal friendly atmosphere to living aboard ship …. your neighbors like the same things you do, and there’s a good deal of camaraderie between boat people. It’s no wonder that the traditional response to the host’s toast aboard ship is “It’s good to be aboard.”
One point, incidentally, that should be emphasized . . . the casual visitor to the yacht harbor should not make a practice of going down on private floats, perhaps hopping on an unoccupied craft to “look her over.” A boat is a man’s home, just as a house is …. don’t go aboard until you’re asked.
The Wander Bird mentioned above was “an integral and beloved part of the San Francisco sailing scene,” according to Latitude 38. Besides her bathtub, the schooner was best known for a 1937 voyage around the Horn to San Francisco. One of the crew members was the son of the owner, 4-year-old Warwick ”Commodore” Tompkins Jr., who went on to become a premier racing sailor.
Tompkins is also a remarkable raconteur and told that story and more during a 2014 Historical Society panel discussion titled Sausalito Salty Stories. To see a 10-minute film of the legendary voyage, search for 1936 Voyage Around Cape Horn on YouTube.