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San Juan Islands, Washington State, United States
A society formed in 2009 for the purpose of collecting, preserving, celebrating, and disseminating the maritime history of the San Juan Islands and northern Puget Sound area. Check this log for tales from out-of-print publications as well as from members and friends. There are circa 500, often long entries, on a broad range of maritime topics; there are search aids at the bottom of the log. Please ask for permission to use any photo posted on this site. Thank you.

06 May 2016

❖ LAKE UNION WITH SKEET'S FLEET and Company ❖ 1973

"Skeet's Fleet"
Lake Union, Seattle, WA.
Photo by Roy Scully 6 May 1973.

Original from the archives of the S.P.H.S.©
Click to enlarge.
"They are called "live-aboards." They happily reside in such varied craft as schooners, yawls, tugs, ferryboats, and a few floating structures that are impossible to define.
      Lake Union, with its wild mixture of rusting boats, industry, and quacking ducks is the common bond of the live-aboard. Sometimes banned by marine owners, looked upon as slightly 'kooky' by landlubbers and considered less stable than house-boaters, they wouldn't want to live any other way.
      The types and professions represented by live-aboards are as varied as the kinds of vessels they call home. Sharing a common love for the lake are retired sailors, sailmakers, hard-hat divers, fishermen, architects, artists and what are best described as 'waterfront rogues.'
      John Caldbick, resident of a barge-like affair with a tacked-on cabin, represents the younger element living in boats on the lake. Caldbick, a former United Press International writer, is now a U of WA student and is hoping to enter law school. He got his boat free.
      'A houseboat moorage was being dredged out and they told me I could have this boat, which was sunk in 10-feet of water, if I brought it up,' he explained.
      A huge pump, rented for $40, and the enlisted aid of a friend, netted him a new home. Since then he has done considerable work on the craft, making it extremely comfortable with a living area, galley, sleeping loft, and a tiny bath.
      He continued to live there because it provided the solitude he enjoyed and neighbors that are anything but dull.
      One of his neighbors is the colorful and well-known Skeet Kelley, a talented architect who lives a free-style life in what friends call 'Skeet's Fleet.' Presently, Kelley resides in an orange tugboat called LOUISE II right next to an old, but remodeled ferry called CONCORDIA.
      The list of Lake Union dwellers goes on and on. While they represent a wide spectrum of life styles, from luxurious yachts to cramped tugs, all share one basic philosophy. They live on boats in a cluttered and industrial lake because they want to. Getting there in the first place required too much effort to have it be anything but a labor of love.
      'I've maneuvered most of my life to get all my toys within walking distance,' said Dave Cookingham, relaxing in the cabin of his neat Bristol Bay boat on Lake Union.
Dave Cookingham's sleek Bristol Bay boat
is both his home and a way to make a living
as a marine surveyor. 
Photo by Roy Scully 6 May 1973.
Original from the archives of the S.P.H.S.©
      'Now I use my boat to work, a tavern is nearby for drinking, and Doc Freeman's (a popular marina and local gathering spot) is close. I don't even need a car.'
      Cookingham, who describes his previous life as being a 'white-collar migratory worker,' is not typical of Lake Union residents of vessels. Nobody is. But having lived aboard his SEA DRAGON for six years, he is able to make several definitive statements about his Lake Union neighbors.
      One thing is for certain, they are characters all. Colorful to the last degree, they differ considerably from their cousins across the lake, the house-boaters.
      'Speaking generally, you have several distinct groups that live in boats. There are the hippies, first of all. Then, you have the divorced fellow. There seems to be a live-aboard syndrome after a divorce. The guy ends up with his boat and decides to live on it. But he seldom lasts very long, especially after going through the first winter.
      But there's a few, the hardcore, that stay on. They will last three years or longer. I know one fellow who has been on his boat for 15 years.
      There is a wonderful feeling of independence in living and working on your boat. I like to know that I can put my tools aboard and be entirely self-sufficient."
Above text by Tom Stockley for the Seattle Times, 6 May 1973. 

      

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