Joe Tate: Disruptor to Inventor

Joe resides on an ark on pilings near the entrance to South 40 Pier  |  photo from Joe Tate  |  post by Claudia Kelly

Joe Tate’s role in the 70’s Houseboat Wars is well documented (his video Last Free Ride is available online and in libraries) but when I ask about the feud, he claims his role was a saboteur or disruptor in modern usage. With his co-conspirators, floating ropes laced with metal shards were strung around their boats for protection. The enemy, aka local authority figures, racing in their speed boats to capture/destroy some of the houseboats found that crossing ropes laced with shards damaged their engines. The next trick in the disruptors’ playbook was creating a draw bridge to the entrance of their vessels all safely moored together. Public access denied! Ancient tactics sometimes come in handy to solve new problems. Remember this was the wild west houseboat community before the current docks were constructed; boats were anchored or tied up together.

His new desalination project Blue Desal is coming along swimmingly: patents filed, attorneys paid, money drifting in—all that remains is a Note from God, wherever she may be. Desalination is part of our global future but the powers that be have usually nixed any plant/devices anchored to the ocean floor. Joe’s second desalination solution is being tested and may be more palatable: devices that float with wave action. By the nature of “floating” such as a boat, his new patented invention only needs a California CF registration—leaving God out of it! Much easier to do.

Joe’s new biz card says he is an inventor with his desalination patents. Entertainer is how many of the Floating Homes folks know of him, making music with the Redlegs and Hippie Voices. After 12 years of playing weekly with his musician pals at the Sausalito Cruising Club, he has the well-earned title of band leader, and back in high school, he was probably called eccentric as he built a cyclotron in his own machine shop.

In 1964, upon arrival in California with plans to transfer from the East coast to UC Berkeley, Joe found the enrollment office barricaded by protestors against the Vietnam war. Returning the next day he found the same angry protestors blocking the entrance but noticed some other mellow dudes, away from the wild people, who were playing music and smoking weed. With immediate camaraderie, he joined those guys and left higher education behind. Besides being a much better fit for him, those lifetime pals enjoyed many musical and maritime adventures over 50+ years.

One big voyage that these band/boat guys made was to Costa Rica using celestial navigation—no NAV/satellites around yet. Again ancient tools of the sea got the job done using a sextant, chromometer and stop watch. Along with any adventure comes challenges such as the situation when a gear to the boat’s only engine broke. With the goal of fixing the gear on board NOW, he sacrificed a metal tabletop to make a new gear. Cost: zero and many, many weeks saved not having to wait in some far-off port for someone, also far off, to ship a missing part. Self-sufficiency epitomized.

Joe and his like-minded floating home community care deeply about preserving water sources, climate change, pollution and how we all can do our part to contribute. In the ole’ days, everyone joined in at the beach bonfires at Schoonmaker and in these new times, composting, recycling, coastal cleanups have energized the community. If you are interested, check out Joe’s You tube video End of an Error and remember his Big Clean Water idea for desalination and his gofundme campaign.