Ted Eitelbuss passed peacefully on Thursday Aug. 16 at 7:21 a.m. at the age of 77. He was preceded by Elinore and Edward, his mother and father, and his sons Ira and Dutch. He is survived by his loving wife Jenny, his sons Joe, Ted Jr, Luke, and Tate, and his daughters Saartje and Mary, and grandchildren Jakob, Raymond, Cassandra, Jasmine, and Nazanin. Ted was an icon of the Sausalito houseboat community and loving husband, father, grandfather, and friend to many on the waterfront.
In the late 1950s, Ted left his roots on a rural farm in Michigan to study art at the Kendall School of Design. Unsatisfied with the Michigan school, Ted headed to Greenwich Village in New York to pursue a career in art and explore a radically changing world of beatnik poets and celebrity artists.
Some of the details are unclear as only Ted knows most of them, but he made his way to North Beach in San Francisco in 1962, attended the SF Art Institute and eventually became one of the early anchor-outs in Richardson Bay. Throughout the sixties, Ted stayed on the forefront of the counterculture movement, spending time among the communes outside of Taos, New Mexico, where his easygoing personality and passion for hard work fit in well. It was there he learned the craft of building geodesic domes—this was to become his primary art form.
On the commune, he built a dome purely out of recycled car roofs which was famously featured in Rolling Stone magazine and visited by Allen Ginsberg. The structure was massive in size and had a bedroom-loft hanging from its ceiling. Ted’s first boat on Richardson Bay in 1966 was remarkable, sporting two radiant, glass geodesic domes, one on each end of the platform.
In the mid-1960s, he spent a year in Cuernavaca, Morelos, Mexico where he stayed with painter Rudolf Ray, and worked on wood, plaster, and steel sculpture.
In 1971, Ted notably built a diesel-powered blast furnace from scratch, using it to create works in bronze and aluminum castings, which can still be found in houses around Richardson Bay. He traveled to Amsterdam in 1972 where he built and sold houseboats on the Amstel Canal. During his time in Europe, Ted made several trips to Israel and the Middle East seeking his spiritual truth.
Ted eventually settled in Richardson Bay in the mid-1970s, where he took part with T.J. Nelsen in constructing the various docks at Waldo Point, often behind lines of state troopers shielding the workers from protestors. His second boat still sits with its iconic blue geodesic dome facing the bay, attracting attention and discussion from boaters and paddlers-by.
Throughout his life, Ted fearlessly pursued personal freedom with his infectious smile and a burly stature that created an indelible image in most minds. He was a seeker and cared little about the status quo, living his life free of the confines of societal norms and choosing instead to focus on his art. He found a niche in servicing the various idiosyncratic needs of houseboats and pioneered better ways to tie ropes, extend the life of cement hulls, wood pylons and more. Ted was never afraid of hard work and was someone that all the people of the dock could depend on both professionally and as a friend.
Ashley Brown, an Issaquah resident who first rented on Sea Farm, Ted’s houseboat, is creating a memorial plaque. “When I heard the news Ted had passed, I immediately felt the dock lost a little of its soul. Ted WAS the dock. He built it, he lived it, he embraced it,” she said. “In his honor, I thought it was only fitting that a small corner be renamed and let his spirit live on.”
The L, where Issaquah bends south and where Ted’s boat is berthed, will now be known as Ted’s Corner.