The First Anchor-Outs

Bob and Laurabell back in the day  |  photo from Sausalito Historical Society  |  post by Larry Clinton

The recent announcement of the resignation of the harbormaster for the Richardson’s Bay Regional Agency (RBRA) got me thinking back to how the anchor–out phenomenon got its start.

That story was told by the original anchor–out himself, Bob Kalloch, in an oral history recorded for the Historical Society.

Bob, a New England transplant, arrived in San Francisco in the late 50s, and soon befriended a number of beat poets and artists. “In 1960, I decided the 60’s were going to happen, I guess,” Bob told interviewer Dorothy Gibson, “so I moved to the Haight Ashbury to manage a house for a friend of mine. I wound up bringing my ‘bunch’ to that house.”

In time he was joined by the free-spirited Laurabell Hawbecker, who became his constant companion for the rest of his life. Later, they moved briefly to Skyline Ridge in San Mateo County, near Ken Kesey’s digs in La Honda.

When Bob’s job with PG&E job ended, he and Laurabell decided to stop punching timeclocks, and rented a friend’s Sausalito houseboat for a month. During that time, he bought a sunken WWII landing craft for $300. Calling on his experience as a merchant seaman, he refloated and restored it, with the intention of anchoring it out in Richardson’s Bay. “No one else was doing that,” Bob recollected. “We had no idea about anchoring out, whether you could do it, whether it was legal. We checked with the Coast Guard, and they said, ‘If you’re not underway, you don’t need to register it.’” The lifestyle appealed to Laurabell’s sense of adventure, and allowed them the opportunity to travel, one of Bob’s passions. “We had more of a boat orientation than a stick–in–the–mud orientation,” Bob said.

Bob noted that the couple was “part of the founding generation of the Haight,” then among the first to move out as many did later “when the Haight went belly up” after the summer of love. “Moving to the middle of the Bay was just a continuation of that same idea,” Bob declared. “We didn’t feel there was any kind of establishment that was going to take care of us, so I decided that instead of a normal career, I would try to become proficient as a jack–of–all–trades. I can’t say I was all that successful at that, but that was the orientation.”

In 1968, they took a trip cross–country during the build–up to the tumultuous Chicago Democratic Convention, which deepened their anti–establishment feelings. But when they got back to Marin and compared life here to other parts of the country, Bob noted, “I didn’t feel I had to be so ‘revolting,’ you might say.”

When they moved back into their boat later that year, the Charles Van Damme ferry, operating at Gate 6 as a night club called the Ark, had just closed down due to a fire, ironically following a performance by The Flaming Groovies. Joe Tate, who was living on the ferry with a band called Salvation, wished they could play for a live audience, says Bob, “so Laura took a hammer and broke the lock on the door, declared the place open, got in the ticket booth and charged a dollar a head” to hear the band. To keep the atmosphere mellow, Bob recalls, “sometimes Laura was the bouncer and sometimes I was.”

When Bob and Laurabell had left on their cross–country jaunt in early spring, he remembered, “there might have been a half-dozen anchor-out boats. When we came back in August, there were 10 times as many. When the county said, ‘this is really getting out of hand, and we have to clamp down on this,’ I went to a couple of hearings and that was the start of my political involvement.” For several years, Bob served as a community spokesman in hearings before the County and Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC).

After a big winter storm, several anchor–outs moved into a cove that had been abandoned by a dredging operation, and that area became the Gates Co-Op. Some 38 Co-Op homes are now on Van Damme Dock and interspersed on other docks throughout Waldo Point Harbor.

Eventually Bob and Laurabell moved onto A Dock, where they lived for many years before resettling in the California desert. Both have now passed away, leaving an eclectic legacy in Sausalito. Bob was a raconteur, with a repertoire of colorful recollections from the early waterfront days. Laurabell, who wrote enchanting haikus, was also responsible for revitalizing Sausalito’s 4th of July parade in 1975. That story can be read on the Sausalito Historical Society website. Click on ‘MarinScope Columns’ on the left side of the page, the click on ‘2013 Columns’ and scroll down to ‘How the Gates Saved Independence Day’. Or stay tuned till next summer; I’ll re–run that story here.