January 15, 2007

Houseboat Life Suits Her Just Fine: Only One in Monterey

By Alla Katsnelson, The Monterey County Herald, Calif.

Jan. 15--A wiry woman with clear gray eyes and a lined face that attests to her years on water, Lorna Moffat considers herself lucky to be living her dream.

"I've always wanted to live on a boat," she said. "You can have a millionaire's life on a pauper's salary."

Since 1992, Moffat has moored her houseboat, the Bonjour, in Monterey's outer harbor, about 20 rows out from Fisherman's Wharf.

In 1985 she moved from Carmel, where she lived in a rental apartment with a pet black swan, to live on a houseboat on Lake San Antonio. Four years later she sold that boat and bought the Bonjour, a clunker she would pass from time to time, for $1,000. She invited her friends to a "barn-raising" to bring the Bonjour back to life.

In 1992, she "parked" her new house in Monterey harbor.

Her cozy quarters contain a bed and a small kitchen. The ceiling is painted sky blue with golden rays. A wood stove sits in the corner. Until last year, she shared her home with a pet duck named Brighton. Passersby on the wharf often rubbed his nose for good luck.

The 60-year-old free spirit has considered herself an environmentalist for four decades.

"I just started waking up," she recalls. She eats only organically grown foods and uses only biodegradable products. Life on the boat fit her ideals.

Moffat is the city's first and last houseboat resident. In 1997, Monterey passed an ordinance forbidding other houseboats from mooring, saying the open harbor is not safe for vessels so unseaworthy. Moffat, however, was grandfathered in, and is no stranger to the harbor crew. She considers herself the eyes and ears of the harbor.

She recalled one late night rowing out to investigate a loud noise. A strange ship was banging against the docks, and a man on board gruffly told her, "Get out of the way, lady." She promptly called the authorities. On another midnight watch she alerted the harbormaster that two boats had gotten loose and were heading toward the rocks.

The city, in turn, comes to her aid when strong winds make steering difficult or when she runs out of gas on short trips for such things as to empty waste.

Out on the water it's anything but lonely.

"It's very wild and mystical," she said, laughing mischievously. "I like to go out and watch the stars at night -- and all the UFO activity that everyone is missing because they're watching TV."


Copyright (c) 2007, The Monterey County Herald, Calif.

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Business News.

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