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KCTS 9 Connects

Bainbridge Island Liveaboard Battle - January 14, 2011

January 15, 2011

They’ve been living in Eagle Harbor, on Bainbridge Island for years, some for decades. So called “liveaboards” -- people who live on board their sailboats moored just off shore. But recently, many property owners have begun complaining about the liveaboards as freeloaders and eyesores, while the State Department of Natural Resources contends they are an environmental hazard.

In November 2010, the issue came to a head, when the state ordered the liveaboards out of Eagle Harbor. But Bainbridge officials began crafting a plan to save them, viewing them as an historic maritime community.

Can a plan be crafted to appease all sides? And are liveaboards the equivalent of a homeless tent city, or an important part of our state’s maritime heritage?

Producer's Notes

Producer's Notes

Should They Stay or Should They Go?

When KCTS 9 field-producer Terry Murphy approached me about doing a story on the so-called "liveaboards" on Bainbridge Island, I'd never even heard the term. And why would I? I don't live on Bainbridge Island and I don't own a boat.

The story seemed simple enough: a bevy of eccentric boat owners living on their vessels in Eagle Harbor versus waterfront residents who say they're ruining the view.

I can see the home-owners' point. What if they suddenly put an RV park right behind your house? But the thing is, the liveaboards have been in Eagle Harbor for decades – more than a century, in fact - and many of the complainers are recent island residents. The floating RV park was there when they moved in. That's a little like moving to a house next to the airport and complaining about the noise. Still, many of the liveaboards don't have permits and are moored illegally.

The entire issue started coming to a head in November 2010 when the state began enforcing the zoning laws and handing out eviction notices. Like I said, on its face, a fairly simple story. But in reality, it's a lot more complicated, because it strikes at some deeper issues of class and community.

Should the predominantly wealthy home-owners be allowed to run-off the mostly impoverished liveaboards? Do the liveaboards have the right to just "squat" anywhere they choose? Can a community simply solve a problem like this by just banishing an entire group of people? Watch Terry Murphy's story and decide for yourself.

Ethan Morris, Senior Producer