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Poet Shel Silverstein’s Sausalito houseboat asks $390K

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The Giving Tree author lived on a former WWII military boat christened the “Evil Eye”

A houseboat with uneven additions built onto both sides. Photo courtesy of Paul Bergeron

A bohemian one-bed, one-bath Sausalito houseboat that once belonged to Shel Silverstein, the late author of The Giving Tree and Where the Sidewalk Ends, listed in March, now asking $390,000.

Waterfront dwellers pre-Silverstein built 8 Liberty Dock on top of an old balloon barge from World War II. Balloon barges were special Navy vessels “whose lofted cables were designed to snare kamikaze aircraft,” according to Smithsonian Magazine, although Marinscope calls them anti-submarine defenses.

In either case, Silverstein moved into the converted wartime tub in 1967, opting out of the relative hustle and bustle of the Haight to join Sausalito’s floating bohemia of artists, itinerants, and literal drifters, according to the 2007 biography A Boy Named Shel:

In the beginning the houseboat community was essentially a community of squatters who had only salvage rights. [...] The whole place was a bit like living in Never Never Land. Since Shel was a modern day Peter Pan, the two fit together perfectly.

Sausalito artist Chris Roberts had even previously christened the boat with an ideal, Silverstein-esque pirate ship name: Evil Eye.

After Silverstein died in 1999 (by then the houseboat was one of several properties he owned), photographer/artist Larry Moyer (a friend of Silverstein’s) became skipper of Evil Eye until his own death in March of 2016.

According to a Moyer obituary penned by the Sausalito Historical Society, the waterfront was a more rough and tumble place back when Moyer and Silverstein first stumbled on this particular boat:

Moyer spoke a lot about freedom; he believed that this was the magical thread that drew artist, writers, and other creative types to Sausalito and particularly the waterfront. [...] He spoke of days when he could go to a local hangout where one could purchase dope, guns and alcohol all at the same location.

Surprisingly, Evil Eye’s current listing doesn’t reference any of its famous former owners, nor did realtor Paul Bergeron mention them to Curbed SF or to the San Francisco Chronicle.

But it’s assuredly the same vessel: Photographer Richard Olsen, who photographed Moyer there before his death, tells Curbed SF he recognizes the interiors.

Neighbor Elaine West, an artist who owns the houseboat Stone Soup right across the dock, confirms that it’s the same place. She also provided a link to a video of Silverstein accompanying the band Dr. Hook & the Medicine Show on board.

In the 2016 book Floating In Sausalito, which featured both Moyer and 8 Liberty Dock, its distinctive stained glass windows are unmistakable. “Evil Eye is covered in a layer of historical dust,” authors Lars Aberg and Lars Strandberg wrote of their visit to the vessel, describing Moyer’s interior decorating style as “an indoor desert garden.”

Fifty years ago, piracy and salvage rights were the standard means of joining the Sausalito waterfront scene, but now the asking rate is $390,000. Unfortunately it looks like this old boat might have fallen on hard times, as Bergeron calls it “a great opportunity to remodel.”