A beautiful life at the Port Orchard Marina

Wyn Abbott used to live at the Port of Bremerton with her husband Stephen, a former Boeing engineer. They moved to the Port Orchard Marina because the atmosphere is more quiet and serene than the Port of Bremerton. They live on an Ironsides, custom built powerboat. - William Lewis photo
Wyn Abbott used to live at the Port of Bremerton with her husband Stephen, a former Boeing engineer. They moved to the Port Orchard Marina because the atmosphere is more quiet and serene than the Port of Bremerton. They live on an Ironsides, custom built powerboat.
— image credit: William Lewis photo

The Port Orchard Marina is a wonderful place for people to live and recreate after they’ve retired.

There are approximately 20 boat households on the Port Orchard Marina and 25 residents who choose to live on the Marina dock. They all love the gardens with beautiful plants that include sunflowers, petunias, lilies, crocus, crocosmias, daisies and various annuals and perennials that surround the marina grounds.

The live-aboards love the freedom to leave when they want since their homes are not tied to any fixed geographical location.

Port Orchard Marina Operations Director Brian Sauer said one of the main reasons this population chooses to live on the water as opposed to in their homes is that they aren’t burdened with the typical entrapments of household, suburbanized living quarters, including maintenance, property taxes and even large utility bills.

“It’s a freer lifestyle,” Sauer said. “Some people look at it as an adventure. People in the city limits have new taxes. If you don’t want those services and you live in a house, you can’t just pick up your house and move. They don’t have property taxes. They don’t have to paint the outside. They don’t have big water bills. The water bill is included in the moorage.”

Marvin Messer, who boasts a 29-year record living at the Port Orchard Marina, the longest of any of the Port Orchard Marina residents, said that his main reason for living inside a small, Taiwanese Chung Hwa Ketch sailboat is that he doesn’t enjoy mowing lawns and doing yard work and that he doesn’t really care for a lot of material possessions. He likes to keep things basic and simple in his liveaboard quarters and prefers saving the hard work for the exterior of the small vessel rather than shrubs, grass and trees on a front yard.

“I’d rather work on my boat than a lawn. I probably spent at least 200 hours throughout the summer on the teak of my sailboat—oiling the teak,” said Messer, who is a former calibration director at the Bremerton Shipyard.

“It’s not for everybody. It takes a special personality — you live alone. I don’t mind living alone. You almost have to be a minimalist. In a house, you must put all kinds of stuff in your house to take care of the house — vacuum cleaners, rakes, ladders, shovels. Everything in my sailboat has a place. If I get a new pair of socks, I throw a pair away. I spent a lot of my work this summer refinishing my boat.”

Messer said that he moved into his sailboat in 1983 after he got a divorce and traded his house for the boat. His bedroom inside of the sailboat consists of the V-Birth which is the pointed front end of the vessel and when the lights shine through at night from across the marina, he feels right at home inside his Chung Hwa Ketch.

“I tell myself, ‘There’s no place I’d rather be,’ ” he said. “I’m happy.”

Messer’s bathroom is no bigger than a small closet and, as a longtime bachelor, he likes it this way.

“A woman couldn’t do her makeup in there,” he said.

Wyn Abbot and her husband, Stephen, live on an Ironsides, custom built powerboat and have been living in the Port Orchard Marina for the last three years and lived at the Bremerton Marina before that.

Wyn says that she loves the peaceful quiet of Port Orchard’s Marina and that living aboard in this city as opposed to Bremerton is less noisy because the Bremerton-Seattle Ferry isn’t constantly coming in and out of the port like it was when she lived at that marina three years ago.

“Anywhere in the Bremerton Marina, you will hear that ferry,” she said. “The current was always bad there as well because Dye’s Inlet empties and fills with the tide and all of that has to come out where the Minet Bridge is. It was like living on the river. In Port Orchard there is no current.”

Wyn’s husband Stephen, a former Boeing aircraft engineer, said that he loves living on the water and that after numerous years of working in what was once the largest building in the world, the Boeing factory in Everett, for 10-12 hours a day, he has found peace and tranquility on the waters of the Port Orchard Marina where he gets to take in a 360-degree view of the Puget Sound from his powerboat.

“I was inside the biggest building in the world that had roads and streets and stop signs inside of it. It took around 10 minutes just to get out of there” Abbott said. “I feel much more free here.”

Stephen is an accomplished artist and in his spare time, he paints pictures.

Gary Souza is a Hawaiian native who is also a former airline attendant based out of Houston. Souza said that when he moved to Texas from Hawaii as a young man, he felt odd not being next to the water anymore and couldn’t stand the dry, hot dusty and dirty desert environment.

“People used to tell me to go down to Galveston, Texas, to the water if I wanted to go to the beach,” Souza said. “The Texas Gulf is filthy, dirty water. I got tar on my feet.”

After retirement, he moved to Portland, Ore.,  and then relocated to Port Orchard, so that he could spend his latter years harvesting Geoduck near the water. He now spends his weeks harvesting the clams on the San Juan Islands, where he stays on a workboat and returns to his Pretorian 35 Racing Cruiser at the Port Orchard Marina on the weekends. Souza said that he spends around four nights per month in his house in Vancouver and wouldn’t trade the live aboard life on the Port Orchard Marina for anything. As a child, he lived in a 1,200-square-foot house with four brothers, his parents and his grandmother and surfed all day on the beach, so living in close quarters near the water is something he is very familiar with.

“That was eight people in a 1,200-square-foot house,” Souza said. “When I was a kid, you didn’t stay in the house all day and play the Xbox. We were out surfing all day. I go to my house in Vancouver, just to check on my house and get mail. I probably spend 95 percent of my time in my boat. It’s partially because of the location because of where the Geoducks are. I started sailing when I was 12 and lived in Hawaii until I was 32. I’ve bought boats over the years. I’ve always felt that if my house is not big enough for people, I’ll tell them that there’s a motel down the road.”

Sauer said that all of the liveaboards at the Port Orchard Marina show their desire to be free from being committed to one specific geographical area, as demonstrated by their inclination to travel along the various ports of the Puget Sound, but this doesn’t take away from their shared sense of community at the Port Orchard docks.

“If someone doesn’t like what is going on in one place they can moor to another Marina,” he said. “When they’re not here, we’re here. When our staff is gone, they’re here. They watch the facility. It really is like a gated community and adds to the security of the facility. This is their home. We gave a great relationship with our liveaboards.”


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