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May contain: water, waterfront, person, transportation, vehicle, and watercraft


"Sausalypso Houseboat Wars Murder Mystery” is a work of fiction, but inspired by real events. Here is what really did happen:


1. The conflict between public officials and developers on the one hand and houseboat residents and supporters was very real, and simmered for decades, peaking in the 1970s with a number of high-profile confrontations between the police and houseboaters. (Houseboaters in dinghies did indeed resist the police by pushing away their boats with oars.)

Barging In: A Short History of Liveaboards on the Bay by Larry Clinton, Bay Crossings, August 7, 2001

Livin’ on the Dock of the Bay by Jeff Greenwald, Smithsonian Magazine, April 3, 2012

From Arks to Anchor-Outs: The History of Waterfront Living on Richardson Bay, by Ryan Levi, KQED, April 18, 2019 

A variation on the conflict continues today, with the authorities trying to clear out the anchor-outs, boats that are not docked and stay in Richardson longer than allowed by law. Many of the people in these anchor-outs live on their boats and have nowhere else to live.


Officials Seek to Remove Richardson Bay ‘Anchor-Outs’ by Nikki Silverstein, Pacific Sun, Nov 11, 2020


Anchor-outs living on Richardson Bay fear more than foul weather by Nikki Silverstein, Pacific Sun, Jan 11, 2023


2. Developers did bring in a pile driver to construct docks at Waldo Point in 1977, enraging the houseboaters who lived there, according to Larry Clinton and Charles Bush, writing for the Sausalito Historical Society. Shortly after that, at night, during a storm, a large barge was steered into the bay next to the smaller barge holding the pile driver, and deliberately sunk. It blocked construction for two years.

And there were indeed pirates, or at least hippies who dressed like pirates.


Sausalito Houseboat War, 1971 by Jeff Costello, Anderson Valley Advertiser, August 21, 2013


The Sinking of the Red Barge, by Charles Bush and Larry Clinton, Sausalito Historical Society, July 03, 2019


How the last pirates of Sausalito fought the man, and won by Andrew Chamings, SFGATE, May 15, 2022


3. Sally Stanford (Sally Cal in the play) was a brothel madam in San Francisco for decades before she moved to Sausalito, where she reopened the old Valhalla restaurant. She later became mayor. 

San Francisco Chronicle columnist Herb Caen famously wrote “the United Nations was founded at Sally Stanford's whorehouse” —  referring to the many delegates to the UN’s 1945 founding conference in San Francisco who visited her brothel.


4. More resources:

Sausalito Historical Society 

The Last Free Ride (A Hip Pirate Movie)

A reenactment of the houseboat wars by members of the houseboat community
(Go to 1:14:45 to watch the houseboaters pushing away police boats with their oars.)  

Houseboat Wars, by Charles Bush (Fiction, but also based on true events)



As for the peacemaking woman police chief, the greedy developer with the maniacal laugh, the hiccupping henchman, and the contentious community meeting at City Hall from the play, that’s fiction. As is the murder.