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Ashore the Pollocks were beach sports—swimmers, surfers, volleyballers—but since becoming liver-inners, learning to sail their house has become the principal all-family, do-it-yourself project. "We made some mistakes," says Ed. "One night aground we spent more time in the water than out. It wasn't really serious, but we learned that the sea is real. If you make a mistake you get penalized—and the worse the mistake, the worse the penalty. There aren't any excuses. That's another thing I want my children to know, through experience, and it's getting harder and harder for people to find that sort of risk and experience on land."
A year ago the Pollocks untied their home and sailed it along the Mexican coast for six months, cruising, anchoring and living as far south as Mazatl�n. The experience was real enough, educational enough and fun enough to make them want more of the same, to want, specifically, the Grand Tour of all Pacific sailors—to go to the South Seas.
The Pollocks' plans and general outlook are unquestionably influenced by Bill and Marci Taylor, another three-child couple currently, if temporarily, tied up at Portofino. The Taylors are somewhat less analytic about the virtues of living-in (perhaps because they have been and, in a sense, still are a long way from land), but they are classical salt-spray, high-wind marine romantics.
"I sailed all my life," says Bill Taylor, "but somehow we got stuck on land. I was in business 19 years, you know. Get ahead, don't ask where. What did it was we built a big house up there," Taylor waves a disapproving hand in the direction of the Santa Monica Freeway. "When we got through nobody hung any medals on us. We decided we didn't much like where we were or who we were. We sold the house, I quit work. We bought the Gitana, an old 38-foot yawl but tough, and we took her to Tahiti. We were gone 13 months. We're sort of regrouping now.
"It isn't that we went that puzzles us. It's that we waited so long to go. The first day is the hardest. Up until then it's all talk. But you get out just an hour or so and it hits you, what you are really doing. That was the one time I was scared, not about the sailing or the Gitana. It was the idea we had really cut loose. Maybe if there hadn't been so many going-away parties we might have come in. But after the start it was easy. We knew we were right."
While the Tahiti trip may have been easy for Bill Taylor, his two teen-age daughters and his son, it was anything but for Marci Taylor, who, every day of the four months spent under way, was seasick. "I took all the pills. They didn't help. People told me it would go away, that it was in my mind. It didn't. It wasn't. It was in my stomach. I couldn't go below at all, but it wasn't so bad on deck. I could take my turn at the wheel." ("She had a way with the wind," Bill Taylor says admiringly of his wife. "I'd wake up and it would sound like we were running over gravel, the Gitana was going so good. I'd yell up and she'd say she was fine, and that was about the only time she was.")
Seasickness, like slipping on a banana peel or getting poison ivy, is traditionally a joke misfortune. But for anyone who has ever suffered this fatal-feeling queasiness for even a day four months of being seasick seems like a terrible price to pay. "The good things made up for it," says Marci, and she proceeds to recite, as sailors from Ulysses to Sterling Hayden have, the ancient litany of the Good Things of the Sea. "When you are alone at night under that moon you're absolutely alone. The only sound is the water under the bow and the wind in the rigging. It is worth anything, being sick, anything. You just can't know how good it is until you've done it."
There is another way to go to Tahiti besides sailing there. You can create, and escape to, your own Polynesia, or at least to a Polynesian state of mind. That is what a good many members of an on-the-water colony near Sausalito have done. They have broken away from the way things are done by the average homebody, perhaps even more irrevocably than have the Pollocks, resisting the tyranny of possessions, and the Taylors, searching for a full moon and empty sea. Their houseboats, mudders and arks, on the littoral of San Francisco Bay, are thatched huts, and they have gone native the hard way, making their own village and their own folkways.
The Sausalito houseboat is one of the most famous, or infamous (depending upon the informant), in California. In Long Beach, Los Angeles and many other removed-from-the-scene places the word is that the Sausalito waterfront is a den of dirty, depraved beatniks. In San Francisco, where considerable stock is put in the sophisticated image, some express a certain pride in the colony, showing it off from a safe distance to visitors, much as one might a particularly fine monkey island at a zoo ("That is where they hung up the dirty anti-Communist sign"). Directly across the bay in Berkeley, the would-be Athens of the West, there seems to be considerable hostility toward the Sausalito houseboaters, particularly and surprisingly among the very people who in externals seem so much like the houseboaters, sharing, for example, an apparent fondness for barefootedness, beards and hallucinatory drugs. Under the surface, however, these are two very different kinds of cat. A house-boater may go barefooted because he doesn't have the price of a pair of shoes or because he forgot to put on the pair he does own. Berkeleyites may be turned out in the same fashion, but usually as a matter of principle: they do it to express displeasure with the employment practice of the leather-goods industry, or to show solidarity with the bootless masses of Zambia.