No rent. No mortgage. No property taxes. No utility bills.
Tied down only by their anchors, two dozen live-aboard boaters off Coconut Grove enjoy a multi-million-dollar view of Biscayne Bay.
They include a family of four living the suburban lifestyle afloat, twenty-somethings keeping down costs, working-class guys and retirees who cant afford to pay storage for their floating homes, and substance abusers seeking solitude and more disposable income for their habits.
Anchored on unregulated bay bottom, they live unfettered lives.
You get a suntan, you see dolphins swimming around or manatees, sometimes you see water spouts out there, says shrimper Maggie Simpson, 27, who lives on the 28-foot Charley Morgan. Freedom is what the water means to me.
That free-spirited lifestyle could come to an end if the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission expands a program being piloted in Monroe County and elsewhere that lets local governments limit where and how long boats can anchor outside a mooring field.
For now, though, the view from the roof of Miami City Hall reveals row after row of boats at Dinner Key Marina, where dockage is $17.05 per foot per month or $21.85 for live-aboards more than $650 a month for someone living on a 30-foot sailboat.
Beyond the marina are the moorings for the Coconut Grove Sail Club, where boaters pay $9 a foot plus $60 a month, and live-aboards are not allowed.
Stretching roughly a half-mile southeast of City Hall are more than 200 city-owned moorings, where it costs nearly $300 a month to tie up, and owners are liable for any damage their boats cause if the mooring breaks.
Flanking the spoil islands around the marina, a motley collection of boaters forgoes the electricity, water and Internet access of a marina slip and the shuttle-boat service of the mooring field to anchor for free.
Among the farthest from shore, the Korpela family lives on a 65-foot sport fisher, The Best, with their dog, Magnus. They lived on a houseboat at Montys in the Grove until new owners raised the rent. Their boat was far too large for the citys moorings, so Capt. Burt and Erica Korpela bought three 90-pound anchors and decided to go it alone.
Living aboard, you dont really sacrifice lands luxuries, she says.
If you do it right, adds her husband, jovial with a sun-burnt-orange beard.
Their son and daughter each have their own room on the three-bedroom, three-bathroom boat. Theres a large-screen HD TV, air-conditioning, a refrigerator, a microwave, a four-burner stove, a dishwasher, a garbage compactor and a laptop computer all powered by a gas-generator that sits on the teak back deck.
Parked alongside is a salvaged powerboat that Burt Korpela uses to fish for live bait he sells to commercial fisherman and for the company he inherited from his father, Atlantis Marine Towing and Salvage.
He inherited the live-aboard lifestyle, too: The water has been his home since he was 3 years old. He used to row to school in the mornings, and sometimes played hooky after lunch to go fishing.
Erica comes from a live-aboard family, too.
When Burt and I went to Coconut Grove Elementary back in the 70s and early 80s, there was a handful of us kids that lived out here, and all the boat kids knew the boat kids, she says.