Morro Bay couple makes themselves at home on the harbor

Daily life for Sam Watson and Allie Fishburn includes watching sea otters cruise by and spectacular sunsets.

Like occupants of about 30 other nearby vessels, Watson, 25, and Fishburn, 28, have chosen a residence on the water — making their boat at Morro Bay Harbor their home.

The young couple gave up separate rented apartments in Los Osos in December for their 43-foot Columbia Mark III.

They plan to sail around the world within a few years and decided that living at the harbor would help them prepare for the journey as well as save money.

The boat’s cabin has a small kitchen, a living room and a back room that squeezes in a bed and little else.

“Living on a boat is kind of like having your own little island,” Fishburn said. “Sometimes people ask if it’s too cramped. But there’s more room than people think.”

Life at the harbor is usually relaxing. A secluded beach is a quick kayak paddle to the sand spit. He surfs and she skimboards.

On the Fourth of July, they entertained a few friends, and the beach was essentially their space to enjoy.

“It’s pretty great out here, huh?” Watson said on a recent sunny day looking out across the bay. “I tell people we have the biggest backyard in the world.”

Watson grew up in Morro Bay and learned to sail from his father; he now races in Port San Luis events.

Eric Endersby, the harbor’s operation manager, said he lived on a boat for a decade in Morro Bay, enjoying the beauty of the coast and the freedom to set sail.

Endersby, like Watson and Fishburn, notes that life on the boat can get rocky and noisy in storms when loose items on deck start flapping around. “It’s a different kind of life,” Endersby said. “You have a lot of independence.”

Now that Endersby has two young children, however, he lives ashore.

People generally don’t live aboard boats in other areas of the county. Rough southerly storms at Port San Luis make a permanent residence difficult, for example, and it’s discouraged, though not disallowed, port officials say.

Chores for Fishburn and Watson include scraping away barnacles, which can damage the fiberglass of their boat, and swabbing the deck.

They share living costs, which include a $750-per-month boat payment and a $250 monthly mooring fee.

The monthly payments work out to be about the same as their past rental costs, but the boat gives them their own space and something they own, they say.

Fishburn is an artist who has designed café menu boards at Kennedy Club Fitness and the Nautical Bean in San Luis Obispo while also working at Trader Joe’s.

Watson plans to earn a radiology degree after completing one more quarter for an associate’s degree at Cuesta College while holding a job at Food-4-Less.

They don’t have a television or use the Internet on the boat.

They use kerosene and a generator for lighting and electricity.

And they have to haul in groceries and laundry from their skiff.

Daily routines include taking their dog, Duke, ashore for walks and feeding their cat, Eskimo, who loves chasing seagulls on the deck.

One day, they say, their life on the water will take them to distant shores on faraway continents.

“Seeing the world has to be one of the greatest things you can do with your life,” Watson said. “So, we’re saving money and enjoying life until we can set out.”