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Boathouse preservation effort hopes for favorable winds

The boathouses stand side by side on Third Street in downtown Encinitas. A local group is asking for funds to pay for repairs.
The boathouses stand side by side on Third Street in downtown Encinitas. A local group is asking for funds to pay for repairs.
( / Jared Whitlock)

A rare tour of the Encinitas boathouses was held July 22 for county officials in hopes of lending preservation efforts a tailwind.

The Encinitas Preservation Foundation acquired the SS Moonlight and SS Encinitas for $1.55 million in 2008, setting them aside for future generations.

Now, the foundation, which rounded up the down payment from several sources, is seeking an estimated $250,000 to pay for foundation work and other repairs.

Standing side by side on Third Street in downtown Encinitas, ultimately the idea is that the boathouses would become a museum.

San Diego County Supervisor Dave Roberts, who toured the boathouses with a policy adviser, said the county is interested in contributing money to help achieve the goal.

“My goal is to invest in projects that really preserve and build that community,” Roberts said. “And so the boathouses ought to be considered.”

Roberts said funds could come from the county’s Neighborhood Reinvestment Program, which is for public projects. If the boathouses are chosen, the aim is to stretch county dollars with a matching donation.

He noted that a recent $75,000 county contribution for Forensic Health Services of Escondido spurred a matching donation from a foundation.

Along with potential support from the county, a historical-Encinitas bus tour last month raised money for the boathouses. Another tour is scheduled for Aug. 16. Plus, private donations are being sought.

Miles Kellogg, an out-of-work marine engineer, built the boathouses in 1928 with salvaged lumber from the dismantled Moonlight Beach Dance Pavilion. Since then, the boathouses have become an architectural landmark.

Tom Cozens, a member of the preservation foundation who led the July 22 walkthrough, said there’s been a renewed fundraising push, given the need to seal the boathouses to keep rain out, restore the wood to combat dry rot and improve drainage.

And while stable now, the boats are moored in crumbling cement foundation. So far, the foundation has overhauled the plumbing and electrical wiring, but a lot of work remains, Cozens said.

“We want the boathouses to shine so the entire community enjoys them,” he said.

The foundation is looking to secure the repair money within the next year, Cozens said. Over the long term, additional funds are needed to pay the rest of the mortgage.

An additional goal is to place the boathouses on the National Registry of Historic Places.

Before nearby homes blocked the sightlines, the boathouses could be seen from Coast Highway 101. Rubbernecking reportedly caused a few car accidents in the past, Cozens noted.

“They were a huge draw,” Cozens said. “Encinitas was known for the boathouses. And it still is.”

A number of people have lived in the boathouses over the years. They’ll continue to be rented until they’re transformed into a museum, which Cozens estimates is about five years away.

Inside, each of the boats has a living room, kitchen and two bedrooms, complete with authentic boat doors. And they have viewing decks.

Atop the SS Moonlight, Matt Martisen, who has lived there for about a year with his wife, was lounging in a chair and gazing out at downtown.

“This view is what sold me on this place,” Martisen said.

But there are drawbacks to calling the vessel home. Cooking is difficult in such close quarters; the ceilings are low; and the floors are sloped, he said.

But he doesn’t necessarily mind the parade of people in the summer who drive or walk by to snap pictures of the boathouses.

“What I like is, they make everyone smile,” Martisen said.

Martisen found the $2,000-a-month spot the way most find houses or apartments these days: Craigslist.

“I was skeptical. I mean — boathouses, really?” Martisen said. “But my wife was all about it and the location is great.”


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