The Emperor’s New Clothes — Sausalito Houseboat

The Emperor’s New Clothes — Sausalito Houseboat


The Emperor’s New Clothes — or how we dressed up a houseboat in Sausalito!

Our adventure with Seal-Once started innocently enough. While re-siding our houseboat with clear vertical cedar, we decided to move on from the oil-based wood stains and sealers typically used on the houseboats here in Richardson Bay, Sausalito. On any given day we see egrets, cormorants, pipers and grebes. The bay beneath sports a rich marine life; when the tide is high we kayak or go rowing from our back deck.

But this dynamic environment is also rather punishing: sea air, scorching sun made even more intense by the reflection off the water, high winds and storms with no windbreaks to speak of. These extremes accelerate any maintenance; we would need to repeat the oil finish each year for several years just to establish a good finish. And each time the power-washing required would wash untold amounts of oil and gunk into the bay. We are 12’ from our neighbors on either side, none of whom would be too happy. Not to mention that here in California we are in the midst of a prolonged drought.

Many other houseboat owners have abandoned the natural wood appearance, preferring paint and a less onerous maintenance cycle. But there is a long history of using wood, particularly cedar and redwood, that we wanted to celebrate. As the first in our area to use Seal-Once for this specific application, we really felt like we were out on a limb, or, ahem, a plank. Seal-Once walked us through the entire process, from our initial research to our questions regarding wood prep and Seal-Once application. Now that the siding has been up for a year, the houseboat is greying naturally (we used the Seal-Once without stain) and we’re left wondering what sort of maintenance we can do until we need to reapply the Seal-Once. Once again, they were there to advise on water nozzles, solutions to mold and grit, etc.


The beauty of Seal-Once is that we are left with – what feels like – the natural beauty of the wood itself. The product literally disappears into the grain of the wood. We love the way our houseboat looks. The birds, fish and seals are also happy. Not only have we moved on from oil-based products but we have fully embraced a marine-friendly product.

More recently I was thrilled to see that the MATTHEW TURNER tall ship (being built here in Sausalito) is entirely finished with Seal-Once products. While our venture into Seal-Once has been exciting and nerve wracking – in equal measure – and we’re still figuring it out as we go – at least we feel fully supported in our venture.

Thank you!
Jenny Stein and Tom Johnson, East Pier, Sausalito, California