Homeless on the Bay 

A growing number of homeless people are taking up illegal residence on off-anchor boats — and some say their presence is causing increased environmental pollution and crime.

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Brown has an idea for how he'd deal with the problem of derelict boats and the off-anchors who have taken control of them before America's Cup reaches the bay's shores. "The solution's real simple," he said. "Put an abandoned sticker on these boats. Say [to the owners], 'You have 72 hours to claim this, otherwise we'll destroy it.' Then, destroy it."

But Brown doesn't want a total ban on off-anchor residents. He believes that those who are off-anchor, who are not causing any trouble and just choose an "off-the-grid" lifestyle on the water, shouldn't be punished (as long as their registration permits are current). "Six to eight people have caused all the problems in these marinas," he said, fuming.

These days, Nichols is on the hunt for a new boat because her boat has been leaking through the bilge — the lowest point on the boat that collects excess water. If not taken care of, it could cause the boat to sink.

Despite the risks, and the rumors about increased law enforcement, Nichols doesn't have any immediate plans to leave the water, although she has applied for SSI — Supplemental Security Income from Social Security — and says that if she gets it she would move into an apartment.

In the meantime, though, while she's "close to shore and in a good neighborhood," the water will remain home. "The cops don't seem to be giving anybody a hard time. They're just riding around, checking things out, trying to do their job," she said.

And if law enforcement does get ratcheted up before the America's Cup, "I'm not going to worry about that until the time comes."

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