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Choosing freedom of tiny homeboat over Hollywood life

Heather Wilcoxon grew up visiting the Hollywood sets of her actor parents (her father Henry played Marc Antony opposite Claudette Clobert in Cecil B. DeMille’s Cleopatra and her mother played Brenda Starr in the original tv series), but at age 20 she left all that behind to move aboard a boat and for the past 4 decades has made her home on the San Francisco Bay.

“I’m so used to the water, I’m so used to living on a boat in a small space,” explains Wilcoxon. “I don’t have huge payments, I’m not stressed out by a job, I make just enough money to pay for my lifestyle, I don’t need a lot of money for a big house with 3 cars and 5 bedrooms and big payments, it’s not what I’m interested in.”

Wilcoxon bought her current home, a turn-of-the-century vessel in 1986 and she’s been remodeling it ever since. The Delta Queen was once a cook house barge in the Sacramento River Delta, but in the seventies it earned a permanent berth in the San Francisco Bay where a collection of artists and boatworkers built a floating village.

Wilcoxon lives on about $12,000 a year, paying a small monthly fee to the cooperative for berth rights (which includes sewage and laundry). Her electric bills are only about $12 in the summer and $60 during the frosty winter months.

Her minimal expenses allow Wilcoxon to live as an artist. Her work has been shown in the American University Museum (Washington DC) and she’s represented in New York (Brenda Taylor Gallery) and San Francisco (Jack Fischer Gallery), but her most enduring work is her boat home itself.

“Everything I’ve painted I’m kind of crazy about that. Give me a brush and I’m dangerous”. The 400-square-foot Delta Queen is covered, inside and out, in color. It’s been given a personality by Wilcoxon that would be tough to achieve with a larger space.

“Living on a boat, it’s simple. I like that it’s simple. You can make whatever space you want yours, that’s the magic of it.”

In this video, Wilcoxon gives us a tour of her tiny home: her built-in bed, closet and storage, her full bathroom (clawfoot tub included) and her enclosed deck with upright piano (she performs for us one of the pieces she composed).