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Life on the water suits former Longboat Key mayor

Jim Brown finds community, activity and peace while realizing his dream of living on the water.

Jim Brown with his dog
Jim Brown with his dog
Photo by Petra Rivera
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The sun rises on the Longboat Key Club Moorings marina and dock after dock with every sized boat imaginable. There's a sense of peace and quiet you can only feel around the water.

Taking advantage of the calmness are two Yorkies, Jack and Jesse. Their owner follows behind them and admires the colorful Florida sunrise. This is what most mornings look like for former Longboat Key Mayor Jim Brown and his two dogs: short morning walks along the docks around the Moorings marina.

As they finish their morning walk, Jack and Jesse lead the way back to their home: a 72-foot Hatteras yacht. 

Brown has spent the previous six years living on his boat with his dogs. He said that nothing could ever beat life on the water.

“I just have always loved being surrounded by water,” said Brown. “I've always liked boating. I got my first boat when I was around 8 years old.” 

Jim Brown's dogs Jack and Jesse
Photo by Petra Rivera

Brown is a retired architect originally from Huntsville, Alabama. He and his ex-wife moved from Washington, D.C.,  to Longboat Key in 1999. He served four terms as mayor of Longboat Key. 

In the early 2000s, Brown had a 53-foot Hatteras yacht. He would take a month each year to travel to different places on the boat with friends. He didn’t know then that he would be living full-time on a boat.

Brown bought his current boat in 2018. When he and his wife split up, Brown decided to live out his dream of moving onto his boat. 

Now Brown couldn’t imagine living on land. He said that his day to day doesn’t look much different from living in a house. He has a full kitchen, living room, a master bedroom, guest rooms, multiple bathrooms, tons of storage, and an office.

Brown said most of his neighbors have pets and they all know their way around the boats and the marina. Brown’s dogs can swim and are trained to be able to get off the boat themselves but he said they will usually bark to let him know when they need to go out.

“I came back from breakfast one morning,” said Brown. “I'd been gone about an hour. And Jesse was here but Jack wasn't. I started looking around to see if he’s swimming around down here. Then I started looking around the docks and I became really concerned. I was three docks down when my phone rang. One of the gals from the office called me and said ‘Jim, I've got Jack. He was swimming down the seawall.’ And let me tell you what, I don't think I could swim that far.”

During season, Jim Brown likes to hosts his friends over for drinks from the top deck of his boat and enjoy the views.
Photo by Petra Rivera

The Moorings provides access to a pool, clubhouse, tennis courts, restaurants, and a full-service spa. The Moorings also provides a variety of yacht services to help with problems with residents' boats. 

“There are three categories of people out here on the marina,” said Brown. “There are people like myself who live here year-round. Then there are people who come and go seasonally. They take the boat with them. And then they bring it back. All of these ships are owned by someone. They don't belong to the marina. It's a condominium. They have a condominium association and they have a clubhouse. The third category is people who go back and forth, but they leave their boat here. They don’t take it back.”

The marina has 291 deep-water yacht slips. Brown said the cost is around $40 per foot plus electricity to lease a slip but renting from a slip owner can be less expensive.

“It depends on many factors whether it is more economical to live on a boat,” said Brown. “My boat was more economical because it was older. New boats this size are much more expensive.”

The view from the top deck of Jim Brown's boat home
Photo by Petra Rivera

During hurricane season, Brown goes to a hotel with his dogs and leaves his boat on the dock. He said that during Hurricane Idalia the water was a foot above the dock but he had no damage to his personal belongings.

When the season starts, neighbors on the marina get together for drinks and dinner at the marina’s restaurants. Brown said he can always find someone around to spend time with.

While everyone is away, Brown keeps them updated on the active Moorings marina Facebook group. Most days, Brown will post pictures of the sunrise or sunset that he sees while taking his dogs for a walk. He said he likes to keep everyone in the loop. Snowbirds often comment on his posts and keep up with his updates. 

Brown said he probably wouldn’t recommend a life on water to just anyone. But because of the community he has made and the benefits to living surrounded by water, he knows it's the right lifestyle for him. 



Petra Rivera

Petra Rivera is the Longboat community reporter. She holds a bachelor’s degree of journalism with an emphasis on reporting and writing from the University of Missouri. Previously, she was a food and drink writer for Vox magazine as well as a reporter for the Columbia Missourian.

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