Dredgetown and the Shaman of Rainbow Bay

By Larry Clinton

In a 1981 MarinScope article, Phil Frank reported on the City Council’s plan to pursue the abatement and eviction of the offshore settlement known as Dredgetown.  As Phil put it, “This collection of floating boats, sunken barges and hulks surrounding the permanently moored three-story dredge directly offshore of Dunphy Park has been a thorn in the side of the city, the Cruising Club and numerous hill dwellers since Its creation ten years ago.”

The day they burned old Dredgetown down                                            Photo by Saul Rouda

The day they burned old Dredgetown down                                            Photo by Saul Rouda

Phil dug into the Dredgetown controversy with his usual gusto, asking, “Now that the city has its ordinance the next question might be ‘What is the city up against in the person of the Dredgetown dwellers’?”

Then he summarized his interview with Michael Woodstock Haas, a fairly consistent occupant of the dredge for the last six years:

“It's long been my belief that If one is to be successful in battle it's best to know one's opponent. Since Michael Haas is the present holder of the title to the dredge and will thus be ticketed, summoned, served and sued in upcoming months, he could realistically be called an opponent.  But here’s the rub, for Michael Hass also is the Shaman of Rainbow Bay. Michael is a deep believer in astrology and the spirit world.

“Hass explained, ‘At sunrise on Easter Sunday three years ago, I was visited by Indian spirits in a vision. These were the spirits of the former inhabitants of the area. The Coast Miwok Indians were also known as the Hoo Koo Ee Koo Indians. They declared me the protector of these tidelands by making me the Shaman of Rainbow Bay. See, Rainbow Bay is what the Indians called these waters before William Richardson arrived on the scene. These spirits were real upset by the desecration of their burial grounds for the building of Sarky's Square.’ At this point Hass went on to explain to me about resulting ‘Curse of Sarky's Square’ placed on it by the spirits, but that would take another whole column.

“Working with a totem pole carver, Hass helped with the erecting of totem poles along the Sausalito waterfront to ward off evil spirits. To date seven have been erected, the most recent a 40-foot tall pole on the dredge itself. This one was slipped into place at sunrise of Easter Sunday morning.

“Haas continued, ‘The poles are all in place now and the energy which these totem poles attract will protect we, the spiritual descendants of the Hoo Koo Ee Koo.’

“Whether a 48-hour mooring ordinance governing anchorage of underwater streets will be any match

for seven totem poles and the Shaman of Rainbow Ray remains to be seen. The bumper sticker on the Volkswagen currently running around town says it all: SAUSALITO, it’s not the real world, Jack.

According to the newspaper, Hass had acquired the Dredgetown barge from waterfront bandleader and ringleader Joe (“Redlegs”) Tate, who had purchased it for $1.00 several years before.  When the Marin Superior Court supported the city's desire to maintain the property for public use, thereby prohibiting residential use by an individual, Haas took his case to the California State Appellate Court which issued its decision in February 1982. The Appellate Court ageed with the city's right to preserve all of the Dunphy Park parcel for public use.

In April 1982, the city exercised its option to demolish the dredge. Appearing before the City Council, Haas declared, "It wasn't until today I really understood this is the end for me. I have been defending the bay, defending the space because as long as I have been there, you haven't been able to develop it."

After Haas' personal possessions were removed from the barge, the Sausalito Fire Department prepared the structure for a controlled burn. Shortly after noon, the first columns of smoke filled the sky above Dunphy Park. Curious spectators joined a handful of people who had come down to watch the demolition. MarinScope reported: “The remainder of the barge will be removed in a few weeks.”

Haas told Marinscope, "I have nothing but blessings for Sausalito. I try to look on the positive side. Everything happens for a reason. So many people are upset by this, but how are we to know who is responsible to what degree for what has happened. This is an end. but it's abo a beginning. I plan to take my show on the road and then I will come back to Sausalito."

Joe (now “Gramps”) Tate, still active on the Sausalito music scene, recalls that Michael Haas moved to Mexico to work with indigenous peoples.  He was eventually murdered for his collection of Indian jewelry.

Back issues of MarinScope are available for viewing at the Sausalito Library, and at the Historical Society, one floor above it.