Mermaids of all shapes, sizes and styles adorn this unique Benicia home, which is appropriate, given that it’s a permanently floating residence for its owner, Marina live aboard Lisa Coop. Coop de Villa is seaworthy, but according to Coop, she doesn’t take it out on the strait because it affectively becomes a large sail in the prevailing wind.

The constraint doesn’t prevent Coop from enjoying her full-time residence. In fact, it gives her the option of adding more to her collection of kitschy items, including a license plate collage that spells out the name of her vessel, one of two signs that mark the boat’s main entrance. Most liveaboards have to be careful about what they bring onto their boats, for space and safety on the water. But with just under 1,000 square feet, Coop has space galore.

The full-service kitchen, including a dishwasher, is as big as you’ll find in some land-based houses. It’s open and airy, with lots of natural light pouring in the windows that line the main cabin. Minor renovations allowed Coop to put her own whimsical stamp on the three bedroom, two bath residence. The master bedroom and guest bedroom are on the main floor, with a fourth bedroom, turned into a custom closet for Coop, and another small bedroom below deck. She has all the comforts of a traditional home, including a washer/dryer and a shower in each bathroom. The setting is tranquil, in an “I’m on permanent vacation” kind of way.

The roomy deck, which Coop says is a neighborhood hangout for other liveaboards, is an extension of the living area. Open to the living room, dining area and kitchen, the space feels plenty large enough for Coop, her two cats and the guests who conglomerate there, particularly on Friday afternoons and weekends.

Coop purchased the boat in 2009, downsizing from a large home in Utah. After a long search, she found it in Las Vegas and had it shipped to the Benicia Marina, to be near family. “It used to be a wedding chapel called, ‘Yes I Do.’ It even had a hot tub, but I removed that. I painted and replaced carpet with cork flooring, nothing structural.”
Prior to moving back to the Bay, Coop had hadn’t considered living on a boat. “I had never thought about it before. It was partly about economics. But I’ve always been a risk taker, doing things not everybody would do. So I decided to give it a shot—I wanted to live closer to the water and this was an affordable option. I bought the boat outright; it’s the best decision I’ve ever made.”

Coop has found a supportive community at the marina. “I see people all the time, walking their dogs, it’s a very friendly neighborhood. I’ve made a lot of friends here. It’s great to be able to walk downtown and there’s a lot happening on the waterfront. Boaters from other areas come in for the weekend, and I go out quite a lot on other people’s boats. Then we come back to my place, make dinner and enjoy the breeze.”