BOSTON - Michael Richard Smith is a man without a fixed address, someone who leaves it to the wind and tide in Boston Harbor to help decide where he'll dream from night to night.
With his possessions packed in a 14-foot canoe, the wiry, mustachioed man paddles to small offshore docks after dark to pitch his tent and sleep. He wears his brown locks long and tucks a pink silk rose into the brim of his canvas explorer hat.
The 49-year-old's salty lifestyle is a means of survival, but Smith detests the word "homeless" and describes himself as just another "fellow citizen."
Smith said this week that he's been bunking down in metro Boston waters for about two months now. Authorities said that they're keeping an eye on the unconventional camper but that he isn't breaking any laws.
When necessary, the Maine native uses duct tape to patch his 40-year-old aluminum canoe. Smith said he feels most secure when he sleeps in the harbor and lists his biggest worries as the wakes of fast ferries and drunken boaters.
"It's about as safe as I could be," said Smith, who has also camped on at least one inner harbor island. "Anybody who would want to hurt me or take my things, they have to have a boat. And boat people stick together."
The Coast Guard spotted Smith a few days ago and said that while the mariner has been moving around, he hasn't moored anyplace where he's a threat to security or his own safety.
"What it really seems like is he's trying to figure out whether it's feasible to live out there," Coast Guard Lt. Joe Klinker said.
The agency will take action if Smith enters a security zone, Klinker said, but so far he has stuck to recreational areas.
"It's not a major concern for the Coast Guard right now," Klinker said. "A lot of people who don't have a place live by the water. But on the water is unique."