Amid the super-yachts and modest powerboats, there's another kind of watercraft floating in Charleston Harbor: those that double as a permanent home.

Liveaboards anchored around Charleston range from temporary visitors to decades-long inhabitants. Some commiserate at Salty Mikes, the Charleston City Marina's bar, swapping tall tales spun from close scrapes out on the water. 

In two spots at the mouth of the Ashley River, boats are essentially left alone as long as they follow basic safety rules and don't drift into the main channel. There are no rules governing how long they may stay in either spot. 

Some people float in, drop anchor and remain there for years.

"It's kind of like the bums sleeping under the bridge," said Kevin Krug, who lived on a boat in the Ashley for more than three years. The authorities "can’t do anything, but if (anyone) gets in the way, you can."

One mooring yard is wedged between the marina off of Lockwood Drive and the nearby Coast Guard station; the other anchorage is across the river, next to the James Island Expressway bridge. Both are within 2 miles of White Point Garden and the elegant carriage-row homes nearby. 

It's an appealing place to stop because there's convenient access to both the harbor and the Intracoastal Waterway, a continuous, partly man-made channel that cuts a path from the Chesapeake Bay to the Florida Keys. In the fall, there's often a crush of boaters using the waterway to migrate south. In the spring, many head back north. 

For John Diel, a Michigan native who's lived aboard in various areas of Charleston Harbor for a little more than a year, a busy schedule and a career that demands a lot of travel mean it doesn't make sense to secure an address on dry land. 

Diel works as an instructor at Charleston Sailing School, teaching advanced classes on navigation. He also repairs watercraft, charters private yachts, and sometimes delivers boats over long distances, sailing from the Caribbean to South Carolina or farther up the coast. He also drives for Uber at night. 

All told, Diel said he gets about three hours of sleep on average, with naps throughout the day. 

"The boat I have is — it's over 50-foot, so it's very comfortable," Diel said. "It's got toilet facilities, shower and everything else aboard, and it's really more comfortable than any motel."

Diel's wife and three adult children are still in Michigan. Between travels along the Southern Atlantic coast — Diel soon will deliver a boat he worked on from the British Virgin Islands to the Lowcountry — he periodically goes back to the Midwest, for five-day stints with family.

"It's just a time of life right now," Diel said. "I'm not sure if they (the family) will ever join me in Charleston, or we’ll do something in between or float around. I don't know."

Krug, who runs a small construction company called The Charleston Workshop, said he was undergoing a life transition when he started living aboard his sailboat.

"I was at a weird point in my life, I guess, and I always wanted to sail and I just engulfed myself in it," Krug said. "I went to school and had a desk job, but it just wasn't really for me."

The boat wasn't just a home. Krug also got involved in the racing scene, competing in events put on by the Charleston Ocean Racing Association.

But there were certain sacrifices to living on the water — having a girlfriend, for one. When Krug decided to head back to dry land, he bequeathed his boat to DAB. 

David Anthony Babb, a local painter widely known as DAB, has accumulated three boats, including Krug's. They're all anchored just north of the Coast Guard dock at the bottom of the Ashley. 

DAB, an Atlanta native with family connections near Greenville, said he grew up traveling and gained sailing experience as a child in the Caribbean. He bought his sailboat, named "Susannah," about six years ago. "It's named after someone," he said, but declined to say who.

DAB had lived on the peninsula until 2013, and said he originally bought Susannah so he could have better access to marsh scenes for painting.

There are some other upsides to his current spot, away from the hustle and bustle of the marina or a typical residential neighborhood. 

"You never have to listen to a lawnmower," he said. 

Living on his boat between visits to the Upstate and staying with a significant other is not ideal, however. DAB said he's unable to keep the inside temperature controlled without running a generator constantly. 

Whether battling broiling temperatures in the summer or no-see-ums in the spring, "a boat is miserable," DAB said. 

At least two of his boats can't even be maneuvered right now. Susannah has damage that has to be repaired before she can sail again, DAB said. His third boat, which he said he bought from an owner who was about to abandon it, needs work as well. 

But that watercraft now serves a new purpose. DAB, who takes pride in depicting scenes around Charleston by painting directly from real life, has a low opinion of top artists in galleries downtown that trace images before painting them or print their work on a canvas. 

He said his third boat, piled with garbage he fishes out of the nearby marsh, is an "art installation."

"That's my view of what the (Charleston) realism art scene is," DAB said. 

DAB said that being on a boat all the time might be a more liveable solution if he could travel with the seasons — spend the summer in Maine or the winter in the Keys. But that requires a second person to keep watch while the boat travels long distances, so the first can sleep along the way. 

That was Krug's original idea, too, he said, to travel more when he lived aboard his boat.

"I kind of had, maybe, delusions of grandeur of sailing somewhere or chartering boats," he said. "That's the way to do it."

But for a few years, like so many other inhabitants of the waters around Charleston, he couldn't manage to sail away. 

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Reach Chloe Johnson at 843-735-9985. Follow her on Twitter @_ChloeAJ.