ANNAPOLIS -- When Sam Sardinia decided to sell his Miami house and live on the water, he was determined to find a boat big enough that he would never feel the need to graduate to a larger vessel.
He succeeded, although the feat has cost him the good will of city fathers here.
Sardinia, 55, bought a 200-by-58-foot ferryboat with 20,000 square feet of interior space, plus an upper deck, and turned it into a waterborne mansion that boasts velvet furniture, a ballroom, a swimming pool with palm trees and a dining room that seats 40. He and his wife Rita, 30, brought the SS Sardinia to Annapolis Harbor in June, part of the vessel's maiden voyage after six years of work in New York and Norfolk.
But after more than two months of complaints by residents, city officials found an obscure law that states that houseboat barges can remain moored for no more than 48 hours.
Mayor Dennis Callahan has ordered Sardinia to move.
Sardinia said the order disappointed him, but he agreed to leave.
"If Annapolis doesn't want me, I don't want Annapolis," he said.
Residents had raised fears that the boat would slip off its mooring and run aground, and others had complained that it was an eyesore on the water.
The houseboat has six guest staterooms, each with its own bathroom and king-sized bunks, its own theater, a neon-lighted disco, a gymnasium and a couple of hot tubs. The dining room, the main saloon and the bathrooms all have crystal chandeliers.
"We wanted the guests to be comfortable," Sardinia said.
Sardinia said he is a businessman dealing in fasteners "like screws and things" imported from Europe. He declined to say how much he spent to transform a dilapidated, old barge-like vessel into a modern home, but he admitted to $150,000 spent redoing the boat's bottom.
"It was quite the shopping trip in New York" to buy the chandeliers, Rita Sardinia said.
The 64-year-old ferry, originally called the Philadelphia and then the Newport News, was bought by the Virginia Highway Commission in 1943 to carry cars. Sardinia bought the boat after seeing an ad in The Wall Street Journal.
He said he felt too crowded on a 73-foot boat and also was displeased with 120-foot boats.
"I started thinking that I've got to find something bigger. I wanted to find something big enough so that I'd never have to buy another one," he said.
Sardinia said he designed the rooms himself, without the help of an interior decorator.