Before reclaimed building materials, eating local, and minimizing one's carbon footprint became a mainstream movement of the upwardly mobile, there have been adventurers who have been living off the grid in alternative spaces for decades. These folks were not only motivated by getting out from under the Man's carbon boot, but who for aesthetic and philosophical reasons, sought freedom in radical and unpredictable ways.
Ten years ago, a 19-year-old Constance Hockaday, noticed a junk made of what looked like, well, junk anchored off-shore in Port Isabel, TX where she was spending her days renting out beach umbrellas. Hockaday was quickly adopted by the Floating Neutrinos, an unusual family of artist nomads, and found herself at the beginning of a nautical art career.
Many years and many recycled rafts later, this summer Hockaday was awarded a fellowship through the Flux Factory, a non-profit arts organization based in Queens, NY, to create a floating hotel. Her project was inspired by a 19th C. madame, Nancy Boggs, who ran a floating bordello in Oregon. Hockaday started work in June on the Boggsville Boatel, located at Marina 59 in Rockaway Queens. She began by renovating old fishing boats and yachts that had been deemed no longer sea worthy, using only reclaimed and found materials and a handful of volunteers. The Boatel was open for business at beginning of July.
Since its opening the Boatel has been booked solid, and the press has gone nuts for it. If you search Constance and the Boatel you'll get at least three pages on google. I had seen the press, and bumped into a friend on the street who had just come from the Boatel, but I didn't make it out there until a few weeks ago when I was invited out for a lesbian reading.
I was smitten. For all intents in purposes the Boatel is more like camping than Club Med but there's something incredibly warm and appealing about it all. Perhaps its the intense labor of love that went into its creation, or maybe that rare feeling of communing with nature while still being in the City, or maybe the sense of community (and you know how much lesbians love commune living).
I went back the next weekend to interview Constance, leaving with the promise of going back before the project officially closes down this weekend.
Since Hurricane/Storm Irene swept through I haven't heard how the Boatel faired, but I'm pretty sure with a little ingenuity and elbow grease the Boatel will have one more hurrah.