Escargot Build 32

Why a shantyboat?


My job has become very stressful and time consuming at times with more evenings and weekends at work. This weekend. Next weekend. Then there are my children and their events/needs/struggles/desires. It’s been tough at times. I am sure many of you can relate.

On this snowy day, sitting by the fire with my wife, I told her about some of the stories I found while surfing After I read one to her, she asked me what it was that was so appealing to me about this shantyboat world. In effect, what about Harlan Hubbards journeys did I find so attractive? And more importantly, she asked, could I do any of that now?

I can totally understand why she asked. I’m no fun when stressed, and sometimes I can feel the stress taking days off my life. Sometimes weeks or months. Or so it feels.

Ted, our online friend, bought an old boat for some journeys. It sank in a freak accident. Then comes word from his wife that he died. I don’t think he ever made that trip. Paul Browne, who designed Lisa B Goode, also won a Duckworks contest with his design of the house barge Miss Katie.

On that page he talks of retiring and cruising the canals of Europe. I’ve heard he has died, and I don’t think he made his trip. My local friend Ed died, too, and he was only 53 or so. My father died at 61. I can tell you this….. all of them had plans, and all of them were surprised when their time came. Clearly waiting to do my dreams isn’t a good idea.

So back to my wife’s question. What is it, exactly, I want to do? And more importantly, can I do any of them now?

Some ideas are big. Some embarassingly small… even simple minded.

I love the idea of throwing out the clock and calendar, as one of the articles I read today said.. I love the idea of doing what I want, not what I have to do, or at least getting the ratio of those two things in better balance. I am tired of budgets at work, performance appraisals, and meetings to decide who I have to lay off. I’m getting tired of failing technologies and insufficient staff to get the job done. I want to set that stress aside.

I also love the idea of building an interesting boat. The feeling I have when I go to bed in the boat I built, my Escargot, on the bend of some lazy river reading by the light of my flickering candles while listening to some distant radio station, is wonderful. And the idea of doing it in a boat that I built along the lines of my latest Lady of the Lake inspired design, or the a href=””>Sampan 36? Or what about that Alligator but with a larger Bolger Champlain like cabin? Any of them would be pretty sweet.

I like the idea of exploring the rivers of America, with each bend in the river something new. Or exploring South Puget Sound. On December 27th I “celebrate” 29 years at my workplace. Man. It’s been good to me, and still is sometimes, but I need something new. I need an adventure.

I like the people I meet, and I’d like the time to get to know a few of them better. In a boat like Escargot the people of the river come out to talk with you, whether they are the relatively wealthy folks living along the river, or the down on his luck retired fire fighter living on Steamboat slough in the backwaters near Everett. I’ve been invited to dinner, or to a band concert on the river the next weekend, but I’ve never taken the time to take them up on it. People talk with me on my boat. And I want to take the time to talk with them on a return visit.

What else would I do?

I’d give a kid a ship in a bottle I’ve made… a kid I meet on the river. Just out of the blue.

I’d give more and buy less.

I’d pick blackberries and make a pie.

I want to learn to play a Slovakian Fujara, and busk in a park along the river somewhere. I’d make enough money to get pizza that night.

I want to get a library card in a small town, and check out a book I’ve always wanted to read. I want to meet the librarian and have her recommend another book I’d like, once I return the first one. I’d stay in town long enough to know I’d want to come back again, and then go to another, and after some time know I want to go back there, too.

I’d like to find out who makes the best peanut butter burger. I’d keep my eye open, as they are rare!

I’d have a bike on the boat, one with electric assist, and would set off to explore a town for a while. There’d be a rack on back for groceries. I’d take my time and shop for the bargains, but get a treat or two as well.

When it came to food I’d be frugal. I like barley, rice, potatoes, curry, garlic, miso soup, and could eat a bag of spinach in a day if served with the previously mentioned items. Truth be told, I like McDonalds, too, but I’d be working hard to leave that behind, along with most meat in general. Syrup from my morning flapjacks would be made from Oregon Grape, or perhaps some of the berries I had put up in mason jars with wax.

I’d try fresh, young dandelion leaves. They are free and plentiful. And, I’d learn of the other free treats in the woods around me.

I’d make some candles.

I’d grow basil, and other fresh items in a small window box sized garden.

I’d make a diddley bow and cigar box guitar. Maybe I’d sell a few. One anyway, my Poe guitar.

I’d do something to take care of the river…. clean it up a bit. Build bat houses and mount them to abandoned pilings.

I’d have pet pigeons, right there on the boat, though my wife might joke that I could do that idea with my next wife. They’d be rollers, who home pretty well to a portable moving loft. You just need to know how, and spend the time doing it.

I’d live in the moment a little more. As Buddha said, if effect, when you wash dishes, wash dishes. When I picked blackberries, I would pick blackberries. There’d be none of the coulda, shoulda, wouldas running through my mind.

I might substitute teach now and then. I have a certificate for Washington State at least. I taught gradeschool for a few years.

I’d read another book. I’d read about the language of animals. I’d even do some observational experiments, probably on the crows. How do they tell each other apart? Do they ever get confused?

I’d write a book, maybe about how to do all these things, all while I am learning to do it myself. Or maybe it would be a website, a blog they call it now, and I’d make enough for a pizza out every couple of weeks by running google ads and linking to on my site. I might have a mail order business. Maybe I’d sell musical saws online, or something crazy.

I’d use the website to stay in touch with old friends, and make new ones.

I’d come back often enough to see my kids, and god willing, I’d live to see their kids, should they so chose.

There’d be no TV… or at least I’d only watch shows worth watching.

I’d write letters like this, thinking aloud, though at times it would feel a bit embarassing being so open.

I’d try to be happier. I’d see the beauty around us that is already there.

Maybe I’ll start tomorrow.

What appeals to you in this shantyboat world?


A website about Shantyboats and affordable living on the water. More than 800 stories to date, and growing.