Shantyboat Dotty

In spring 2012, I began building a homemade shantyboat — that is, a rustic houseboat — from scratch, recording every step in the build process.

Friends helps build the Shantyboat Dotty over two years
Friends helps build the Shantyboat Dotty over two years

A shantyboat is a small crude houseboat. There is a long history of people building and living in shantyboats, the obvious choice for itinerant workers, miners, dockworkers, and farmers. And as living on land has felt more and more constrained, people have looked to the relative freedom of rivers, lakes, and seas.

Shantyboat cabin framing comes together from reclaimeddd materials
Shantyboat cabin framing comes together from reclaimeddd materials

Alex and Jen and I were at Camp Tipsy, a whimsical DIY boat festival on a Central Valley lake in the height of the summer heat, and it was Happy Hour at our camp and we were drinking gin and tonics and maybe the alcohol or maybe the heat contributed to our grandiose and ambitious scheming, or maybe, honestly, I’ve always been that way.

We were looking at all the bizzaro floating contraptions and nautical imagining.  We didn’t want to go fast or swing or be propelled by some Rube Goldberg propulsion system or even soak in a wood-fired hot tub, so much, at that moment, as we wanted to sit peacefully on our own floating front porch and watch the madness of the rest of the world.

We decided to make a floating cabin, a shanty boat. And even if the others may have been idly dreaming, I ran with it.

The blog details the pitfalls, triumphs, near-death experiences, and joyous moments along our course.

2 thoughts on “Shantyboat Dotty

  1. I was surfing YouTube videos.
    Then found these people that have lived and made the Shanty Boats.
    I got the biggest kick out of watching these videos and got the feeling of
    such freedom from society they live each day just moving along living life
    day by day.
    Something you dreamed of as I did as a kid.
    But as you grow up you find yourself more and more entangled in following
    along with social life that you end up feeling you have no other choice but to pursue
    a so-called living.
    This means, College, finding a job, marriage, and kids come along. BOOM you are nailed
    into that 9 to 5 the rest of your life. House, car payments.
    Now retired I feel invigorated to follow my childhood dreams once again.
    God Bless
    Tom

  2. Do you think you will be coming back up the Hudson River in New York state any time soon? You were here in July 2018. I took some photos of your boat and you used two (that I know of): the photo of Jeremiah inside the boat and the one of your shanty boat crossing in front of the Hudson-Athens lighthouse. If you will return sometime in the future, please let me know so I can get more shots for you. Thanks.

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