The chair-raft. All photos on site for Art Observed by Samuel Sveen.
16 reclaimed boats make up the second summer of the Boggsville Boatel at Marina 59, an artful floating hotel in the Far Rockaways about an hour outside of Manhattan. Constance Hockaday created the project last year with the help of Flux Factory, taking a bit of loose inspiration from the 19th century floating brothel of Nancy Boggs outside of Portland, Oregon. This year Angie Kang and Orien McNeill organized 23 artists to convert an additional fleet of abandoned boats into accommodating art spaces. The artists were able to live on the boats for a two month residency, reconstructing and customizing the boats, building a community on the docks. Encouraged to be ‘adventure ready’—the suggested packing list includes sleeping bags and liquor—Art Observed was on site for the opening night, May 19.
Arriving at the Beach 60th Street A Train stop, Marina 59 is two blocks away; the beach is three in the other direction. At the end of a gravel parking lot/boatyard, a boat on land holds the Boatel office, with a food truck, DJs, and an open bar on the opening Saturday. With fishing lures and other bait for sale inside, a spray-painted sign out front directs guests down to the docks. Before the boats sits a lone chair out on the end of a dock, setting the tone for relaxation—and a good photo opportunity (below).
The boats are grouped to the left side of the main dock with improvised floating platforms between to provide extra community party space. A grill and a couch are on the biggest deck, with a single chair-raft on a pulley system to a deck on shore. The deck on shore supports a frame for a video screen where various screenings are shown, while the chair also simply acts as an accessory to adventure.
Adventuring across, the raft not capsize-proof
The 30 footers—give or take a few feet—are generally adorned with a certain level of campiness. An American-saturated boat features flag lights, stars-and-stripes bedding, and a large painted eagle. Two takes on the future include Alana Fitzgerald’s post-apocalyptic neon and digital art—with a pineapple next to the steering wheel—while another boat presents a more space-age future, with silver mannequins and a Fischer Price record player. The Ms. Nancy Boggs boat boasts multiple sunning decks and a “Victorian-era naturalist’s laboratory,” including a drawer full of pseudo artifacts. Another boat is home to several small kittens as well as a chainsaw, and another boat departed to a more minimalist style with a geodesic dome constructed of bamboo and PVC. Most boats claim an occupancy rating of 2–4 persons, depending on guests’ level of intimacy/partying.
The Country Club boat, by Jordan Johnson
This writer spent the night in The Country Club, a classy, astroturf-lined, ‘Live Large’ vessel fit for the yacht club, styled by Jordan Johnson—after a ‘half quart’ can of Country Club Malt Liquor. A small room, The Study, hosts “a place to read, write, draw or not read, not write, and not draw,” as stated on a typewritten note to guests advising party and safety procedures. From a cozy hull bed in The Nest, a hatch opens above to the front deck with a lifeguard’s stilted sunning chair, while the back of the boat is more sociable, featuring ‘The Veranda’ and several seats. Johnson suggests “listen[ing] to country music in the daytime, and motown at night.”
Artist Jordan Johnson in ‘The Veranda’ of his Country Club boat
The Country Club shrine to Country Club Malt Liquor
A cork dartboard aboard the Country Club
Low lounging seats, out of the wind
Planes from nearby JFK fly constantly overhead, providing both grounding and surreal background noise. The opening night held a brief sound performance, as one boat had prepared for with washboard surfaces and several places to bang with sticks and hammers. The day crowd waned to only those staying for the night—a mix of young creatives and older local fisherman staying on their own boats nearby—most with a beer or flask in hand, and all enjoying the out-of-doors, floating DIY camaraderie.
Official postcard, both sides displayed
Beeracuda, a non-Boatel boat across the dock
Alana Fitzgerald on her boat, Four C’s
Boatel coordinator Angie Kang in the bait shop
Boatel Website [Marina 59]
Check In, Swim Out: A Floating Hotel as Art [New York Times]
A Floating Hotel at the Edge of New York City [NPR]
The Boggsville Boatel, a Boat Hotel and Art Project, Is Completely Booked for the Summer [Village Voice]