Monday, September 26, 2011

The Homemade Houseboat

Where's your camera when you need it? Alas, I didn't have it on me when my husband and I headed toward our usual walking route, a boardwalk along the waters of Lake Macatawa, an inlet of Lake Michigan. Thus, no pictures of what was probably the most unusual watercraft I've ever seen. 

The boat was tied up to a dock that borders a waterfront restaurant. It had the appearance of a very large wooden box that had been placed upon pontoon-type floats. The sides of the boat - and the door - looked like they had first been used in a house. Through large windows I could see in and noted a sofa made up with bedding. The sofa, by the way, took up the length of one side of the boat, so that gives you an idea of how wide the boat was. Overall, the boat was smaller in size than the home office room in which I'm now sitting, and it's not that big a room itself.

It was clearly someone's homemade houseboat.. An American flag flew cheerfully from a flagpole mounted on the rear, and a portable grill was sitting on the small platform outside the door. There appeared to be an old TV in the boat adjacent to the sofa.

There was no one in the houseboat then, so we continued on our walk, but when we'd looped back around to head back home, the owner was in. He kindly answered my questions. Yes, he'd built the houseboat himself out of parts he'd gotten here and there. He had solar panels on the roof of the houseboat for power. He'd come down Lake Michigan from the Traverse City area and had put up in our town for the night because he'd run out of fuel. He was heading for Miami, FL. Said something about the route he was taking - through Tennessee at some point, then he'll reach the Gulf of Mexico at Mobile, AL. His dog Bentley was traveling with him - the dog had been to 23 states and two countries, the man said. 

Figured that after he'd reached Miami he'd sell the houseboat at some point and use the money the buy an old junker car to drive back north. He added that last year he'd sailed up from Miami, but didn't say how he'd gotten down there that time. Oh, and he'd previously made money by selling a "tumbleweed house" (a very small house) he'd built - that money was used in turn to buy the materials to build the houseboat. 

Since I hadn't had my camera with me, I returned to the dock with it this morning. As the weather wasn't the best this morning, I was hoping that the houseboat would still be there, awaiting better conditions before the man made his way south. But it was gone. 

Quite a story though. That guy definitely had a lot of ingenuity and a make-do spirit. I wondered if he'd been able to retire early from a job and thus was living on a pension; that would give him the time to make these excursions. And to go all that way on such a small handmade houseboat! There's probably more people out there who do this sort of thing than I realize, but it was my first experience with this sort of adventure. I hope that he and Bentley have a safe and enjoyable trip to Miami!

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