Throw all the landlubber insults you want at me, but I’ve yet to step foot aboard the latest hip(ster) art project/exercise in self-sufficiency to hit the Big Apple, the Waterpod
Maybe it’s because I’ve seen the phrase “Burning Man camp” written
in association with the rented 3,000-square foot barge that's home to a vegetable garden, four chickens, and a rotating crew of seafaring artists and adventure-seekers.
Maybe it’s because of this
bit of Waterpod rhetoric that brings back unpleasant memories of Waterworld:
In preparation for our coming world with an increase in population, a decrease in usable land, and a greater flux in environmental conditions, people will need to rely closely on immediate communities and look for alternative living models; the Waterpod is about cooperation, collaboration, augmentation, and metamorphosis.
Maybe it’s because the last time I was on a vessel in New York Harbor it was a packed-to-the-gills tourist boat that I convinced myself was going to capsize right under the eyes of the Lady Liberty.
Maybe I'm just not salty enough.
I’m not sure what’s keeping me back but I’m still intrigued by the Waterpod. When I first heard about and saw the conceptual sketches
of this floating farm/art show/eco-campsite that’s been docking at various locations around the city the last couple of months and allowing visitors to cross the plank for school tours, lectures, dance parties, and more, it struck me as a rather romantic idea
; like a big, sexy, houseboat co-designed by Buckminster Fuller and Captain Jack Sparrow.
But that notion of romanticism shifted — to a giant “cool but not for me” — as I realized that Waterpod participants didn't sign up for some kind of easy-breezy pleasure cruise. Waterpod founder and one of two full-time residents, Mary Mattingly
, and her maritime cohorts
take the “self-sustained living at sea” thing seriously and it’s hard work: food comes from the aforementioned chickens
— Gily, Bonsai, Rizzo, and Marble — and the garden
(veggie frittata anyone?); organic waste is composted; grey water is recycled; rainwater is collected; and the toilets are of the dry-composting variety. Residents live in small quarters
atop the barge that are built from reclaimed/donated materials. Power is generated via photovoltaic panels
and a bike. All and all, life on the Waterpod seems less artsy "Loveboat goes green" outing and more apocalyptic survivalist prep camp.
… the Waterpod has turned out to be more an experiment in sociability and isolation, aesthetic vision and mass utility, organization and freedom, and, mostly, endurance.
I’ll let photos do the rest of the talking but if you’re interested on crossing the plank, the Waterpod’s next docking location
— after a two-week mooring in Brooklyn — is Staten Island. Open-to-the-pubic happenings
on the barge are always interesting and green-leaning ... past events include a lecture on waterway pollution from the US Coast Guard, a tutorial on how to make recycled soda bottle planters as part of an all-day “Get Your Garden On” bonanza, and a zero-waste benefit party (“please bring your own cup”). Many of these events take place under the barge's most noticeable structure, a geodesic dome with a shell constructed from recycled billboards.
If all goes as planned and additional funding comes through, the Waterpod will be a fixture around NYC’s waterways through October.