I've been a trainhopper and a punk-rafter, and wanted to float rivers on a homemade boat.

I know nothing about boatbuilding but really wanted a boat. So I built one… out of plywood and reclaimed wood and windows with the help of friends. Now I float on rivers all over the country, living on the boat, and talking to people about the river. This summer we are headed to the 1000-mile long Ohio River.

Join us Wed 24 April 9am-noon Pacific. Ask me anything!

Shipmates Jeremiah Daniels @imaginaryastronomer and Lauren Benz @bluefrapp will be joining me to take questions

Atlas Obscura: https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/river-communities-shantyboat-wes-modes

Wanna see video? https://peoplesriverhistory.us/video/river-voices-unofficial-cut-2018-trailer/

Shantyboat Dotty: https://peoplesriverhistory.us/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/2016-07-storm-looms-over-shantyboat-adrian-nankivell.jpg

More about the project at http://peoplesriverhistory.us/

Proof: https://peoplesriverhistory.us/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/IMG_6762.jpg

HEY, come visit us on the Ohio River: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/wmodes/a-secret-history-ohio-river-expedition

Comments: 299 • Responses: 80  • Date: 

dredabeast2491 karma

Have you ever almost sunk?

wmodes182 karma

Happily, the shantyboat is delightfully stable. However...

...when we were docked in Chattanooga Tennessee a storm came up. The whole sky was lit by flashes of sheet lightening for a half hour. Then the storm blew in, hard.

The rain was blowing in sideways and the water was coming in through the windows and side boards. It was just pouring straight in like a waterfall.

It was the only time that we were looking around and considering what stuff we needed to take and what stuff we could possibly lose. We had our life vests on and were preparing to say goodbye to the boat.

ZippytheMuppetKiller68 karma

Fuckin Tennessee. One of those freak storms almost killed my whole family when it blew a healthy 100 feet high poplar tree down on our house and blew it to hell. Killed my dog. Trapped my wife and put her in the hospital. Never going back to that cursed state. Just thinking about it makes me mad as hell.

wmodes7 karma

I’m really sorry about your dog.

ImaginaryAstronomer36 karma

Yes we have! How close we've come to sinking is hard to quantify...

The two most harrowing rivers to navigate were the last two: The Sacramento River (2017), and The Hudson (2018).

The Sacramento was fraught with hidden snags, and whole tree trunks waiting to puncture the bow. Benzy (@bluefrapp) and I were posted on the front deck spotting best we could and levering off what we could only narrowly avoid.

The Hudson was a different beast entirely: the combination of strong winds and tidally affected water made for larger and larger waves as we close din on New York City, providing us ample training in navigating treacherously choppy waters.

wmodes31 karma

Oh gawd, the Sacramento. We have a 10 inch draft and were skittering through ankle-deep water over fist-sized stones and snags. Ug.

ChaucersYeoman42 karma

So, the 3 of you are shipmates, doesn't that make things a bit cramped? Have you ever thought about rebuilding the shanty-boat a little bigger?

wmodes67 karma

That's a good question. Though the cabin is only 8'x10' it has a sizable front and back decks and strangely a lot of nooks and crannies. Probably because of the high roof it doesn't FEEL crowded. It feels roomy and comfortable, even with three people.

A few shipmate rules help: A place for everything and everything in its place (i.e., don't leave shit around). Don't block the path between the front and back doors.

ImaginaryAstronomer49 karma

When we're in motion, we all have jobs so we're not in each other's way.
When stopped, we're either busy presenting the project/giving tours, or we're preparing for the next thing (e.g. post the articles about the day, fulfill kickstarter rewards, cook the next meal/clean up the last meal cooked).
When there's relaxing time, it's basically like hanging out with your best friends in a cozy living room with a nice porch.
I prefer sleeping on the front deck with a mosquito net, which is pretty roomy if you're not used to a queen sized bed or larger.
There's a loveseat inside, as well as a sleeping loft up above... oddly, it has never felt cramped all these years!

wmodes26 karma

Miah, I love you.

wmodes16 karma

@ChaucersYeoman, are you a sailor or other naval enthusiast?

DeadlyDancingDuck34 karma

How do you sort grocery shopping? (stopping at random places with no car). Do you have WiFi access all the time? How do you entertain yourself?

wmodes61 karma

You are right that grocery stores are often out by the highway, or pretty far from the river. So sometimes we have to make heroic death marches to resupply. But most times, we roll up and people almost immediately say, like the nice people the world seems to be full of, "Hey, you need anything? Can I give you a ride to the store? Need clean laundry? A hot shower?" It is just too sweet.

The boat has a pantry that can hold a good bit of non-perishable food. And we have a cooler that can hold a little bit of perishable stuff. We eat really well on the boat, but I'll leave that for another question.

wmodes10 karma

Those are good question. Very practical.

FriendsWitBenedicts21 karma

Are you starting or ending in Pittsburgh? I’d love to watch you float by.

wmodes39 karma

Did you already check out our schedule or did you ask this out of the blue? Cuz we ARE starting in Pittsburgh in June this summer. Don't just watch us go by, take us out for beer!

wmodes28 karma

And introduce us to cool peeps in Pittsburgh. Also, who should we interview about the river?

awesome35720 karma

Not the same guy but when passing through the Louisville area you should stop into Bushman's Lake and Rivers Edge (about 16 miles up river from Louisville on the Indiana side). My family has been there for a long time and I loved there for a good part of my life, though I don't any more. My great aunt and uncle founded Bushman's and my brother in law's dad and mom founded Rivers Edge. They are great river communities to visit.

wmodes10 karma

Oh awesome! Still know people there? We could interview your family. Tell them we are coming.

Try-The-Fish4 karma

Go to Bitter Ends Cafe Luncheonette and hang out with Becca. She will fast become your favorite person and makes amazing sandwiches.

Ps - she punk.

wmodes3 karma

Noted.

FriendsWitBenedicts8 karma

Cool! I didn’t see the schedule yet. Oddly enough I’ve stumbled into other folks doing similar things on the Ohio before.

ImaginaryAstronomer5 karma

Oh that's cool! Do you know if anybody else you've seen is still doing similar, and if you have any of their projects info, we'd be stoked to talk with them! The Ohio River has so much great history to discuss and share.

FriendsWitBenedicts4 karma

Not off hand. I was fishing and a shanty pulled up and some folks got off. Brief chatter but didn’t get their info. This was five or six years ago now.

wmodes4 karma

I know river-punx who've floated the Miss and Ohio Rs on wacky shanties. Some of those folks inspired my love of the river.

cablemonkey60419 karma

Did you ever have to deal with classist assholes at marinas who didn't like the way Dottie looked?

wmodes30 karma

https://www.instagram.com/p/BlcC8Nag__0/

Now only did the Elks chase us away, but when we went across the tiny harbor, the actual marina gave us shit and told us we wouldn't be welcome anywhere with THAT. The mayor who invited us to town gave them the what for.

In general, people who own marinas and property owners sometimes have a Get Off My Lawn vibe, but everyone else is excited about the shantyboat and welcoming.

wmodes8 karma

Are you with the Elks in Haverstraw, by any chance? Lol.

wutsnu16 karma

I've been occasionally checking in on this project for years. I've always liked the ideas of building connections between different people and promoting community, not to mention the awareness building and educating that comes along with the shanty boat going on display in different places when it's not in the water.

Keep going, with all your projects. Where do you find the strength to deal with the constant stream of doubters and haters?

wmodes7 karma

Aw thanks. Have you visited the boat or been to one of our expeditions?

The haters and doubters are actually pretty few and far between. So we are sustained by the generosity and kindness of strangers like you.

Phototos13 karma

What do you guys do about garbage, compost and potable water? Love that you guys are keeping everything in its place, good rule for any home!

ImaginaryAstronomer17 karma

Great practical questions!

We're very conscious of the negative impact humans have on waterways with their trash, and as such we take a lot of the same precautions one would while camping in remote areas - but we have the benefit of being able to pack our waste in the boat instead of our backpacks.

Thankfully, we end up visiting marinas and public docks very regularly, and they generally have some amenities such as trash/recycling, public restrooms, and occasionally fresh water.

We have 30 gallon tanks in the hold that we fill with fresh potable water every chance we get.

A rule of thumb for disposing of compost properly is to bury it 12 inches deep and at least 200 feet from any campsite or body of water, and to of course be aware of the local laws regarding disposal.

One of my favorite activities on the boat is hanging off the front deck and catching any and all trash that we can (without falling into the drink ourselves)!

joelschlosberg6 karma

Do you use the trash you catch to enlarge your boat?

wmodes5 karma

Haha. We have definitely picked up old signs and used driftwood to adorn or problemsolve the boat.

converter-bot1 karma

12 inches is 30.48 cm

wmodes5 karma

What about 200 ft?

wmodes5 karma

How many meters?

gruntothesmitey13 karma

Is that engine powerful enough to overcome the freeboard? It looks like it'd get blown all over the place...

wmodes23 karma

haha, the first year we started with a 9.8hp Johnson from the 60s. It wasn't strong enough, so...

we upgraded to the one you see in the photo I linked. That's a 20hp Merc from maybe the 80s (two stroke) that we rewired and loved. It was good, actually, but I took it in for minor repairs and a stupid repair guy actually junked it, so we need a third motor...

wmodes33 karma

So we talked to Mercury who generously sponsored us for a year! They set us up with a 2017 30hp 4-stroke motor what uses a quarter as much gas and is super powerful. AND has power tilt which is THE shit.

gruntothesmitey13 karma

They set us up with a 2017 30hp 4-stroke motor what uses a quarter as much gas and is super powerful.

Yeah, that looks like it'd do the job. Happy travels!

wmodes7 karma

Thanks. On the Sacramento River the power tilt saved our butt. The prop could be tilted up almost out of the water to save it from hitting rock shoals.

wmodes3 karma

Which one are you looking at? On the photo? Lemme look which one we had then...

mcatech12 karma

Do you supplement some of your food stocks by fishing the rivers you sail on? If so, what types of fish have you caught and eaten?

wmodes13 karma

Our shipmate Age is a big fisherperson and @bluefrapp is just learning but very successful fisher. I posted some links to fish photos on another question.

thePopefromTV11 karma

Do you catch your own fish on the rivers, and if so was there any water that was too sketchy to eat out of even though you could’ve?

wmodes10 karma

My shipmate Age is the most devoted fisherman among us. If we aren't moving, he has a pole in the water.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BJLWDMdghgw/

But Benzy has caught some of the biggest fish

https://www.instagram.com/p/BWk4nwjlc17/

We didn't eat any fish out of the Hudson because we were too sketched out.

wmodes7 karma

We met a fishing guide who told us about the best places to fish and gave Benzy a really nice rig.

Skiie9 karma

How do you deal with the extreme heat/cold?

wmodes18 karma

The first year we didn't have screens on the windows and we had to choose between dying of mosquito bites or dying of roasting alive.

DreddPirateBob4Ever8 karma

I've been really inspired by similar stories (not least Huck and Joes trip) and I honestly love what you do, and hope to do something similar. Thanks for doing this ama! I've a few questions, probably already been asked, but I'd be thankful.

What do you do for power (charging and stuff)? Has anyone asked about the toilet yet? If not, I am totally asking. Have you any kind of tender or do you rely on docks and lucky riverbanks? How many cannon? How do you deal with satans navy; the bloody geese?

Again, you are amazing! Fair winds!

wmodes10 karma

Huck and Jim? Me too. Re-read chapter 19. The. Best.

Two or three days and nights went by; I reckon I might say they swum by, they slid along so quiet and smooth and lovely. Here is the way we put in the time. It was a monstrous big river down there- sometimes a mile and a half wide; we run nights, and laid up and hid day-times; soon as night was most gone, we stopped navigating and tied up- nearly always in the dead water under a tow-head; and then cut young cottonwoods and willows and hid the raft with them. Then we set out the lines. Next we slid into the river and had a swim, so as to freshen up and cool off; then we set down on the sandy bottom where the water was about knee deep, and watched the daylight come. Not a sound, anywheres- perfactly still- just like the whole world was asleep, only sometimes the bull-frogs a-cluttering, maybe. The first thing to see, looking away over the water, was a kind of dull line- that was the woods on t'other side- you couldn't make nothing else out; then a pale place in the sky; then more paleness, spreading around; then the river softened up, away off, and warn't black any more, but gray; you could see little dark spots drifting along, ever so far away-trading scows, and such things; and long black streaks- rafts; sometimes you could hear a sweep screaking; or jumbled up voices, it was so still, and sounds come so far; and by-and-by you could see a streak on the water which you know by the look of the streak that there's a snag there in a swift current which breaks on it and makes that streak look that way; and you see the mist curl up off of the water, and the east reddens up, and the river, and you make out a log cabin in the edge of the woods, away on the bank on t'other side of the river, being a wood-yard, likely, and piled by them cheats so you can throw a dog through it anywheres; then the nice breeze blows up, and comes fanning you from over there, so cool and fresh, and sweet to smell, on account of the woods and the flowers; but sometimes not that way, because they've left dead fish laying around, gars, and such, and they do get pretty rank; and next you've got the full day, and everything smiling in the sun, and the song-birds just going it!

A little smoke couldn't be noticed, now, so we would take some fish off of the lines, and cook up a hot breakfast. And afterwards we would watch the lonesomeness of the river, and kind of lazy along, and by-and-by lazy off to sleep. Wake up, by-and-by, and look to see what done it, and maybe see a steamboat, coughing along up stream, so far off towards the other side you couldn't tell nothing about her only whether she was stern-wheel or side-wheel; then for about an hour there wouldn't be nothing to hear nor nothing to see- just solid lonesomeness. Next you'd see a raft sliding by, away off yonder, and maybe a galoot on it chopping, because they're most always doing it on a raft; you'd see the ax flash, and come down- you don't hear nothing; you see that ax go up again, and by the time it's above the man's head, then you hear the k'chunk!- it had took all that time to come over the water. So we would put in the day, lazying around, listening to the stillness. Once there was a thick fog, and the rafts and things that went by was beating tin pans so the steamboats wouldn't run over them. A scow or a raft went by so close we could hear them talking and cussing and laughing- heard them plain; but we couldn't see no sign of them; it made you feel crawly, it was like spirits carrying on that way in the air. Jim said he believed it was spirits; but I says:

"No, spirits wouldn't say, 'dern the dern fog.'"

Soon as it was night, out we shoved; when we got her out to about the middle, we let her alone, and let her float wherever the current wanted her to; then we lit the pipes, and dangled our legs in the water and talked about all kinds of things- we was always naked, day and night, whenever the mosquitoes would let us- the new clothes Buck's folks made for me was too good to be comfortable, and besides I didn't go much on clothes, nohow.

Sometimes we'd have that whole river all to ourselves for the longest time. Yonder was the banks and the islands, across the water; and maybe a spark- which was a candle in a cabin window- and sometimes on the water you could see a spark or two- on a raft or a scow, you know; and maybe you could hear a fiddle or a song coming over from one of them crafts. It's lovely to live on a raft. We had the sky, up there, all speckled with stars, and we used to lay on our backs and look up at them, and discuss about whether they was made, or only just happened- Jim he allowed they was made, but I allowed they happened; I judged it would have took too long to make so many. Jim said the moon could a laid them; well, that looked kind of reasonable, so I didn't say nothing against it, because I've seen a frog lay most as many, so of course it could be done. We used to watch the stars that fell, too, and see them streak down. Jim allowed they'd got spoiled and was hove out of the nest.

Once or twice of a night we would see a steamboat slipping along in the dark, and now and then she would belch a whole world of sparks up out of her chimbleys, and they would rain down in the river and look awful pretty; then she would turn a corner and her lights would wink out and her pow-wow shut off and leave the river still again; and by-and-by her waves would get to us, a long time after she was gone, and joggle the raft a bit, and after that you wouldn't hear nothing for you couldn't tell how long, except maybe frogs or something.

After midnight the people on shore went to bed, and then for two or three hours the shores was black- no more sparks in the cabin windows. These sparks was our clock- the first one that showed again meant morning was coming, so we hunted a place to hide and tie up, right away.

I lay the way my life turned out at the feet of my 5th grade librarian who handed me a copies of Huck Finn and Kon Tiki.

DreddPirateBob4Ever7 karma

Jim. Hell.

And thank you. I need to reread it again. I've been boatless for a few year and I'm waiting on some cash. When, if, it comes in I'm getting back on the water.

Good Teachers are great. Thanks again :)

wmodes6 karma

Building it ourselves cost about $5k

wmodes9 karma

For power we have a house battery and a starter battery for the motor. Both are charged when we run the motor. And when we are in marinas, we run off shore power. Good question. We used to put up a solar cell, but the motor is so much faster at charging we haven't bothered lately.

wmodes7 karma

We've never been attacked by geese, but the closest we've come is this: We were floating on a river -- before we had the shantyboat, we were in canoes and kayaks -- along a bank lined with houses with wide lawns. On one lawn was a beautiful swan, like out of a storybook. It saw us and just immediately waddled down the bank and straight into the water. We thought, "Oh look, he's coming to visit us." And he just torpedoed straight at us until he was right in our face. We could see that he was a big as a battleship and his powerful wings would beat the holy shit out of us. We fled until he considered us a vanquished threat and turned back.

DreddPirateBob4Ever3 karma

I wasn't sure if you had swans (being Her Majesty the Queens property) but yes; they are utter monsters and have no shred of mercy. The only option is to run. If you can.

My home county has banks of swans and they are fearsome when out canoeing.

wmodes3 karma

All swans everywhere belong to her majesty.

bluefrapp7 karma

Tender : there's a johnboat towed behind! Toilet: sawdust and a bucket! (no we NEVER shit in the river..) Cannon: we have a plan in the works. Cannons to aim at speedy yachters in the no wake zone. Geese: hmmm blessed to have no geese around much. Its the skeeters that satan employs.

DreddPirateBob4Ever4 karma

Re: cannon. Waterbomb launchers with a satisfactory range can be built with toy buckets and old innertubes.

Re: mozzies (skeeters). Fair point. Bastards.

wmodes3 karma

We used to do battle with wrist rockets and peanuts.

iaminabox7 karma

I find this absolutely fascinating and I'm going read up more. My question is do the 3 of you come from boating backgrounds or did you learn as you went?

wmodes8 karma

Oh my god, we are dumb as rocks about any of the things we should know about boating or boatbuilding. I'd spent a few years making janky rafts and floating rivers. I learned a bit from that. But everything else was learn as you go.

roosterjack776 karma

So what is the attraction? Is it the river or the Shantyboat? You could've just bought a boat but instead you navigate great rivers on upcycled materials. Discuss:

wmodes6 karma

I'd say it's the rivers, but with the shantyboat in my driveway, we often hang out on/in it. :-)

But really moving water is magical. The sunlight off the water, the smell, the sound, the feel on your skin. The idea that you can turn off the engine and just float, taking it easy and watching the landscape float by. Pure magic.

Plus for us, it is the company. My shipmates are truly the best people you could ever hope to be locked in a 8'x10' floating box with.

roosterjack773 karma

This ones just a shout-out. Thanks for the inspiration. I was 'born' on a fishingboat in Yellowknife, NWT. My dad took me out on Great Slave Lake in a baby carrier so he wouldnt miss a day of fishing in the short summer. I have many fond memories in the family boat. My sister and her husband take take their 3 kids out on it now.

wmodes2 karma

I just recently found out about he houseboats on Great Slave Lake. Recent pictures show them looking pretty bourgie. Are they all turned into airBnBs?

roosterjack774 karma

Aw sh*t I wish I could tell you more about the houseboats on Great Slave. Best I can tell you is they are super controversial. The city wants fisheries to get rid of them and vice versa. We moved to Ottawa many years ago, Northern roots, city boy. Ottawa is the end of the Rideau Canal connects with Kingston ON and the Trent Severn waterway/canal juuust in cae you run out of American waterways to shoot. Youve inspired me to take a shot at the Ottawa/Kingston trip. Thanks again

wmodes3 karma

I was careful when I chose the name. Note that A Secret History of American River People leaves the possibility of the Amazon and the St Lawrence open.

einani6 karma

How many gallons of spicy-peachy-delicious alcoholic medicine do y'all go through a month?

iaminabox6 karma

One more question. Do you need any permits or licensing like an sctw? I would think not because this isnt really a commercial venture or anything?

ImaginaryAstronomer9 karma

Great question! Here in the US we're required to register the craft with the DMV (Department of Motorized Vehicles). There are mandatory safety standards for vessels like ours (e.g. flotation devices for all people on board, children must wear theirs at all times on most waterways, fire extinguishers need to be handy for any open flames, gotta have a signal flare... stuff like that), and if somebody with the authority wanted to, they can ask to see evidence that the vessel is prepared for emergencies. Aside from that, there's not much barring us from being out there, and exploring new places and people!

wmodes7 karma

True, the inland waterways still have a lot of freedom that people are craving. I think that is perhaps why the project seems to fire people's imaginations.

wmodes3 karma

What's an SCTW?

AutoModerator6 karma

Users, please be wary of proof. You are welcome to ask for more proof if you find it insufficient.

OP, if you need any help, please message the mods here.

Thank you!

I am a bot, and this action was performed automatically. Please contact the moderators of this subreddit if you have any questions or concerns.

wmodes5 karma

I am real.

pdwHu11 karma

He is real.

wmodes8 karma

See @pdwHu confirms it. #proof

Amithrius5 karma

Where do you poop?

wmodes4 karma

We have a composting toilet aboard. When it gets full we hike a long way away from the river and dig a deep hole.

Alieneater5 karma

Were you guys inspired by The Floating Neutrinos, and have you ever met those guys?

wmodes4 karma

I know about them, but never met them.

We are friends with the artist Constance Hockaday who met the Floating Neutrinos as a kid and joined them.

Papa Neutrino didn't seem like my favor of crazy that I'm interested in getting super up close and personal with, but I have mad respect for them.

ImaginaryAstronomer3 karma

Not me, but I love their name!!! (I can google, but if you can provide links, that'd be swell!)

goodbyelucky5 karma

I’ve been following you guys for about a year or so. Absolutely fascinated with your whole project! I live in Maryland and wondered if you guys have thought about traveling the Chesapeake Bay? There are tons of tidal rivers and inlets to navigate and the Bay really houses some awesome fishing/waterman communities that I think you would enjoy. Also I really want to check out the shantyboat and buy you guys some beers!

wmodes2 karma

Chesapeake Bay

The Potomac would be interesting, as would the Susquehana. But the shantyboat is not really meant for the open waters of the Chesapeake Bay. We have about a foot of freeboard.

pieface1005 karma

How do you guys deal with dams, locks, etc? There’s a lock and dam near Pittsburgh on the Ohio that has killed multiple kayakers/canoers in recent history. As somebody who knows nothing about boats, traveling down rivers is such a fascinating concept

wmodes7 karma

People always ask us how we deal with locks and dams and barges, but those folks, lockmasters and towboat captains are the most professional people on the river. They are courteous and businesslike and considerate. So no big deal going through locks even when they are crazy deep. Check out this!

https://peoplesriverhistory.us/photos/tiny-tiny-shantyboat-93-feet-down-at-the-bottom-of-wilson-lock-and-dam-thanks-to-gino-one-of-the-lock-staff-for-the-photo/

Big yachts are biggest hazard. They are careless and inconsiderate and zoo toward us heedlessly because they are curious, but not considerate enough to slow down or say hi. They just zoom by with the female folk aboard filming us with their ipad.

brosie124 karma

Wheres next on the trip? This sounds awesome. I do a lot of kayaking and do some camping out of it once in while very fun.

wmodes3 karma

cablemonkey6044 karma

Have you ever had any supernatural or hard-to-explain experiences? Ghosts, sirens, sea monsters, etc.?

ImaginaryAstronomer4 karma

Well... You might not know that Lake Pepin on the Mississippi has it's own plesiosaur https://peoplesriverhistory.us/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/IMG_3743-e1407374786374-768x1024.jpg

Good thing we're a steady craft, otherwise the disturbance in the water could have flipped us from that beast surfacing!

And then there's The Night of Biblical Plagues which Wes and I endured in Lansing, Iowa... (a cute town!)

wmodes1 karma

Okay, @bluefrapp reminded me of something. The Marina of the Damned.

https://peoplesriverhistory.us/photos/saltillos-ghost-marina/

This felt pretty creepy.

hdawg1874 karma

Are you about to cause a war between the Phillippines and Canada?

wmodes3 karma

Gawd, we hope not. We are sorry about the kerfuffle in Yemen.

11adam114 karma

Have you ever woken up and gone outside and been like o Sh*t theres a crocodile on our deck?

wmodes2 karma

Nope, though we once found a fish in our jonboat, the boat we tow behind us. We ate it.

alittleflea4 karma

After your experiences out there on the shantyboat are you now more optimistic about the future of our country, or more pessimistic? Please elaborate. Kthxbai

wmodes3 karma

Definitely more optimistic.

JakeGrey3 karma

Is there any kind of licensing or safety certification process you had to go through in order to sail Dotty on certain waterways?

wmodes4 karma

Someone asked a similar question. Boats have to be licensed on American waterways by the appropriate state authority. In our case, Dotty is based in California so we register it at the Department of Motor Vehicles.

Beyond that, it has to have basic boat safety requirements: personal flotation device for everyone, fire extinguishers, and reliable power.

We get rolled by water cops pretty frequently but only because they are curious and want to take a closer look.

FlatcapJoe3 karma

Apart from the fulfillment of patron orders, how do you folks work in a mobile environment (eg. what jobs do you do) and keep up with normal life in terms of work?

wmodes3 karma

Basically I work year round on this project, most intensely while we are on the river. On top of that I have another full time job as a university teacher when we are not on the river.

borkula3 karma

Late to the party, but do you tow your boat from river system to river system over land, or are your routes mostly connected by water?

wmodes4 karma

Definitely by land. For instance, we are based in California, but we were headed to the Hudson River in New York. That's 3000 miles by road. My shipmates tell me that our travel to and from the river are the most harrowing part of the journey.

Rand0mhero803 karma

Im lazy and don't wanna scroll thro the comments but did you post pics of the inside by chance?

jasonsutliff3 karma

  • "Adult" interactions?

wmodes2 karma

Care to elucidate? Will I have to make the AMA NSFW?

jasonsutliff3 karma

  • No, not NSFW territory ...

Just asking with two men, 1 female ... Anyone a couple? Not inferring threesomes ... Just curious. We all have the need for personal, human touch/interaction(s) ...

wmodes3 karma

I like your question. @bluefrapp and I are a couple. It’s nice when it is just us, but also nice with others aboard. Naturally we miss our partners when they aren’t with us in the trip.

We are are all long time sweet friends so we have lots of constant quality human interaction.

blorgden993 karma

[deleted]

wmodes3 karma

We have a newish four-stroke Merc, so it is efficient. But even when we didn't, that was a relatively small expense compared to towing the shantyboat across country.

I'd love to do the Arkansas some time.

We do have jobs. In the summer, this is my job, but off-season I work as a university teacher.

AnyYokel3 karma

This is way cool! How much did the writings of the Hubbards influence your decisions in terms of where to go/why/how to build? Drifting is one of the great American phenomena that I feel a nostalgia about even though it was well before my time. Glad to see someone has taken up the cause!

wmodes4 karma

Harlan Hubbard was a huge influence. I read Shantyboat early on while I was planning and building the boat. This summer we are goi g to visit his hood.

sgtxsarge3 karma

As a traveler, what was the best drink you've ever had?

wmodes4 karma

It is our first cup of coffee every morning. The moka pot is the most important equipment aboard the boat.

throwawaydyingalone3 karma

Can you release a guide on how to make your own floating houses out of trash? Sounds like a great summer DIY project.

wmodes3 karma

Great question. We actually have. Before we had the shantyboat, we built punk-rafts, janky rafts out of truck tubes and plywood. We wrote a zine for friends who wanted to join us:

http://modes.io/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/punk-raft-zine-abridged.pdf

And for the shantyboat, I wanted to document my process so anyone following in our footsteps could make new and different mistakes:

https://peoplesriverhistory.us/tag/boatbuilding/?order=asc

throwawaydyingalone2 karma

Thank you very much, good luck.

wmodes2 karma

Thanks!

mowil222 karma

What’s the coolest person (or thing) that you’ve encountered on the river?

wmodes3 karma

"Coolest" is hard. There are cool things that come to mind.

Interviewing Betty Goins who told us about growing up in a shantyboat, about killing trapped muskrats by hitting them on the wall, and shooting prowlers.

You can see her in one of our trailers: https://vimeo.com/265638839

maliciousrigger2 karma

What river has had the best flathead fishing so far?

wmodes2 karma

That's a question for shipmate Age. For most of us on the boat, we drop our line where the locals tell us and we eat whatever we pull up if it looks big enough.

TheIdiotPrince2 karma

When you run out of rivers to float on, have you ever thought of buying a liveaboard sailboat and just go about circumnavigating the globe?

wmodes2 karma

But yes we’ve totally thought of becoming loopers.

wmodes2 karma

“Run out of rivers”. That might take a minute.

2_bob_rocket2 karma

Why?

wmodes2 karma

Curious. Does it not have any resonance for you? If I heard about someone else doing this, I would shift my life around to make something like it possible.

2_bob_rocket2 karma

I will be the one asking the questions here

wmodes3 karma

Will you?

james-c-m-kim1 karma

This is so cool... How do you get electric power?

wmodes1 karma

We have a couple batteries for power charged by our motor when we are running.

When we are in marinas, we plug into shore power.

greenw40-4 karma

Why do so many middle class hipsters think they can enlighten people and fix the world by living like bums? And why do people give them money on kickstarter?

wmodes6 karma

Lol. Am I middle class? My salary as a university lecturer doesn't seem to indicate that. And am I a hipster at 53?

Or perhaps you are not talking about us, and you just want to ask a general question?

wmodes4 karma

But I was trainhopping and river rafting because I was poor, not because I wanted to slum it.

But I also recognize that as a white CIS male hetero American, I have a lot of privilege that allows us to "get away" with this kind of fun without undo harassment.