Frequently Asked Questions
Our original budget for the project was $17954. Due to some generous donations of equipment, time, and resources, we've been able to reduce that to somewhere in the neighborhood of $5000. The Kickstarter funds will pay for final outfitting of the shantyboat, transportation (i.e. gas for the truck), supplies, gas for the boat, food, audio/video equipment, and paying the artists.Last updated:
Mid-June into August.Last updated:
Between journeys the shantyboat serves as the project archive and library. For the following year, I will be compiling the Secret History archive into various forms, videos, web pages, and new media. In subsequent years, I hope to take the Shantyboat and compile further archives on other rivers, the Tennessee, the Ohio, the Arkansas Rivers and so.Last updated:
Thanks! That's a sweet thought. Besides donating, it's also helpful to share the Kickstarter around.
What we're most excited about, though, are connections that people have. We're looking to get in contact with folks who have history with the upper Mississippi, from living in the area, having studied its history or ecology, working on neat projects there, etc. We have a few meetings scheduled with researchers along our trip, but we're excited to meet more people with roots in the area. So if you know any of those folks, or know people who know any of those folks, or ARE one of those folks, we'd love to hear from them/you.Last updated:
How are you going to transport the boat out there? Putting it on a trailer and braving the freeways and the rocky mountains sounds like a scarier adventure than just floating down the river!
We're towing the boat across country. We built the boat ON its trailer, so that part is done. The boat took a test drive last week, and it made it down the windy mountain road and back up again to the boatyard. Honestly, getting it out there DOES seem like the scary part.Last updated:
The shantyboat was inspired by barge-bottom houseboat designs that have been being used for at least 200 years. But the plans for the hull came from a designer who created them in the 70s using newer tech. So the hull is plywood covered with fiberglass.
Check out some of the shantyboats here, you'll see a lot that look like ours.
When I started creating the shantyboat, I started a build blog. It details every painful step of the process, every dumb mistake I learned from, the sweltering days working on the boat, the do-overs, the successes, and so on.
So that will give you some fuel for your own shantyboat dreams.Last updated:
We're a pretty self sufficient bunch. I have experience with first aid type stuff- stabilizing people in bad situations and fixing people up in less urgent situations. I also have a lot of experience using medicinal plants for things like viruses and minor infections, so we're pretty well covered for the small stuff.
Doing something like this does of course involve some risk of bigger disaster, but so does driving to the coffee shop in the morning. I can imagine one of us bonking our heads, getting bitten by a snake, or getting a bad cut, but in that unlikely situation I think we're not much more in danger than normal. We'll often have cell service and other boat folk have always been friendly and helpful on our other river trips.
And yes, the dog has a lifevest tooLast updated:
Do you ever get bored? How do you deal with being on a small raft all the time? What kinds of things are fun on a houseboat?
I think this question is really central to my experience. I don't get bored easily and I generally keep very busy. This was our intention from our first rafting trip: "This is not white water rafting. We're talking rivers with class zero rapids. A floating river. A lazy hot summer day eating found apples sort of river. These adventures remain low on specifics, high on general concept, mood, and emotion. Part of an experiment and a belief in the power of boredom to inspire."
I think with all the river things (navigating, avoiding hazards, staying afloat), networking things (sending drunk postcards back home, keeping in touch with contacts, planning our next visit), project things (cataloging media, editing video and audio, social media updates), interpersonal things (arguing, negotiating, giving space on a 8'x20' boat) I don't think the challenge will be being bored, but finding time to make space for boredom.Last updated:
Since coast-to-coast railroads and highways, the towns and cities of America have turned their backs on the river. The rivers are neglected and forlorn, shoved behind levees. This sense of rediscovery is the fuel for this journey.
These shantyboats were a seasonal thing for a lot of people. They would farm summer and autumn, hunt and log during the early winter, then build a shantyboat, fill it with bounty, and float downriver to sell their wares and the timber that made up the boat.
When you float down the river, you travel backward in time into the 19th century when rivers were the principle way to move goods and services and people.Last updated:
Did we ever. We used a lot of salvaged materials for the boat, so that meant trips to the dump and scavenging the trash bins in our area, as well as taking hauling jobs on Craigslist. We disassembled a chicken coop made from 100 year old oldgrowth redwood, and it struck me how much our values have changed over time. Back then redwood was just a cheap building material, since there were so many trees in this area. These people built a chicken coop with trees that were thousands of years old. Now oldgrowth redwood is a premium supply, although we still use it. It's weird to me how there are these hidden pockets of history in our backyards. That chicken coop was just a falling down outbuilding someone didn't want any more, but gave us a little window into the past for our area.
My favorite salvage adventure was pretty recent though; I found a washed up boat and we salvaged cleats and other miscellaneous hardware. It's a little surreal to crawl up and then into this boat crashed up on shore, half filled with water. There were photos and books and clothes scattered around, like the boat was just lost in a storm. Clearly it had been there a while, but no one had come to take it back. We took some footage of it you can see in our video.Last updated:
I think the big thing that people said to us when we were on the Missouri River (and a few other rivers) was: "Oh, I've always wanted to do that." Or "We totally did that when we were kids." If you live near a big river, I think it gets woven into your DNA. You grow up thinking Huck Finn thoughts. So when people saw us on our weird crafts, it already resonated with them.
Huckleberry Finn plays a big part in this journey, one of those books I read in 5th grade that permanently altered me. That and Kon Tiki ensured that I'd spend my entire life looking for opportunities to live on a raft.Last updated:
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