Earlier this week, we were tempted to escape our landlocked lives and embrace the rent-stabilized world of boat living after learning about Hannes Bend, a self-professed "European artist and scholar" (and "being from the 1980s") who is renting out his sailboat, a 28' Triton Pearson, on Craigslist.
Bend promised in his listing that any potential tenants would only be responsible to pay for docking fees—meaning your rent would come out to be under $1,000/month to live in most NYC or NJ harbors (and could be as low as $300/month if you docked in Kings Plaza Marina in Brooklyn!). He did add that he would want to "sometimes stay aboard as well when in the city (few days a month)," so we emailed Bend to better get to know him, find out what the advantages are to embracing off-shore living, and learn how he was seaduced by a life less anchored.
Have you lived on the boat before in NYC? Yes, I lived on a boat of a friend, and also have a sailboat in Portland. I have been working and commuting bi-coastal the past years while researching at the Institute of Neuroscience at the University of Oregon and also working on art/science/mindfulness projects in NYC.
When did you first start living on boats? In between travels, living aboard has provided me with necessary aquatic mini-vacations. Nothing compares to the in-sync movement of earth, ocean, waves and moon (and maybe other planets) rocking me asleep after travels or screen-staring for work. Maybe my viking ancestors influenced my aquatic affinity. I grew up at the Trondheim Fjord and at the Baltic Sea near Luebeck, a Hanseatic capital. And with a team from other research universities, I also develop a functional solution for an artificial reef atop an ecological catastrophe in the Atlantic Ocean (www.reefrecreation.org).
Have you rented the boat out before? The boat in Portland has been well surfed on the past year. Anybody can send a request on the Couchsurfing website. I also offered it on paid websites but gave preference to 'surfers' first. I love and practice the sharing economy. This is also one of the best parts. I for instance met my friend Amol through his last minute hosting request. We shared parts of the boat and he happened to be a VR developer. So we started working together—from wave to virtual reality.
How come you didn't want to ask for any money beyond the docking fees? What would you say is the best selling point about living on a boat? And are there any particular boat-centric problems that people should know about? Life is such a hustle for survival, to rent tiny boxes for a lot of living time, in NYC. It seems everybody's choice to accept this self stress-induced lifestyle. Living aboard is far less pricey, provides a space by oneself (or shared) at the waterfront with fantastic sky(line), sunsets and stress-reduction.
I also find claiming ownership over the earth and territorial behavior absurd and the effects harmful. Options are to anchor for free in certain areas, or to pay mooring or docking. The fees vary for the areas. City Island has good seasonal deals for both (my friend Alan and the City Island Yacht Club have a nice set-up). Some docking (a slip at a dock) only allow sleeping three nights per week, but enable electricity and water access. Mooring requires to have a dinghy (small boat) to access the anchored boat in the river near the marina, while still being able to use its facility. A working toilet, solar panels and wind turbines are good to have when anchored.
Have you had a lot of people emailing/interested in the deal? Yes, a lot. Many every day. So far a jester of weddings, a magician, an improv dating consultant looking for a new place after a breakup, a 'Berner' campaigner, a few stoned people calling in the middle of the day reporting a fundamental change for suddenly envisioned aquatic life plans, a writer seeking sea solitude, a former Navy and many more. Some people are actually following through, and for some it remains a visualization. I like to trust people, and some call with skepticism if this is real. Kind of starting in the wrong direction. Similar to dating apps when a 'match' prefers to not share information - while the site sells the personal data in the meantime en masse. Trust in presence and people is really important for me, and part of sharing a space safely and for fun living first of all.
Are you worried at all that the requisite that you be able to stay on the boat every once in a while might turn some people away? Everybody seemed fine with me aboard sometimes. The boat is big enough. I am quiet apart from daily splashes into the river. I practice the Wim Hof Method with cold immersions and swam in NY and Oregon rivers all winter—highly recommendable for health and happiness. Just a few weeks ago a large sea lion seemed shocked while encountering me in the water next to boat.
Where would you recommend that they dock the boat in the city? For boat locations I suggest anchoring as communal interventions in front of the Wiliamsburg waterfront by forming a (heart shaped?) unity of beautiful boats and shared spaces. The presence would be a neat complementary to the aesthetically invasive skylines of the new box (condo) buildings. Let's throw fear overboard, maybe a good suggestion anyway.
Another tip is to dock at marinas near Liberty State Park in NJ. Enchanting view on land- and seascape, statue and city—close-by and far away enough. In general, it is good is to have done a bit of research where to sail and what to do realistically with the boat, to be self-organized and sharing.
What's your contact info for people interested in the boat? Hannesbend@gmail.com. I also offer the boat on the sharing platforms OurGoods.org and Couchsurfing.com. Please also come by to an island event series for the Meditation Summer on Governor's Island. Maybe soon another docking option. The estuary around Manhattan is habitat for one of the most biodiverse aquatic areas of the planet. We can all contribute to its flourishing by by (e)limi(na)ting waste. Especially ecologically considerate behavior is so important and little emphasized in the city. Who wants to have a crown of plastic after a dive? Currently very likely the way the river looks. We probably prefer and wish to swim alongside manta rays, dolphins and whales as conscious companions in the further future.