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Dave and Anke
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Friday, August 26, 2016

Shanty-, House-, Boat: What's in a Name?

Think like a Bureaucrat...
Can you find all the things wrong in this picture?

(See end of post for answers!)
Blockprint by Harlan Hubbard

If ya can't hide it, decorate it.

-- Robin Hiersche, BBW

Shanty-, House-, Boat: What's in a Name?

Chances are that you, like me, look at the above scene and see a happy, thriving water community squeezed in the margins of the 'normal, productive society' topping the banks. When this was carved, that's exactly what it was.

But Concerned Citizens  and Bureaucrats (CC/Bs) see a sinister encroachment on their jurisdiction/privileges that is simply intolerable. They once thought of us merely as lazy ne'er-do-wells, but nowadays consider us to be full on parasites, criminals and detriments to property value. Maybe even Terrorists. Maybe, even...


Unless we're willing and able to spend our lives in hostile meetings and offices... unless we can live with frequent run-ins with Authority... unless we're willing to be moved along at (holstered) gun-point... unless we're willing to live with the chance of legal proceedings of condemnation and confiscation....

We've got to be wiley.

What follows, here, are some thoughts on strategies for avoiding pushing a Concerned Citizen's buttons. Setting in motion a Bureaucratic avalanche. Triggering the chase reflex of Busybodies and Authorities.

Musings, only. None of this is in the least intended to derogate anyone or their boats. Personally, my tastes run in almost perfect inverse to the 'standards' of Society! In those lovely backwaters where folks can still get away with being, in large part, themselves, I bid all power to the people.


Despite the rather resentful flavor of this rant, I tend to like and get along with the persons I'm calling CC/Bs.

It helps to remember that they are just folks - often frustrated by dreams they've felt compelled to ditch along the way and lives they've chosen. Given a chance, they can very often be won over. Often, they become surprise allies!

Smile - A sincere smile goes a long way toward disarming a hostile approach.

Be relaxed and friendly - What have we got to lose? Belly bumping and shouting harden lines of opposition. Escalation isn't  in our interest.

Be hospitable - To offer a cup o' kindness - whether or not it is accepted, evokes a powerful, positive feeling of graciousness.

Seek common ground
- Getting to 'yes' is our goal, and common ground helps us forward.

Don't volunteer problems - We may be concerned that they think thus-and-so, but let them raise the subject. No need to drop problems into their minds.

Don't show fear or submission - Both arouse the Bully within.

Bottom line, treat CC/Bs with friendly and consistent courtesy, regardless of their attitude, and don't sell yourself short. I've seen a LOT of the other kinds of interaction go south in short order. Most of those didn't go well for our side.

Looks Can Be Deceiving

CC/Bs seem prone to love- or hate-at-first sight. We want to tip the balance in our favor, insofar as possible, or at least prevent a capsize the other way.

Note that none of these strategies actually imply what they suggest. They're more like camouflage, really.

Tidiness suggests responsibility. The first thing to set a CC/B on the warpath is a mess of any description. Trash, clutter,  loose tarp. Anything. Keeping it tidy is an investment in conflict avoidance.

Paint and trim suggest pride. There's a fine line between 'run-down' and 'quaint'. Neither are ideal, as they both attract attention. But since attention can't be avoided, we hope for the latter.

Visible safety gear suggests sea-worthiness and responsibility. .Running lights, anchor gear, PFDs, etc. all telegraph that you won't have to be bailed out by the tax-payer.

A visible motor or sailing rig (propulsion) suggests movement and transience. We aren't a fixture. At worst we represent a temporary problem. Maybe we'll move along on our own, with no action 'required'.

What's in a Name?

Is there a functional difference between a shantyboat, a houseboat and a (liveaboard) boat (aka vessel)?

The distinction is at best fuzzy, and to my mind moot. The name reflects the romantic relationship one has with their vessel, more than any fundamental difference. I think of our own homes as in all three terms,  depending on mood and context. At most, any distinctions involve very fuzzy thresholds.

But to the CC/B , the distinctions are stark and have legal and procedural teeth.

Shanties - whether by land or sea - are seen as dwellings on 'the wrong side of the tracks'. Derelict by definition. A problem to solve. (Con)Damnible.

Houses - whether by land or sea - have a measure of respectability. They have an address. Valuation. Standing. CC/Bs generally live in one themselves, and aspire to own one or more. Just changing the label on a structure can afford a false sense of affinity.

Houseboats are an actual legal category; a box on the registration form! If you have any choice, 'tis better to live aboard a boat than a houseboat. Houseboats suggest living aboard, a not always licit activity. They're often restricted in number and location, if not forbidden outright.

Note that CC/Bs are often hypocritically associated with shanty- and houseboats of their own. A retreat, if you will, from the rigors of eradicating vermin. If sufficiently quaint or kempt and floating properly in a marina or alongside sufficiently privileged private property, or even in selective, look-the-other-way playgrounds, no problem.

, too, are a legal category, but as yet the least encumbered. All kinds of boats are necessary to the comfort and reward of CC/Bs. In all the confusion, they haven't fully gotten around to sifting what they see as wheat from chaff. But they're working on it.

There is a gradient, merely in the name, as to the response you receive. Try it out in coffeshop conversation, some time. Talk about a water community using the different terms, and observe the body language. Do shoulders tighten? Faces flush? Nostrils flare? Breathing become shallow and uneven? Does using a different term sooth the beast?

Of course, there's nothing to stop us from using our favored term among ourselves. But in these troubled times, strategies of duck, weave and cover can help keep us on the water in the face of bureaucratic blight.

A rose is a rose is a rose, and by any other name smells as sweet.

What the Concerned Citizen and Bureaucrat See


  1. But Shanty boat has such a romantic feel to it -to me at least. Of course, I'm not exactly a "normal" citizen.

    Ran into a lot of that attitude in FL. However, there are still plenty of places left for the less than solid citizen.

    You really hit the nail on the head. Working motors, sails, lights and safety gear go a long long ways. Besides, you kinda want those things anyway. (*with the possible exception of a motor)

    1. Hi Sixbears,

      I'm with ya, Brother! Shanty's are my kinda home.

      Fortunately, there is a LOT of coastline in N.America which is scantily regulated and/or enforced. Mostly, it's a matter of staying out of those places where productive, upstanding citizenry holds sway.

      I suppose a dark upside of wealth inequality is that the tide is turning in our favor as the middle class precipitates down from the golden surface to where us bottom-feeders thrive. Our numbers are increasing! 8)

      Dave Z

  2. As I write this I'm contemplating my new 'deadline' of September 15th to get Autarkia out of the driveway. I'm hoping I can bargain more time with the city. I'll try and dial up the charm if I can :-)

    1. Yikes! Fortunately, you are storming along, progress-wise.

      In terms of charm, I find it's often good tactics to put our best face forward. To whit, that of our lovely partners! Amazing what a pretty face can do to soften stern authority.

      I often watch the transition from combative to down-right chatty come over a CC/B once Anke joins the conversation. 8) Usually a good time for me to take a step back.

      Dave Z

  3. Amen, brother. One analysts simple freedom formula, after studying the survival strategies of vagabonds like the gypsys and others, was F = A + M (freedom equals anonymity plus mobility). Simplistic but pretty dead-on.

    When we launched our plywood 37 foot mock Kling-On Battlecruiser motor shantyboat-shorey we anchored up in about 2 feet of water on a sandy flat in front of a condo complex (next to my mothers modest concrete block house) in northwest Florida. As we waded ashore a lady from the condos came out to ask us how long we intended to stay since she had paid big money for the view over the bay. Unlike your probably much more effective strategy we told her Florida law allowed us to stay 6 weeks in one spot then we could move 100 feet away and stay another 6 weeks and her face dropped. Of course we had no intention of staying that long but it chapped our butts to be affronted and if we had true Kling-On phasers aboard we'd have leveled her condo in truly equitable fashion. I understand Florida has closed the loopholes regarding the dreaded underclass of hippie anarchist boat scum now but that's progress, mate! Count your lucky stars you have such a huge, unpopulated archipelago to live out your elder years in without bother (short of a horde of cam-laden mini-drones buzzing about).

  4. Hi Robert,

    F = A + M... LOVE IT!

    One of the problems that confrontation presents for our side is that we often 'win the battle but lose the war'. That we (correctly) point out that there is no law against (and in fact a right) to this or that often galvanizes the affronted CC into action. Then there IS a law.

    With luck and patience, we may find ways to co-exist without stimulating their urge to close the loopholes.

    We're given enough rope... can sailors handle it? 8)

    Dave Z

  5. I normally say I am building a sailboat, then if the person is interested in the actual craft, I clarify that it is a sailing barge, and go into the why's and benefits. The important thing is that it's bonafide as a boat that sails is indisputable.

    1. Hi Dennis,

      Funny enough, making an historical connection (as to historical sailing vessels or barges) seems to engage another part of CC brains. They become distracted by their own memories and associations and calm noticeably. Often, a good conversation proceeds from there!

      We're funny monkeys.

      Dave Z

    2. The posts you have made regarding square boat history are a wealth of information for this defence. I like to bring up facts about this being a traditional type of boat, just no longer commonly produced. Maybe a tag on the posts that discuss the ancestor designs for easy reference, although that would wait until mid winter and nice fire before having that much time to go back and add the labels

    3. Thanks for the suggestion! I'll add a History label when I get the chance.

      Alas, it may be a while before I can go back and re-tag old posts. Winter, time and a nice fire are all coming, but not too sure about internet access. 8/

      Dave Z

  6. "What's that?" It's my boat. It's a modified Thames Sailing Barge.

    1. Y'don't say? 'Ear that, Maggie? 'E says its a bloomin' Thammie!


      Dave Z

  7. Slowly the CC is being pushed into the sea in order to find freedom of "B" and to live a simple life..
    Instead of making a boat l would recycle a boat.. With the downward economic spiral many owners have given up their toys or just gave them away..
    My main features l look for in a boat is draft, HR, cost and displacement..
    On ebay someone gave there sailboat away for a tax deduction.. These chartiable foundations often auction off this free boats for next to nothing..
    l saw a 25' Catalina CB go for $134.. Has 2'draft, popup with 6'2HR, Bal/Displ 42% and displ 4500lbs.. Came with sails and 7.5hp running motor..
    Could anchor in the fresh water St.John River, Fl or to reduce "B" even more sail to Lake Isabel, Guatemala

    1. Hi Tim,

      Bob W over at Volkscruiser (linked on side bar) totally agrees!

      Dave Z

  8. Hi Dave,
    l can think of 25 different sailboats that have a draft of less then 3'.. Draft is very important to find many hidden anchorage and escape the Gustopo "B".. Many sailboats with only 2' draft but 6'HR.. The 25' Ericson is good example with 6'HR and Bal/Displ 49%..
    The Buccaneer 285 CC with 2.5'draft and aft cabin make a good shanty..
    l would add a 30" swim platform for easy entry and extra motor..James Baldwin is correct the motor n fuel don't belong in the cabin..
    You can make a 4 stroke outboard for almost nothing using OMC outdrive and 12.5hp riding lawnmower motor that has starter, alternator just add motorcycle muffler and Kalcker Reactor to save 6x the fuel..
    Or just burn wood in the motor
    With the motor gone have room for more free batteries recycled using baking soda to clean them then add Alum for an acid..
    You can also use a Ritalie Radiant Charger that charges the batteries faster with no heat..

    l have seen many deals on ebay where you can sell the noisy, expensive,smelly diesel inboard for the cost of the purchase price resulting in a Free shanty boat..
    Most people are looking for big heavy boats which is good for me because l want just 6'HR and low displ using a more efficient lower cost DIY outboard..

    Most cruising people admit that the boat sits 90% of the time and motors 75% of the time.. Sailing is just a fun thing to do and offers a smooth canoe shape WL that can get up to hull speed with a small efficient outboard motor..

    l would never pay more the $2000 for a boat.. For $10k you can buy a boarding house in Davao and retire.. l'm living proof of it paying no taxes or Obozocare..

    Nixon said it best during the Vietnam War.. "Amerika(Zionist "K")Love it or Leave it"