A Night Aboard ‘Ms. Nancy Boggs’ At Far Rockaway’s Boatel

It was like stepping onto the set of a horror film. An array of dusty knick-knacks lined the shelves, ranging from empty glass bottles to vintage photographs and eyeless doll heads. Torn pantyhose, some colored red, were strewn up as curtains. In the closet, there was a musty aroma and a pile of something furry.

This would be our home for the evening.

We were onboard “Ms. Nancy Boggs,” a 1967 Drift-R houseboat that had been outfitted as part of the Boatel floating hotel project at Marina 59 in Far Rockaway, Queens, just an hour from downtown New York City. Described as an “interactive art and sound installation,” the Boatel consists of 16 themed houseboats, clustered around a central dock that functions as an outdoor kitchen and common space. “Bad Irene” combines futuristic décor with Bollywood kitsch; “Sweet Annisa” sports a red vinyl interior said to have been designed for West Indian drug lords; and “Americano” was built for a weekend bender with Vanilla Ice, Richard Pryor and Neil Patrick Harris. Personality? This place has plenty.

boatel

Our adventure had begun earlier in the day, on the A train from Manhattan. Boatel’s website had advised us to come “adventure-ready,” so our overnight bags were stuffed accordingly: bug spray, sunscreen, sleeping bags, booze and an assortment of costume apparel left over from last year’s trip to Burning Man.

By the time we arrived at Marina 59, the sun had already fallen. A few grizzled sailors manned the entrance to the Boatel, swilling Coors Light on plastic chairs. When we inquired about our night’s accommodations, a fairy-like blonde appeared with directions to our boat and an invitation to return if we wanted sheets.

The dock had seen better days, and its panels groaned under our weight. After unloading our gear onto Nancy and gaping at her oddities with a mix of whimsy, curiosity and fear, we poured ourselves a drink and ventured out to explore our surroundings.

First stop was the convenience store next door, where we were instantly reminded that we weren’t in a nautical Never-Never Land, but rather smack in the middle of one of Queens’ rougher neighborhoods. The cashiers seemed used to drop-in hippies from the Marina, though, and they laughed at our tie-dye and face paint.

Back in the Marina, we dropped by a shipping-container-turned-art-studio, filled with paintings that were colorful but angry, and filled with sexual symbolism. A pillow and yoga mat lay in the corner, as evidence of artistic commitment.

Walking back to the boat, we encountered two goats that seemed perfectly at home in the middle of a parking lot in a dilapidated marina in Queens. This would be an interesting night.

Back on the dock, a lecture was in progress. In addition to houseboat accommodations, Boatel also offers a variety of community programming, including lectures, live music and a “Floating Cinema” featuring screenings of nautical classics like “Treasure Island” and “20,000 Leagues Under The Sea.” Two-thirds of the way through, the lecture was interrupted by a theatrical play on a shark attack, complete with splashing kayakers and projected images of sharp teeth.

Post-lecture, we barbequed, drank and relaxed on the pier. Between the softly lapping waves and surreal surroundings, it was easy to escape the pulsating energy of the city we’d left just a few hours earlier. Conversation jumped from topic to esoteric topic, and laughter echoed in the air. No one checked their smartphones. Somewhere between late evening and early morning, we slipped into deep sleeps, aided by Nancy’s gentle rocking.

Morning came, and intense sunlight woke us long before we were ready. As my eyes fluttered open, I took in the surroundings: the glinting glass bottles, the vintage photographs. The light was soft streaming in through the pantyhose. Even the doll heads didn’t look so creepy in the light of day.

Stepping off the boat, we greeted the friends we’d made the previous evening and began to prepare a light breakfast. But soon, the morning calm was interrupted by a band of police inspectors, who stopped at each boat to inquire about the Boatel’s safety practices. Despite my initial reservations the night before, I now felt affectionate toward the Boatel, even a bit defensive of the otherworldly atmosphere the artists and organizers had managed to create. The Boatel is no luxury “I’m On A Boat” experience, but it is certainly something special, and we shared as much with our interrogators. Then, with one last look back at the dock, the goats and Ms. Nancy Boggs, we braced ourselves to reenter the real world.

The Boatel is located at Marina 59 in Far Rockaway, Queens, just off the A subway stop at Beach 60th Street. Rooms are available from Wednesday to Sunday until November 1, with rates starting from $55/night.

Would You Sleep In A 300-Year-Old Ceibo Tree In The Galapagos Islands?

cave On San Cristobal in the Galapagos Islands, you can find a unique accommodation that is part treehouse, part underground cave. Known as El Ceibo, the property is located in the El Progreso neighborhood and features the largest tree on the entire island at 48 feet high. Moreover, at $20 a night, it’s also one of the best deals in town.

Ceibo is actually the name of a tree, and there are only three of the species on the island. While this particular tree is 300 years old, the cabins were added 22 years ago, with the bar and restaurant addition being only 15 years old. An overarching theme in the Galapagos Islands is ecotourism, and El Ceibo compliments this with the walls of the bar being made of thousands of recycled glass beer bottles. In the yard, you’ll find metal and stone statues, hammocks and tropical plants.

The treehouse accommodation has a surprisingly cozy atmosphere. There’s a small kitchen and bathroom, as well as a loft where the bed is. You can choose from an array of entry and exit methods, like a precarious swinging bridge and ladder, ropes or a fireman’s pole.

The cave is less comfortable, but surprisingly nice for being made at the bottom of a tree. You enter through the tree trunk and go down a steep ladder (shown above). The room has a bit of a musty feel, and the kiddie-sized toilet will make you laugh. The bed, however, is pretty comfortable. Likewise, some wall art and a vase of fake flowers help to add a kind of homey ambiance to the room.

The price is $20 per night to sleep in the treehouse or cave, or $5 to camp. If you’d like to just explore the property, the price is $1.

Introducing The Swagon, Australia’s New Take On Glamping

swagonWe’ve all seen the pimped-out safari tents and palace-style camping retreats used for glamping; however, Gawler Ranges Wildness Safaris has taken luxurious camping to the next level with the introduction of the Swagon. The 100-year-old, Aussie-style wagon is “part swag, part wagon.” And for those who don’t know, swag refers to a queen-sized double mattress, used for extra comfort when roughing it in the Outback of South Australia.

Also known as the “Galaxy Suite,” the Swagon features a private shower and toilet, as well as a bed canopied by canvas to pull back for stargazing. Glampers won’t even need to cook, as meals are served at the camp’s outdoor dining room with complimentary drinks.

“The Swagon was built to offer single travellers accommodation without a single supplement. The tents have two bedrooms, so a single person could displace four people,” explains Geoff Scholz, Director of Gawler Ranges Wilderness Safaris. “The wagon was in a dilapidated state parked in the bush, covered in rusty wire when I noticed it and saw the potential to achieve what I wanted. A Swag in a wagon? Yep, Swagon.”

Swagons can be found at Kangaluna Camp, a small wilderness campground on the Eyre Peninsula. Surrounded by salt lakes, volcanic rock and wildlife, the area makes for an excellent destination to get in touch with nature and sleep under the stars.

The future of camping: portable floating tents

treehouse tent For rustic travelers who can’t decide if they’d rather sleep in a tent, a hammock or a treehouse, Tentsile has a product for you. Their portable and floating “tentsile” relieves campers of problems like sleeping on pebbles and wet ground or waking up to creepy crawlers squirming in their stuff. According to the website, you’ll also be able to safely avoid flooding, earthquakes and sandstorms. Best of all, you get the unique experience of hanging from a tree like a spider monkey. Can you get any closer to nature than that?

To set it up, the tentsile should be attached to three trees. I’m not quite sure how you get it up there, but hopefully you’ve been practicing those spider monkey skills. Once it is successfully constructed you can expect a restful sleep. Because the tentsile uses tension forces and not poles, “the most comfortable and flexible range of accommodation can be achieved.” Additionally, eco-travelers will love that the product leaves a minimal carbon footprint.

For more information, visit the Tentsile website.