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.

10 of the world’s most unique vacation rentals

unique vacation rentalImagine sleeping in the renovated fuselage of a vintage 727 airplane in Costa Rica. Or how about feeding giraffes over the breakfast table at a castle in Kenya? These one-of-a-kind lodging experiences, and others, are available through online vacation rental websites like Airbnb, and often for less than the cost of a shoebox room in a budget hotel in downtown Manhattan.

Take, for example, the following sampling of Airbnb’s unique vacation rental listings:
  • Boot and Breakfast (pictured at right). A childhood tale comes to life in Tasman, New Zealand. $225/night.
  • Romantic Igloo. Temperatures in Igloo Village Krvavec in Slovenia hover around 0-5 degrees Celsius – perfect for cuddling. $189/night.
  • Alone on your own Fiji Island. Really get away by booking the private Fijian island of Nanuku. $350/night.
  • Ecopod Boutique Retreat. A low-carbon pod designed in partnership with Zendrome, Berlin, in the woods of Appin, United Kingdom. $241/night.
  • Aircamp Furillen. A vintage Airstream on tiny Furillen Island in Sweden. $204/night.
Airbnb also groups their most notable listings into fun collections, like “Trees and Zzz’s” for treehouse lodgings, “Grape Expectations” for wine country accommodations and “I’m On A Boat” for, well, boats.

For 10 of Airbnb’s most unique vacation rentals, check out the gallery below.

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Explore Lake Powell by houseboat this fall

When the Glen Canyon Dam was built back in 1966, it created Lake Powell, the second largest man-made lake in the United States behind Lake Mead. Covering more than 250 square miles in area, Lake Powell falls along the border of Utah and Arizona, a spectacularly beautiful region of the country that offers picturesque sandstone cliffs, winding canyons, and sun drenched vistas. It is truly an amazing natural setting that is best explored by boat, or better yet, by houseboat.

With the fall travel season just around the corner, Lake Powell Resorts and Marinas is giving travelers a chance to experience an interesting combination of luxury and adventure by discovering everything that the lake has to offer via a houseboat. Heading into their peak season, the resort is offering an unprecedented 40 percent off boat rentals when booked before Sept. 15th, which makes this trip as affordable as it has ever been.

Lake Powell has a lot to offer visitors, including hidden beaches, great fishing, kayaking and even hiking trails that will take you into the Pueblo cliff dwellings. You can be as active or lazy as you choose, while discovering everything that his aquatic playground has to offer. Best of all, the fall weather is generally very good, making this a great warm weather escape when the cooler temps set in.

The luxury houseboats have all the amenities you would expect, and more. For instance, they come with fully equipped kitchens, comfortably sleep 12, are fully stocked with plenty of towels and linens, and include deck chairs, and water slides. The top of the line models even have state rooms with queen sized beds, hot tubs, wide screen HDTV’s with satellite television, outdoor gas grills, and wine coolers as well. All the comforts of home, and then some.

To book one of these houseboats, and take advantage of these great discounts, click here. Then start planning your fall escape to an unexpectedly beautiful and comfortable destination.

Up the Seine Without a Paddle: Pros and Cons of Houseboating in Paris

Last year, weary from hostels and trains, I met my mother in Paris. Though we’re not ideal travel partners, she was footing the bill so I couldn’t refuse a stay aboard a houseboat on the Seine River that she had rented. It was impeccable–the summer home of a wealthy businessman and his gorgeous girlfriend–and though boats can be cramped and uncomfortable, this one was amazingly luxurious.

Here’s what’s great about staying on the Seine
: Though the boat was permanently moored, the location couldn’t have been better — we were right across from the Tuillerie Gardens. The boat itself was amazing. And we didn’t have to spend too much money on restaurants, since we had our own kitchen. Plus? The look on peoples faces on the tour boats as they motored by us–enjoying wine and good food on the top deck–was pretty priceless.

Here’s what’s not so great about staying on the Seine:
Said tour boats cruise the river all freaking night, using flood lights to illuminate the city and loudspeakers to explain what attractions are passing by. And the smell on the river was … um … ripe at times. The were also a group of people who actually lived under the stairwell near the boat, not to mention people fishing in the river constantly (and, if you’ve seen the Seine, you’ll know it is not a fishing river.) We feared the fishers were actually nearby restaurant owners, hence another reason to enjoy having a kitchen.

All in all, it’s a nice stay if you can get it. Though at 2000 EUR for a week, I’d be hostelling it if it wasn’t for mum.