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Boat punks in german magazine neon

The following is an article from the German Magazine NEON. I translated it with the help of Google translate, so it’s a bit rough around the edges, but I think it still conveys the story pretty well. It features many of the friends I was living with in Key West, some of which you may recognize from my blog posts about the Liquid Courage, and my recent trip to the Dry Tortugas.

All credit for this article goes to Ann-Kathrin and Charles Ommanney (and NEON magazine), I’m simply re-posting it in English so that others can read this great story about the Boat Punk movement. If you would like to find out more, check out the Boat Punk website, or join us in the sailing section of the StP forums to ask any questions and maybe even find other Boat Punks to go sailing with!

Anarchy Ahoy!
Text: Ann-Kathrin Eckardt Fotos: Charles Ommanney


As Tyler Bullock ten years ago moved on his own boat, he was a rarity among Florida’s retirees sail. Today there are hundreds like him.

Every day at 18 clock, when the sun slowly advances towards its demise at the southernmost tip of Florida, they swarm out – swanky yachts, venerable Two master and huge catamarans with country band and champagne on board. »Ladies and gentlemen, it’s time for a sunset cruise,” says the voice from the speakers. Welcome to Key West.

On the other hand, the exit Rocksteady begins with a warning from the captain: “Hey guys, as long as we are still sober, all listen up: The life jackets are down in the cabin, but unfortunately we have not for every one. The safety lines on deck missing, and the railing is broken here, so watch out! “Then the captain makes the lines go and grabs a can of beer. Aboard his twelve meters long Einmasters: six bottles of rum, sixty cans of beer, two dogs, two children and twelve friends. Some are punks, hippies some more, you che students doing an online study on the water. They are all known by the same term: “Boatpunks.”

In the U.S., Boatpunks have discovered the freedom of life on the water for themselves. With their boats they go to the riverbank and disused ports or simply drop anchor somewhere on the coast. The times when sailing was just a hobby for the rich are over.

When Tyler Bullock, the captain of Rocksteady, ten years ago, moved into his first sailboat, it was the age of 22 and at least as many tattoos an exotic creature under the tanned sails of Florida retirees. Today he will almost everywhere he casts anchor, like-minded people. Approximately 300 to 400 Boatpunks cruise now before around North and Central America.

Why? “Well, but look around,” says Tyler. Under the Rocksteady the Gulf of Mexico glistening in the evening sun. In the distance, two small islands rise like turtle shells from the turquoise water. A breeze blows across the harbor. The luxury yachts and cruise ships are close and yet at a safe distance – and with them the rest of America, or, as the Boatpunks say, “the system.”

“For me, the water is a place to which you can retreat when the Art is not clear how this world works.”


With their garbage out, scrap and driftwood built “swimming cities” propagated the artist swoon and a thirty-member crew that live on the water – here in 2008 on the Hudson River from New York.

So described Swoon, a New York artist, once the fascination of life on the water. With its cobbled-together from garbage, scrap metal and driftwood rafts, the multi-story 35-year-old and a thirty-member crew of fellow artists and dropouts propagated this life – 2006 on the Mississippi, 2008 on the Hudson River. A year later, the troops then sailed with her ”Swimming Cities” from Slovenia to Venice for the Biennale. Without invitation, of course.

The escape from the conventional way of life, it is also that drives the Boatpunks the water. Because with the way the world works, most came from Tyler’s friends who are on the Rocksteady that night, never really clear. Many of their stories are similar to that of Tyler. At fifteen he ran away from home, a small town in Idaho, dropped out of school, slept times with friends, sometimes on the nearest park bench, hitchhiked around the country and taking drugs – “out of boredom”. Since he was eighteen, he dreamed of a boat to sail around the world. Four years later, an Italian, took him and his girlfriend at the time on his sailboat to Colombia. Back, was a Swiss by Tyler Segelenthusiasmus so impressed that he gave him his need of renovation boat for $1000. From now on, everything turned into Tyler’s life to the electrical inside his boat, the keel right paint and repair the water pump on board. “I had no idea of sailing boats. I just knew that I had to fix quite a bit.”

After months in dry dock, the Rock Steady was ready for the water, for the great freedom. Since then, Tyler sailing between Florida, Haiti, Honduras, the Bahamas, Mexico, Belize and New York back and forth. He wants to break up with four friends in the direction of Cuba tomorrow.


Before going on to Cuba, the engine will have to be repaired first.

So why tonight this farewell cruise. Also, in order to test whether the engine work. They have fixed it in the afternoon for three hours. Rocksteady Tyler actually only spare boat. On his main boat, the En Cavale, a storm broke the mast. Before he can afford a new one, Tyler has to go only work part time again. Mostly, he earned his living as a Christmas tree salesman in New York and as an assistant to a research station in the Arctic. At least $ 2000, he will take for the repair – if he buys a new boat is not equal. Because boats are used in the U.S. currently as cheap as ever. Due to the ongoing economic crisis, many Americans can no longer afford expensive extras. For giveaway prices they sell their boats on the classifieds site Craigslist. In Florida marinas fill elderly and abandoned boats now all docks. You will be auctioned, sometimes even given away. The main thing, get rid of it.

The life on the water is much cheaper than on land – at least when the boat is not a hobby, but one main residence and place in the marina just anchored off the coast. With two or three months working in Tyler usually comes by. That makes his lifestyle attractive even in cities where rents have risen sharply in recent years. New York about with its insularity virtually pre ned for life on the water. Whether it Hudson River, East River and Jamaica Bay – here you will find what are generally in vain in New York are looking for: court. And silence.

Therefore, Duke Riley’s on the water as often as he can. About half a dozen kayaks, rowing, tubing and sailing boats he has hidden in New York’s waters. Long the 40-year-old tattoo artist has sublet his apartment in the Red Hook neighborhood and all lived on the water. “New York is an archipelago, located to the eight million people, but if you are traveling on the water, one encounters a soul. It feels as if 7,999,999 people decided to have, preferring to stay at home today. “Is correspondingly intense sensation when Duke embarks with his self-built boats or rafts on the water. Concerned New Yorkers then call the police. Puts them out, the conversation is always the same: “Sir, we have received 25 calls in the last twenty minutes. They may not be out here.”

“Why not? My boat has no engine, it is not subject to approval.”

“You should not be out here anyway.”

“But are not the same as must.”

Mostly, they then let him continue. On the water, it seems to state power and anarchists better tolerated than on land.

Even before there Boatpunks Key West and one of the largest of the U.S. Coast Guard in a peaceful neighborhood. “We are trying to keep us at the rules,” says Stacie Safford, 27, on board the Liquid Courage. Sometimes you do not succeed, especially the many falls with the tax on hard alcohol waiver – as the ship’s name suggests.

Trouble with the police and the Coast Guard, there are still rare. “For me, the Coast Guard is more of a fire. Who knows when we will again need their help,” says Ryan, 36, Stacie’s friend. Just recently, they have one of their friends dead fished out of the sea. How he died was not released.


When Ryan told of the accident, he takes Stacie in the arm. Three months ago, met the drummer in a punk band and the kayaking and climbing guide in the port of Key West. Stacie says it was love at first sight. Now they live together with their two dogs on Ryan’s eight-meter sailing boat – no shower, no fridge, no air conditioning. A green fan is the only remedy against the burning hot air that wafts through the small cabin in the summer.

Apart from the gas cooker is a full ashtray, dog hair sticking everywhere. To give the animals run, they both have the paddle in a kayak twenty minutes to land. The dinghy they needed five minutes, but the engine of the dinghy is just broken again. Nevertheless, Stacie says: “I am happy here.”


Later, at dinner on the boat of their neighbors – the sailing pensioners is indeed not a “Yardie” (sailors are moored in the harbor), but at least the owner of a well-maintained two-Masters – Stacie says of her former life in Los Angeles. It’s a convoluted Biography: only pink-black Haa acid, fifteen piercings and extract with sixteen. Then tions ti ve a lucrative job at a film company, a red Camaro sports car and a sports program.

“I never ge thought that once I am gone forth from LA,” she says. But in his early twenties she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Three times she was operated on, the cancer came back twice. On her hip she had a tattoo: “This too will pass” – and this will pass. After the last surgery four years ago, she decided that something had to change. She moved to Key West, the liberal town, the chickens roam free in the streets, took a job in a bakery and pure as a cook on a two master. Two years ago, she traded in her $ 1,000 rent rooms to a sailboat that they bought from their savings. “In the beginning, I often felt quite lonely, so alone on the water. Especially in the evening.” But now she has found many friends. And of course, Ryan.

Yet they live on their savings. Marry Ryan, Stacie is cooking, both read a lot. $ 300 more a month, they need not – together, including dog food. Formerly, Stacie shoes that cost twice as much. What is missing? “A bubble bath!” Stacie calls without thinking. After all, she has now found a shampoo that foams with salt water. Ryan says he lacked most of his band. Soon Stacie and Ryan want to sail to sam measures to Tonga. But first, Ryan must learn to sail.

This is extra ge from California to Key West Convention. Just as many others. Because Tyler Bullock received so many emails from friends of friends of friends who also wanted to learn sailing, he organized last year a sailing course for Boatpunks. Together with six other boats and their inhabitants he found on the Rio Dulce in Guatemala a safe place for the hurricane season. For two weeks, he and his friends took seventy beginners how to sail – and that not all “Yardies” are assholes. “I feel eventually realized that my peer group Punks either drug dependent or retiree are,” says Tyler. Since then he’s doing something for the propagation of its kind, the next sailing course in Puerto Rico is already planned. Tyler’s newest project: an information and exchange page.

He also advises newcomers on boat purchase. “Eleven feet is a good size. At best the boats after the hurricane season. And in the beginning I recommend a motor, for security.” Then you can maneuver easily when one is attacked by pirates. Tyler is also already happened before Haiti. A little later, right after the earthquake, he sailed yet again, with food for the victims.

[I hate to interrupt, but I believe the above should read "thirty-six feet is a good size", since eleven feet is way too small for anyone to live on. The original text probably said "eleven meters" which is approximately thirty-six feet. --Matt]

The next morning, the Rock Steady breaks up towards Cuba. 24 hours it will take for ninety miles – if all goes well and the wind blows.

Charles Ommanney swears that he did not even sweat in Africa such as he did in this report.

Ann-Kathrin Eckardt was glad that she had her bikini and could jump into the water at every opportunity.


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