Hockaday’s Boggsville Boatel was inspired by Nancy Boggs, a 19th-century madam, who was said to have run a floating brothel in the Willamette River in Portland, Oregon. Boggs was eventually found out by authorities, but as legend has it, instead of surrendering, she let her boat float away and then paddled off in a rowboat to find some tugboat captains willing to save her barge — we can only guess the boat full of prostitutes and spirits helped open their hearts.
The new iteration has also has generated its fair share of tell-tales. As we descended the subway, we were met by a pair of friends who managed to secure a boat for the night. The duo had no idea what to expect, but they relayed to us that the boat they originally rented had sunk days ago and they were a little uncertain about the safety of what was to come. When we asked Hocakaday about the sunken vessel, she laughed and assured us no boats have found their way to the bottom. Fact or fiction, it’s that bit of rogue adventure that would make Nancy Boggs proud.
But unlike its inspiration, Boggsville Boatel is not a business (amongst other things). The Boatel operates under a charter status, and is considered by the city strictly as an art project. The nightly rental fee that guests pay, which ranges from $50 to $100 depending on the boat, is billed as a donation. Flux Factory has also required that Boatel guests sign a liability waiver, and it is clear about risks like falling in the water. Thus far the project has not made in any money, and despite being constructed wholly from abandoned boats, found materials and with the help of friends and volunteers, Hockaday poured $2,000 of her own money into the project. The short term goal of the artist is to recoup her expenses, but beyond the exhibit, she sees a lot of potential in the idea. She, along with the owner of Marina 59, hope to transform the Boatel into a full-fledged business by next summer. But until the kinks are worked, once the exhibit closes, the boats will be pulled back to land.
The exhibit, which kicked off earlier this summer, runs through September and has been met with great reception. Every boat is booked up through the closing date, selling out within the first few weeks of being announced. But even if you’re part of the unlucky many who didn’t secure a barge of your own, you can still head down to the marina and enjoy the scene. Boggsville is open to visitors during its Boat-in movies, where guests can not only take in the various boat-centric movies, but go for a swim, throw a burger on the grill, and enjoy the night sky. Because if even just for one night, leaving what you know behind can be an amazing thing.
All Photos: © Michael DePasquale and Diane Pham for Inhabitat