On the water and off the grid

Anchors away
By ABIGAIL CROCKER  |  August 19, 2009

boat main

AFLOAT The makeshift yacht.

Olneyville neighbors Zach Weindel and Daniel Gladstone are determined to live off the grid — way off the grid.

Through with rent and utility payments — through with land-bound living itself — the pair is building a 25-by-40 foot experimental boat out of reused materials taken from old barns and a demolished World War II watch tower.

The half-catamaran, half-pontoon is tied up to a now out-of-use industrial dock at East Providence's Phillipsdale Landing off Warren Avenue. They hope to live in the vessel after they construct two bedroom chambers and a topside deck, eventually taking it on small sea trips leading up to the biggest sail: a trek across the Atlantic. A hot air balloonist, Weindel will rig nylon kite sails made out of used materials to the 10,000 pound boat.

"It's a shoot from the hip markup," said Weindel, of the dashed-together design, "a fully seaworthy trans-Atlantic vessel."

The boat (christened the Landlord Independent) is buoyant courtesy of plastic 55-gallon barrels donated by a local company. The pair have scrawled registration number on the boat in spray paint, to meet a legal requirement for any functioning watercraft, and the designers' handprints are molded into the bow of the boat.

The cement casing is rough around the edges and purposefully made to appear so, says Weindel. The pair hopes to create a spectacle and then motivate people to follow their lead.

"This is an example of how to turn gears in people," said Weindel.

The designers say the boat, fashioned out of wire mesh, hardware cloth, and polystyrene dock foam, has East Providence locals buzzing. Nearby mill workers visit the spectacle on their lunch break — mostly to size up the vessel and heckle the designers.

"They call it the S.S. No Float," said Weindel.

Weindel and Gladstone's plan is to use solar energy and produce from livestock onboard. The biggest item on their wish list: two dairy goats with life preservers. They envision dropping off the pets at Dirt Island, a bank of land on the Seekonk River, and then visiting them, jugs in hand, to milk them.

"Livestock on a boat is a funny thing," said Gladstone.

Weindel would also like to own ducks and thinks they could rig up nesting boxes in the hull of the ship to harvest their eggs.

Weindel will use both his and the pets' feces as manure, avoiding the gross factor with what he calls the "double separation method." The animals' manure would be composted for human crops; and in turn the human feces would farm the animal's food.

"A lot of people would say, that's gross, they're crazy. But it's not letting waste go to waste," said Weindel.

As artists used to scuttling from apartment to apartment every time a lease expired, the designers are tired of renting their own space. Maritime life, they say, offers a chance at home ownership. And home will be spacious: they estimate the boat's deck spans about an eighth of an acre.

An added bonus: sales tax is non-existent until they sell the watercraft. The only bill they paid for owning the craft is the annual $150 registration fee.

"A lot of folks on the water have a libertarian attitude," said Weindel. "I don't think people should be allowed on land, only animals."

  Topics: This Just In , East Providence, Abigail Crocker
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