Rafting Up

Titan, rafted

Hauling lines to secure a new boatRafting up turned out to be remarkably straightforward. We overnighted anchored with another houseboat (“Glow Lounge”) about 500’ from the initial three Dromhaven boats, and gave them a call in the morning (“Prepare to be boarded!”). Glow Lounge peeled off and rafted up on the windward side of the cluster; we pulled up our two anchors and glided uneventfully into position on the leeward side five minutes later. Crasch, Tanya and Anton grabbed and secured the lines – the whole thing was freakishly uneventful.

That was this morning; it’s now late afternoon, trailing off a day of lazy exploration and socializing. So it’s probably a good time for a little context about our part in the Ephemerisle. We’re historically the family boat – a.k.a. “Breeder Reactor”. This year, those who have found themselves in the position of organizing the raft-up have decided that we’re going to try to coalesce the boats into a series of islands, each of which will have a self-appointed “admiral” (see previous post about the need for a centralized authority, even in explicitly self-organized gatherings like this). Then, in the spirit of its Seasteading origins, boats can decide which island they want to attach to, voting with their feet. Er, flippers.

We (by which I mean I – again, see previous post) have elected to raft up with Dromhaven, the “quiet island”, headed up by long-time Ephemerislander Chris Rasch. So far, the other main island that has emerged is Titan, where the more hardcore pump-up-the-beat party boats are gathering.

barry facepaintOn our boat we’ve got the four Cohns, and Barry from the South Pole. Karen and her daughter, who we quite literally picked up on the water last year are joining us in full this year, and my longlonglongtime friend Lorien and daughter Cymbre. Barry – by coincidence, has known Lorien even longer than I have; and Karen has worked on one of the Antarctic icebreakers. We’re all about coincidences here. Anyhow -Daniel will also be coming some time today, to round out the crew. In theory, these boats sleep 13-15, but we’ve decided that putting up with a slightly higher per-person daily cost more than makes up for not having to cram two people into every nominally “double” bunk and wait in line for the bathroom.

A lot of Ephemerisle borrows ideas from Burning Man: that weird mix of self-sufficiency and interdependence. Theme camps and the “gift economy” – your boat brings activities, things to share with others. Us? We’re spreading the joy of small children. No, just kidding. We’ve brought water rockets, guitar, face paints and board games. Not quite so ambitious as the chocolate mustaches, underwater light shows or floating discos that boats like Bayesian Conspiracy, Numenor and the Mary Ellen Carter (Stan Rogers fans smirk and rejoice) brought last year, but we’re parents – we’re tired already, okay?

Not a shade structureAnyhow, this year promises to be interesting in a few new ways. The festival, like many things that work until they suddenly don’t, has been growing and evolving. There’s been a lot of more publicity about this year’s gathering, so there’ll probably be a lot more random strangers who just come out to see what it’s about. In years past, we had folks who managed to hitch a ride out, but hadn’t really thought about getting back, and found themselves begging about for dinner and a place to sleep for the night. A few folks started renting speedboats to shuttle people from the marinas, and some wouldn’t take passengers withouth confirmation they had a berth for the night. We’ve had folks who figured that this was another random party where they could drink heavily and indulge in experimental substances. Guess what – being heavily inebriated on a loosely-connected set of bobbing houseboats at night turns out not to be a good idea. People started talking about immigration policies, tickets and wristbands, but in the end, we just relied on giving people “common sense” briefings and keeping an eye out for each other. This year? Who knows.

ArtBut that all tends to reach crescendo on the weekend, especially Saturday night. Today, Thursday, things are still mellow. Folks are mostly wandering boat to boat, reintroducing themselves to old friends, making new ones. Art is being put together and lifted up onto the roofs. Faces and feet are being painted. In fact, I’ve mis-spoken about not having brought anything to give: Cymbre’s remarkable face paintings have made Breeder a bit of a surprise social hub. She’s painted sunrises, unicorns, glittering silver moonscapes, spider webs and Seuss-worthy creatures on the cheeks of any passerby brave and willing enough to sit still for her. And there have been other surprises, too, all good so far. The Vogon poetry slam and impromptu pie-fest on Mostly Harmless. Pets – two dogs and a parrot over on Titan, and those improbable small world connections and reactions that seem to happen anytime you get a sufficiently large number of sufficiently interesting people together in a sufficiently interesting setting. And this is, indisputably, an interesting setting.

Cymbre, meet cupcake

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