One of my favorite things about New York is the waterfront. As a tour guide, I pound pavement and strut the streets, but getting onto the water, with the Harbor breeze in my hair and the salt spray in my nostrils, thats the stuff. So when I heard about participating in The Battle For Mau Mau Island, two weekends ago, I couldn’t say no.
Last summer Flux Factory, an art collective based in Long Island City, organized a number of bus trips around the tri-state area. Then the bus got sold. And Flux Factorians learned how to build canoes. Therefore, this summer Flux declared The Summer of the Boat, with all sorts of funny boat-themed events, most of them taking place at Marina 59 in the Far Rockaways. When Swimming Cities, (another fantastic art collective who plans to sail to the Ganges in October) asked Flux to participate in the Inaugural Battle for Mau Mau Island, then they Swimming Cities asked me and Matt to MC, we knew it was going to be another one-of-a-kind NYC summertastic event. How could it not? Do-It-Yourself boat builders, toxic punks, ancient Rowman warriors (get it?) and art stars of all kinds came out to the southern tip of Brooklyn, in Gerritsen Beach to participate. They came with rafts, catamarans and real-deal motorboats for a day of water-based activities.
Once we were on the anchored, engine-free Chris Craft, armed with megaphones, we opened our mouths and did what we do best – talked loudly. First up – a circumnavigational, 4 mile, row-powered race around Mau Mau. Competitors included an arty catamaran called “Good Enough,” an ancient skeleton revived as a canoe named “Lazarus Rex,” a go-nowhere raft entitled “Mermaid Sea Monkeys,” and a sad, barely connected batch wooden planks that went by the crafty title of “S.S. Botulism”. The winner was a no-nonsense team of rowers called “The Notorious G.I.G.”
After the race, all participants came ashore for the event that everyone was waiting for…the Boat Joust! Just off shore, two teams of rowers in 15-ft canoes picked up as much momentum as possible while warriors, standing in the back of each canoe & clad in floatable armor aimed 10 ft long Styrofoam jousting poles at each other. Most of the time somebody fell off, but if you ask me, everyone was a winner!
After the Boat Joust, it was time for a well-deserved drink. Where else to head but to a DIY bar installed underneath a Belt Pkwy bridge!? Duke Riley; artist, provocateur, submarine builder and mastermind behind a giant Roman-style aquatic battle undearneath the Unisphere in Flushing Meadows in 2009, built his bar out of driftwood and lined the “liquor shelves” with vintage bottles found on Bottle Beach, near Dead Horse Bay. Called the Dead Horse Inn, drinks cost a measly five cents and one could get any whiskey, gin, vodka or rum drink they thirsted for.
Lit by tiki torches, with the sun setting over Manhattan so very far away, yet the outline of the Empire State Building still very visible. It was one of the more memorable moments in the bar, when all the day’s warriors raised a glass to celebrate NY’s aquatic culture and wondered aloud at this magical arty, marshy, reedy no man’s land, stil within New York City.
By Jonah Levy
All pictures courtesy of Marin Tockman.
So many more pictures here.