For most New Yorkers, boating and camping are rare occurrences that come only with weeks of planning and possible tent and life jacket rentals from a stranger on Craiglist. However, only a short five minute walk from the A train Beach 60th Street stop in Queens lies a Hemingwayesque experience for the urban explorer, and a perfect mix of these two adventurous past-times: the Boatel. Constance Hockaday’s Boatel in Marina 59 is the perfect combination of camping and boating without ever having to pitch a tent or sail, or leave the five boroughs. As the Marina 59 website states, “23 artists from NYC and abroad are meticulously crafting a world out of the flotsam and jetsam of Jamaica Bay.”
The boats, with names like Queen Zenobia and Ms. Nancy Boggs, have very distinct personalities and come with accessories like streamers, plants, or even costumes for their guests. Our boat for the evening, Seamrogh, was very cozy with a double bed, small table, and sky light open to a starry Queens night. Candles and sea faring photos decorated the boat, and we held readings from the old ship mates’ journal and learned of Seamrogh’s not so distant past as a fishing boat off the Atlantic.
The personalities of the boats are only matched by the staff that runs Marina 59, who could not have been nicer, if just slightly flummoxed by the mass amounts of hipsters willing to spend the night on old boats. The gate to Marina 59 locks at night, (only intensifying the feeling of summer camp), and opens again at sunrise as fishermen trickle in to begin a day at sea.
Did I mention there were cats and goats roaming around the marina?
Many evenings, the Boatel shows outdoor movies. There is also a tiki bar area, where guests bond over common Boatel necessities like mosquito repellant and ice for the community coolers. My friends and I had a delightful cookout at the grills at Marina 59, even though we did not get the memo about organic quinoa and heirloom tomatoes being the dinner of choice at the Boatel. So we enjoyed our charred hot dogs, Oreos, and beer. This was glamping at its best.