Whatever Floats Their Boat
A collective of courageous ship-builders sail the waters of New York with little more than old art supplies and a boat-load of chutzpah.
They left their warehouse at midnight, piled into an old Volvo, a clunky wooden rowboat strapped to the roof. The darkness that evening provided the three men with cover, as they arrived at the deserted Floyd Bennett Field, a municipal airport turned waterfront park in southeast Brooklyn. They slowly eased their makeshift boat down a ramp and into the black water, taking a few tentative strokes to check for leaks before paddling out, leaving the shore behind. All was quiet but the rhythmic splash of seawater against old wood.
It was the first of many such expeditions that Ben Cohen, Stephan von Muehlen and Dylan Gauthier would take together as cofounders of the boatbuilding art collective Mare Liberum—Latin for Free Seas. And on this summer evening in 2007 all that kept them afloat, all that separated them from the cool, murky depths of Jamaica Bay were a few boards of plywood and a pile of nails.
“We didn’t know how legal or illegal it was,” Cohen recalls.