Magazine article The New Yorker

All Aboard

Magazine article The New Yorker

All Aboard

Article excerpt

Recently, Porter Fox, a writer and member of the Brooklyn raft punk and art collective Swimming Cities, stood looking at items on the floor of his bedroom. He was packing for a voyage that Swimming Cities will make down the Ganges, on homemade boats, in early October. "VHF radios," Fox said, pointing. "Solar panels to run our water pumps and charge our radios and navigational equipment. Hammocks to be up off the water. Mosquito nets. Prescriptions for everything we could think of." He picked up a blue plastic bottle from a pile of about a dozen of them. "Microbial hand wash. The stuff surgeons use." He pointed again. "And this is a satellite tracker. It sends out e-mails with our position. Those will go to our parents."

The trip down the Ganges will be Swimming Cities' third excursion. In 2008, they built rafts in Troy, New York, and rode down the Hudson, arriving for the opening of an installation by one of their members at Deitch Studios; and in 2009, in Slovenia, they built four tall rafts that looked like intricate, piratical sculptures and sailed them across the Adriatic and through canals to Venice for the Biennale. They will sail the Ganges on five rafts that they built at Serett Metal Works, on the Gowanus Canal. The rafts are essentially metal platforms on top of parallel steel pontoons. One raft has a sail and a motor; the other four are powered by motorcycles. The members of Swimming Cities, several of whom went to Pratt, call these rafts boatercycles. On two of the rafts, the motorcycles, which are toward the stern, connect to a propeller, and on the other two to a paddle wheel. The rafts are steered by the motorcycles' handlebars. Swimming Cities built the boatercycles specifically for the Ganges, as it appeared on Google Earth.

"We noticed these floating bridges," Fox said, moving to the kitchen and sitting at a Formica table in front of a tank in which two turtles swam. "They're low-budget bridges that fit on massive steel cannisters, like a military bridge. There are seven on the route we picked. From photographs of guys riding bicycles over them, we determined there were roughly eight feet between cannisters and about ten feet of clearance."

The boatercycles are about eight feet long and ride high in the water. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.