Dream boats: Armada crafted from salvage to sail the Schuylkill

Published online: Aug 18, 2011 News Peter Crimmins - www.newsworks.org
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When they first came to town, they landed in the middle of Center City, setting up a makeshift dry dock on a vacant lot on Broad Street.

Now the Miss Rockaway Armada is testing the waters of the Schuylkill River, readying its vessels for their debut this weekend.

Part carnival, part pirate adventure, a flotilla of pontoons cobbled together with reused, recycled, and reimagined materials will set sail under the Walnut Street Bridge and loop around the river Saturday and Sunday evening.

The armada began in the summer 2006, when about 30 people channeled their inner Huck Finn by rafted down the Mississippi River, from Minneapolis to St. Louis, on boats they made from found materials. Along the way they performed music, puppet shows, theater, and loosely defined antics for the residents of riverfront towns.

Since then, they have gone down the Hudson River into New York Harbor, and crashed the Venice Biennale by floating up the Grand Canal.

Now they are on the Schuylkill.

Flotsam, jetsam, sail some

"You forget about these bodies of water, since you can't walk out onto them," said Tod Seelie, a photographer from Brooklyn who made an "organically flowing teepee" out of vegetable crates from the Italian Market. "There's something refreshing about floating down the middle of an open-air space in your city. You can see edges of society creeping along the banks."

In the lower part of the Schuylkill, past the South Street Bridge, crumbling wooden piers and stink hint at the river's industrial legacy.

"We were out in the rain last night, watching the lightning hit, the chimneys with fire spouting out the top, cooling towers steaming," said Paul Cesewski from San Francisco. "Like a ruined Oz."

Cesewski's creation is a small, three-chair Ferris wheel that spins as riders pedal a bicycle chain drive. It's planted on a homemade pontoon boat, and the whole thing is amphibious. It transforms into a trailer that Cesewski drove out from California.

Read more at http://www.newsworks.org/index.php/art-entertainment-sports/item/25012-dream-boats-armada-crafted-from-salvage-to-sail-the-schuylkill

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