Posted by: oldsalt1942 | June 27, 2009

What’s Wrong With This Picture?



This picture, commonly entitled “The Redneck Houseboat,” is all over the net most likely posted by people envious of the freedom and liberty this picture exemplifies.

First of all, this guy is out on the water enjoying life! Thoreau nailed it when he said:

“This is the only way, we say; but there are as many ways as there can be drawn radii from one center.”

But contemplate this picture. Inside that camper is everything one could ever need, I’m sure. Galley, beds, area to lounge around in, a head. That outboard probably isn’t more than a 9.9 hp and if you’re living on a  shantyboat you’re not looking to go anywhere fast. You miss too much of life that way.

As far back as the early 1970s I had a similar idea, myself. I really contemplated building a set of pontoons and putting a camper shell on it for the simple reason that all the ammenities would already be built in. My idea was to get one of those campers that have a section that fits over the cab of the truck, something like this:

camper shell

That overhang section would be the perfect place to set up your helm. Sit in the shade and watch the passing scene. Enclose those sections along the side for a lot of storage space.

Thoreau again:

“We seem to linger in manhood to tell the dreams of our childhood, and they vanish out of memory ere we learn the language.”

Those who mock the owner of this “redneck houseboat” sit on the bank of that river as he passes sedately by and then return to their offices and cubicles to toil away trying to save up enough money to buy that 40 footer they dream about. But they’ll never save that much, or by the time they do they’ll be too damned old to enjoy it like they would have when the dream was bright and shiny.

Richard MacCullough, in his book Viking’s Wake wrote: “And the bright horizon calls! Many a thing will keep till the world’s work is done, and youth is only a memory. When the old enchanter came to my door laden with dreams, I reached out with both hands. For I knew that he would not be lured with the gold that I might offer, when age had come upon me.”

I copied that quote down nearly 40 years ago and pretty much have lived by its philosophy for at least the last 35 years. I never made a lot of money because I always opted for the adventure over the dollar. And what did it get me? The memory of pulling a blown out head sail in 35 knot winds in the middle of the night in the inaugural Fort Lauderdale to Key West race. Three years on the French Riviera. Seeing a “moonbow”  one night in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. Sailing up the gorge of the Rio Dulce in Guatemala. The length of the Mississippi River from where the Illinois River debouches into it and all the way down to New Orleans. Those and many other adventures.

“There is no glory so bright but the veil of business can hide it effectually. With most men life is postponed to some trivial business…”(Thoreau again)

No, it’s much easier to make fun of the person in the first picture than to face up to the fact that most of the scorners will never achieve any of their dreams, or even modify their dreams in the least in order to achieve them.

“Why do you stay here and live this mean moiling life, when a glorious existence is possible for you?  Those same stars twinkle over other fields than these.” (Guess who?)


  1. Love the post OldSalt. That is exactly how I feel. I don’t care what anyone thinks about how we live be it here on our small acre of land or soon to be on our makeshift houseboat. We don’t have anything fancy or top of the line but we are free and clear of debt. Even our home is paid off. We buy our vehicles with cash. And/or anything that we need we buy with cash and if we don’t have it we don’t get it. We make do. Love living like this. And I have to give my hubby all the credit.

  2. For most of my life I’ve lived on the “one easy payment plan” myself. I only bought one new car and I hated that monthly payment. Despised it! Even when my dad died and left me some money I bought a used car. Newer than I normally would have. I love that car and got a good deal on it. My shantyboat and my precious Nancy Dawson were bought with cash.

    It’s not that I haven’t had credit cards. I have. Stuck ’em for a bunch, too when life went tits up, but I sort of figured that they shouldn’t have given me the damned things in the first place. In fact I have a credit card now, but when I use it I pay it off so there’s no balance. The only reason I have it is so I can rent a car when I need to.

    As the saying goes: “I started with nothing and I still have most of it.”

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