On a houseboat in Queens, dry and unimpressed by a storm

Published online: Aug 30, 2011 News Corey Kilgannon - The New York Times
Viewed 1367 time(s)

On Sunday morning, as New York City was feeling the brunt of what had become Tropical Storm Irene, Billy Drankwater, 57, was leisurely buttering a piece of white bread, in the cozy, dry cabin of his 33-foot wooden boat, docked off the north shore of Queens, in Flushing Bay.

"Some hurricane," he said. "Not a drop in here."

Mr. Drankwater lives on this old fishing boat year-round, with barely the cabin space to extend his long, taut arms, or stand erect at his natural 6-foot-2 inch height.

As hurricane warnings grew, over the past few days, Mr. Drankwater ignored friends who urged him to batten down and move out.

"I said, `No, I'll go down with the ship if I have to,' " he said.

"I got nowhere else to go anyway," he said on Sunday morning as heavy rain pelted his decks and he puffed away on a morning cigarette and surveyed the situation after an easy night's sleep. He spent the night catching rainwater from his leaky bow deck in a tin bucket.

All in all, it was a lamb of a storm for Mr. Drankwater. There were no significant waves in the marina, and the wind never became fierce enough to rip apart the marina's decks.

Tucked inside his cabin, his fishing poles lodged just overhead and his ornamental Christmas lights strung about the tiny alcove, Mr. Drankwater stretched out on his bunk and enjoyed the day.

Mr. Drankwater, who owns an auto repair garage, pays very little to live on his boat. He rents dock space at the Skyline Cove Marina on the west rim of Flushing Bay across from La Guardia Airport and not too far from Citi Field.

The dock sits between a series of waterfront warehouses, and the other boaters there are blue-collar workers like Mr. Drankwater. Its dock is guarded by two large wrecked fishing boats embedded in the muck.

Read more at http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/08/28/on-a-houseboat-in-queens-dry-and-unimpressed-by-a-storm/

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