Derelict houseboat Dreamaker plies the Manatee River

August 2011 News Robert Eckhart -

A broken-down houseboat nicknamed Dreamaker sits half submerged in the brown waters of the Manatee River, looking more and more like a ghost ship as the months pass.

Since April, the 2,000-square-foot floating house - it has no motor, and is not legally a boat - has been grounded in shallow water under the Interstate 75 bridge.

Though invisible to the 100,000 or so cars that whiz by overhead every day, the Dreamaker has become infamous to boaters and riverfront residents in Ellenton. They have watched its steady deterioration for eight months as winds and currents carried it from one side of the river to the other.

The unmanned travels and frequent crashes have taken a toll on the houseboat.

Water sloshes through the bottom deck, which is a darkened, moldy mess of plywood and tarps. Two gray pit bulls patrol the second floor, where pink insulation hangs from exposed rafters, blowing in the breeze like Spanish moss.

The dogs are there to ward off thieves.

"It's kind of weird but we're just trying to figure out what to do to secure it," says Stacey Clements, one of the houseboat's owners. "It's definitely not secure where it's at."

The Dreamaker is not going anywhere for now, stranded on an oyster bed under the bridge while Clements and her son, Michael Hurley, search for a way to move it without causing still more damage to the hull.


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