After booking our stay almost two months prior, my friend and I were excited to finally be on our way to our "room" at Boatel, Far Rockaway's widely acclaimed nautical art installation in Jamaica Bay that also doubles as a hotel. Just to be clear, I was attempting to review this as a novelty hotel for my own blog?but it quickly became clear that that was going to be impossible.
Around 1am, we showed up at the marina, only to find the gates were locked. No one was answering the phone, and the office was closed. I decided to pull a MacGyver and scale the fence?mostly because I was desperate for a bathroom, but also in hopes of tracking down one of the managers.
Finally, I discovered her inside a house on the pier, drinking beer and playing cards. She didn't seem too excited to see me.
"The other manager said we could show up whenever..." I mumbled.
"Yeah, well, usually people don't check in at one in the morning." Nope. Definitely not excited to see me.
Regardless, she rallied herself, opened the gate for my friend to enter the normal way, and led us to our boat. I should mention at this point that the manager had called earlier in the day to say that she had screwed up my reservation. Rather than apologizing, however, or offering an alternate date, she had simply told me not to worry, there would still be a boat for me.
And there was.
Marooned in the middle of the parking lot?after being pulled out of the water due to a leak?and surrounded by other nautical rejects, our "room" for the night was a water-filled, dilapidated yacht with the ladder about to fall off and the floor panels torn out. Entirely uninhabitable, and certainly devoid of any artistic flair, the vessel was seemingly being used as storage space for other Boatel miscellanea.
Of course, by the time I'd climbed up to have a look, our half-drunk hostess had high-tailed it back to her poker game, leaving us stranded next to a boat on the verge of collapse, and without any way of re-opening the exit gates.
What a bust. Especially for a place that had piqued the interest of the Times and NPR, and which to many, seemed like the coolest thing to hit the Rockaways since Rockaway Taco. True, the creators of the project had always been upfront about the fact that this wasn't a real hotel. But then they went ahead and used words like "reservation" and "check-in," kind of setting up the expectation that, at the very least, visitors would have somewhere safe and sound to sleep.
Meanwhile, other "guests" were gathered on the dock, dancing to hip hop tunes on an iPod and drinking beers like there was no tomorrow. A few dogs traipsed in and out of the crowd, occasionally getting stepped on by the inebriated and rowdy crew. About twenty half-eaten bags of pretzels littered a coffee table off to the side, lit haphazardly by a few strings of Christmas lights. This place wasn't edgy or inspired; it was kind of a dump.
Rather than curl up right there on the stained couches, we begged some of the other patrons to let us sleep on the roof of one of their boats. Luckily, one girl who was visiting from Atlanta gladly obliged, and there, atop a boat called the Nancy Boggs, we unrolled our sleeping bags at 4am, thankfully very drunk.
The next morning, the manager was nowhere to be found. The common area where we had danced was in the same sorry state we had left it the night before, if not slightly more rancid-looking in the daylight. We used the bathroom, snapped a few photos of the leaky ship we had forsaken for someone else's roof, and made our exit.
· Hotel Sweetheart [Tumblr]
· Inside Look at the Boatel's Floating Nirvana in Far Rockaway [Curbed]
· Boatel coverage [Curbed]