After thoroughly investigating "the worst hostel in New York City" earlier this year, for Outdoors Week Curbed decided to embark on a more serene, pastoral overnight jaunt: to a houseboat docked in the Plumb Beach Channel, in between Sheepshead Bay and Gerritsen Beach in southeastern Brooklyn. Here's what happened.
How to find a houseboat in New York City: Go to Airbnb's NYC page, type in boat, and voila. More than one vessel in this little slip is available for rent, but host Sean, a cop by day who lives a few boats down, was willing to waive the two-night minimum. So for $118/night, my travel companion and I booked this one-bedroom seacraft, securely moored to the dock, that came complete with a roof deck, back terrace, cable, Wi-Fi, and a kitchen and shower nicer than many New York City apartments. This is not roughing it.
3:30 p.m.: Depart Upper West Side with a groan, as Google Maps says it'll take an hour and a half to get to the boat, off of Knapp Street and Harkness Avenue, just northeast of Coney Island and Brighton Beach. Remember that we're stocked with magazines and try to think of the travel time as part of the whole getaway thing. You know, that thing New Yorkers aren't very good at.
4:15 p.m.: Still on the train. Speak to adorable, excitable child in swim trunks going to Brighton Beach for a dip with his mom. It's starting to feel like a vacation. The B and Q trains all go to the Sheepshead Bay stop. From there, take bus B4 to the very last stop.
Circa 5 p.m.: Depart bus with small rolling suitcase and a laptop-loaded urbanite's handbag, feeling vaguely ridiculous. Like a tourist in my own town. It's sorta deserted.
Walk south down Knapp Street and hang a left on Harkness. Pass a bagel place and a hair salon of the left, a Dunkin Donuts on the right, then stop before you get to the Cold Stone, TGI Friday's, and a lobster shack. Wait, this is not scenic. WTF, mate?
You are here. It's a parking lot. It's hot.
5:15 p.m.: Sean has left the key in a lockbox hooked onto the green gate. I open the gate.
I drag my suitcase down the plank and onto the dock, and make a right to get to the slip. This is her!
5:30 p.m. Sean left bottled water in the fridge. So I explore the boat, which, I notice, is solid and doesn't rock. Not needing to get sea legs: +1. (Click through for the full tour.)
5:45 p.m.: Neighbors are chilling on the front deck of the boat next door. I chat to the couple about life on the water. They spend summers here. They've got a cat. They're drinking wine. The sun is shining. Was I really in Manhattan an hour and a half ago?
6 p.m.-ish: I'm too relaxed to even take note of the time. I grab sunblock and the New Yorker fiction issue and climb up to the boat's roof deck to take in the scene.
Travel buddy K arrives on his bike; the dock even has a place to park it, albeit by the recycling bins. We had out to find food in Sheepshead Bay, and purchase a bottle of red for later at the liquor store by the Dunkin Donuts. Claaaaassy.
6:30-8:30 p.m.: We stroll to Emmons Avenue, the main drag along the waterfront, and walk west, passing Kingsborough Community College and other sites. Plus a famous bait-and-tackle shop. And a clam shack. And a yacht club with rather Brutalist architecture. There are about a bazillion boats offering fishing trips at every hour of the day or night. Also, swans. Also, a footbridge to Manhattan beach. We eat at a restaurant that serves food from Azerbaijan. Everyone is drinking, eating, and laughing. Life by the water is just so much more fun.
9 p.m.: Sean has left beers in the fridge. We play gin rummy and listen to Sister Sledge. Oh, and we work. The Wi-Fi is SOLID.
9:30 p.m. on: Getting ready for bed, we notice flames shooting out of a building across the way. Oh, it's just an incinerator. The boat doesn't rock, but we fall asleep easily.
7 a.m.: We wake up to the water and boats and peace. I jog along to Manhattan Beach and back, watching everyone getting ready to commute to work and some fishermen trying to catch a few in the inlet between the beach and Sheepshead Bay. I feel a million miles away from it all. (K ran to Gerritsen Beach, across the channel, and through Marine Park.)
8 a.m.: The shower is a piece of cake. Clean, operational. So, for that matter, is the toilet.
8:30 a.m. The wife in the neighbor couple is sitting in their little speedboat. A swan comes over to say hello. A SWAN. I pop out to say hi, too. Breakfast is from the bagel shop on the corner of Knapp and Harkness. Bacon, egg, and cheese, just like from the bodega back home. The Wi-Fi is so stellar that that two posts for Curbed NY were penned from the houseboat. Thinking of making it our new HQ. But checkout is at 11 a.m.
11:15 a.m.: I reluctantly drag my suitcase to the bus stop. Bus Time, letting me know when the B4 is on its way, helps make the most of every last minute. I take the bus to the train, which zips me to Midtown and back to work.