Christo wrapped buildings in fabric and created art; I wrap boats in tarps and I get what looks like an encampment. When I moved into my home in 1993, I had a lawn surrounding the house, a garage in the basement, a detached garage, and two off-street parking spaces in front. There wasn’t a hint of my boatbuilding habit to be seen. Now, 29 years later, my cars have been exiled to the street, the detached garage has eight boats in it, the other garage is my workshop, the off-street parking is occupied by a canal boat and a Garvey cruiser on their trailers, the east yard has a kayak, the west yard a gunning dory, and the lawn in the back yard is all but covered by a Caledonia yawl, a sneakbox, and a teardrop trailer.

Almost all of the back yard is occupied by the Caledonia Yawl (left), the sneakbox (front), and the house for the cabin of my teardrop trailer (back). The sneakbox and the yawl both have ridgepoles to create some airspace under the tarp. The teardrop's tarp has a hole for the woodstove's chimney for warming my retreat on cold days.

Each of those vessels has at least one tarp covering it and unfortunately it’s not a storage system I can turn my back on. In the winter I have to sweep snow off the tarps to keep its weight from tearing them. When it rains, I have to bail the water that gets into the boats from the leaks and pull tight the tarps that have sagged and pooled water. When it’s windy, I have to make the rounds and check the tarps for loose lines. On the plus side, I only have to mow half the lawn that I used to. And crawling under a tarp that’s pulled snug against the hull helps keep me agile and forces me to practice patience. I can squeeze my head under the tarp and scrape my midsection around the gunwale, but my trailing foot always get captured by the edge of the tarp, which inevitably gathers in tight creases at my ankle. I can’t see what’s happening back there, so I just trace circles with my toes until my heel pops free.

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