Armed with a homemade shanty boat and a video camera, Wes Modes has spent the last few years floating down rivers big and small, all for his unique project: “A Secret History of American River People.”
by Garrett Cortese
How did you decide to tour America via shanty boat?
A friend told me about a bunch of boat punk types who were building their own boats and floating down the Mississippi. I built a raft out of old truck tubes and plywood, and floated down the Missouri with some friends for a couple of weeks. It was an amazing experience, and we made it an annual thing.
Describe the construction of your boat.
It’s a barge-bottom, wooden-hull built out of plywood and fiberglass. Everything above-decks is from reclaimed materials. The boat is 20 feet long and 8 feet wide. The cabin itself is 10 feet. Inside, there’s a comfy leather couch, a worktable, a full galley, and a sleeping loft up in the gable. The head, which is a composting toilet, is on the back deck.
What’s the reception been like?
It’s pretty amazing. There are people along these rivers who are so welcoming and genuine. This has definitely renewed my faith in humanity. (You can follow Wes’ journey at peoplesriverhistory.us.)