Maine man makes home in 14-foot canoe in Boston Harbor

Steven Senne/The Associated Press

Michael Richard Smith steadies his canoe at a wharf in Boston Harbor, in Boston, Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2012.

BOSTON (AP) — They say no man is an island, but Michael Richard Smith has been creating his own floating homes in Boston Harbor.

Steven Senne/The Associated Press

Michael Richard Smith lights a cigarette while speaking with members of the media on a wharf in Boston Harbor. The 49-year-old Maine native said Tuesday that he’s been paddling the waters of metro Boston since at least late summer with all of his possessions aboard a 14-foot, 40-year-old aluminum canoe that he patches with duct tape when necessary.

Steven Senne/The Associated Press

Michael Richard Smith carries a briefcase and a satchel as he walks up a gangway at a wharf in Boston Harbor

Steven Senne/The Associated Press

Michael Richard Smith pilots his canoe in Boston Harbor, in Boston, Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2012.

The Coast Guard and Boston police are keeping an eye on the unconventional camper who has been tying his canoe to small offshore docks in the city's inner harbor and pitching his tent to sleep at night.

The 49-year-old Maine native said Tuesday he's been paddling the waters of metro Boston since October with all his possessions aboard a 14-foot, 40-year-old aluminum canoe he patches with duct tape when necessary.

Smith detests the term "homeless" and describes himself as just another "fellow citizen."

He said he feels most secure when he sleeps out in the harbor, and lists his biggest worries as the wakes of fast ferries and drunken boaters.

"It's about as safe as I could be," said Smith, who's also camped on at least one inner harbor island. "Anybody who would want to hurt me or take my things, they have to have a boat. And boat people stick together."

The Coast Guard spotted Smith a few days ago, and said while the mariner has been moving around, he hasn't moored anyplace where he's a threat to security or his own safety.

"What it really seems like is he's trying to figure out whether it's feasible to live out there," Coast Guard Lt. Joe Klinker said Tuesday.

The Coast Guard official said the agency would take action if Smith entered a security zone, but that he has stuck to recreational areas.

"It's not a major concern for the Coast Guard right now," Klinker said. "... A lot of people who don't have a place, live by the water. But on the water is unique."

On Monday night, Smith tied up and slept on a floating dock about 100 yards offshore from the New England Aquarium.

Boston Police Department's Harbor Unit has offered him city services, but he declined, police spokeswoman Cheryl Fiandaca said Tuesday. She said Smith did accept a new life vest with reflectors and a whistle from police.

Police told Smith not to operate his canoe at night, because it doesn't have lights. And while police said they'll continue to check on his safety, like the Coast Guard, they said Smith doesn't appear to be breaking any laws.

Smith said he spent about a year camping further north in Massachusetts before his sister helped him transport his canoe to Boston's Seaport District. Once there, he put the vessel he named "Alice Williams" in the water behind the InterContinental Hotel, the same neighborhood where Red Sox baseball team owner John Henry has been known to dock his 164-foot yacht "Iroquois."

The name of Smith's canoe is a tribute to the family of Roger Williams, the founder of Rhode Island whom the mariner admires for his support of First Amendment freedoms. He used the name of Williams' mother, because he said women need more recognition.

Smith said he's spent years trying to advocate for better public schools, and has passed on a newsletter he's written on the topic to politicians, including Boston Mayor Thomas Menino. The canoe owner said he thinks about public policy as he's paddling through the harbor and that living on the water has taught him balance, patience and fortitude.

Smith is a wiry, mustachioed man with long brown hair who tucks a silk pink rose into the brim of his explorer hat. He dresses in layers to stay warm, but also doesn't seem to mind that colder weather will be coming as winter arrives.

Smith plans to sleep out in Boston Harbor all winter and prefers to concentrate on the beauty of his surroundings rather than the bareness of his accommodations.

Before sunup Tuesday, Smith saw a shooting star skitter across the New England sky and said later he made a wish meant for all people, no matter where they bunk at night.

"I wished self-esteem for all of us," he said.

What do you think of this story?

Login to post comments

In order to make comments, you must create a subscription.

In order to comment on SunJournal.com, you must hold a valid subscription allowing access to this website. You must use your real name and include the town in which you live in your SunJournal.com profile. To subscribe or link your existing subscription click here.

Login or create an account here.

Our policy prohibits comments that are:

  • Defamatory, abusive, obscene, racist, or otherwise hateful
  • Excessively foul and/or vulgar
  • Inappropriately sexual
  • Baseless personal attacks or otherwise threatening
  • Contain illegal material, or material that infringes on the rights of others
  • Commercial postings attempting to sell a product/item
If you violate this policy, your comment will be removed and your account may be banned from posting comments.

Advertisement

Comments

Steve  Dosh's picture

Maine man makes home in 14-foot canoe in Boston Harbor

all, 12.05.12 14:35
One for all , all for one , and every man for himself
i think it's cool . .will get c o l d e r . All the power to you , Mr. Smith
Take pictures and post them to a web page or site • 
http://wearethe99percent.tumblr.com/
/s , Dr. Dosh & ohana , Hawai'i •

Rufus Ham's picture

Maine man makes home in 14-foot canoe in Boston Harbor

I want/have to say that the photo in above story looks like our Hero Mark Laflamme of the Lewiston Sun Journal. Sure wouldn't be surprised if he pulled off something like this :))
rufe

Steve  Dosh's picture

Rufus , SssHhh .. it's his

Rufus , SssHhh .. it's his evil twin ?  b t w - Santa Claus has moved his workshops to the South Pole | http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/obop/spo/livecamera.html . ...due to global warming /s , Santa Steve *<;Q~

 's picture

God bless.

And good luck.

Advertisement

Stay informed — Get the news delivered for free in your inbox.

I'm interested in ...