Tag Archives: boat

HIWAY AMERICA -The Barrel Daredevils And tightrope walker Nik Wallenda of Niagara Falls N.Y









p>Gallery of Battered Barrels.
Gallery of Battered Barrels.

Barrel Daredevils of Niagara Falls

Field review by the editors.

Niagara Falls, Ontario

Tumbling in a barrel over Niagara Falls is a freeway to fame for a select group of crackpots and egomaniacs. No great skill is required: just build a really strong barrel, fill it with a lot of padding, and figure out a way to get into the river above the Falls without getting caught. Twenty minutes later, you’re a star.

Annie Edson Taylor and her barrel.
Annie Edson Taylor and her barrel.

Of course, as the Niagara Daredevils Exhibit in Toronto makes clear, it’s not quite that easy.

Greeting visitors to the exhibit is the red, white, and blue “Death Barrel” of George Stathakis, who survived the Falls but died of suffocation waiting to be rescued (His barrel companion, a turtle named Sonny Boy, survived).

Peculiar stories are everywhere in the exhibit, their details offered in gaudy tabloid-style displays. Bobby Leach was the first man to survive a barrel trip, but died later when he slipped on an orange peel. Karel Soucek went over the Falls with a case of beer and survived, but six months later he dropped in the same barrel from the roof of the Astrodome and died.

Charles Stephens unwisely tied an anvil to his feet as ballast; his barrel survived, but all that was left of Charles was his tattooed right arm. “He was,” reads an accompanying sign, “apparently torn apart.”

Risk-takers have launched themselves over the Falls on a jet ski, a kayak, and a barrel made of inflated inner tubes named “The Thing.” All of them died, but the kayak escaped with just a dent.

Weaver's Rapids Queen.
Weaver’s Rapids Queen.

The first human to go over the Falls and live was Annie Edson Taylor, who did it on her 63rd birthday. “I was on the brink of the awful precipice,” says a disembodied voice at Annie’s display, apparently reading from her account. “The barrel seemed to pause for one second… The sensation was one of indescribable horror….” The exhibit offers a life-size cutout of Annie next to an exact replica of her custom-built oak barrel, which survived the Falls but did not survive a subsequent custody battle.

Plunge O' Sphere.
Plunge O’ Sphere.

William “Red” Hill was a fulcrum of daredevilry: he witnessed Anne Taylor’s plunge; he rescued “Smiling Jean” Lussier after he went over the Falls (his barrel is in a museum on the American side); he re-used the Death Barrel of George Stathakis to ride the “Boneyard of Niagara” Whirlpool and was saved from the Whirlpool by his son, who later died in his own attempt to conquer the Falls. Red’s barrel is covered with a hand-painted resume of life accomplishments: “Gassed and wounded four times in World War I.” “Rescued 177 bodies from the Niagara River.” “Saved girl from burning house 1896” (He would have been just eight years old).

Dave Mundy’s “no frills” barrel was built, according to his display, “to show the media he could survive” (He did). Another of Mundy’s barrels resembles an oversized aluminum beer keg, and is open — daring visitors to play daredevil by crawling inside. A third Mundy barrel resembles a large hot dog or foot-long sub; it got stuck on the brink of the Falls, and Mundy later agreed that this probably saved his life.

For all it’s insanity — or perhaps because of it — going over Niagara Falls in a barrel has been treated relatively lightly by the authorities. William Fitzgerald, who rode his “Plunge O’ Sphere” over the Falls in 1961, was fined only $100. One daredevil quoted in the exhibit called the fines, “a cheap price to pay to get into the record books.” Today the maximum fine in Canada is $10,000 and the Niagara Falls Parks Commission strongly discourages barrel daredevils, which has apparently triggered some resentment.

A recorded TV news broadcast in the exhibit strikes a defensive tone: “A spokesman for the Niagara Falls Parks Commission says the Commission is not a party pooper.”

Barrel Daredevils of Niagara Falls

IMAX Theatre Niagara Falls

6170 Fallsview Blvd, Niagara Falls, ON, Canada
In the lobby of IMAX Theatre Niagara Falls, which is at the base of the impossible-to-miss Skylon Tower. Up the hill from Horseshoe Falls, on Fallsview Blvd between Murray and Robinson Sts. Has its own parking lot.
Opens daily at 9 AM. (Call to verify)
Adults $8.
RA Rates:
Worth a Detour

life on a little wooden boat





Twenty Eight Feet: life on a little wooden boat

A short documentary about David Welsford, who has given up the luxuries of land in search for happiness and adventure on a 50 year old wooden boat he restored from a scrap heap. Featuring music from Bahamas, Acres & Acres and Ben Howard!

Director & Cinematographer: Kevin A Fraser kevinAfraser.com
Featuring & Additional Photography: David Welsford TwentyEightFeet.com
Editor: Shawn Beckwith postbeckwith.com
Colorist: Chris MacIntosh vimeo.com/55644436

Salvaging Steinbeck’s Vessel From a Little-Known Berth


Salvaging Steinbeck’s Vessel From a Little-Known Berth


The Western Flyer in Port Townsend, Wash. The boat’s owner plans to move it to Salinas, Calif., but a nonprofit group wants it in Monterey Bay. Credit Matthew Ryan Williams for The New York Times
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PORT TOWNSEND, Wash. — A wooden fishing boat that John Steinbeck chartered in 1940 with a biologist friend, then wrote about in a story of their journey through the Sea of Cortez in Mexico, sits in sad, decaying splendor in a boatyard here, two hours northwest of Seattle.

People have come from as far away as Liverpool, England, to see the vessel, named the Western Flyer, in the eight months since it arrived. There is no exhibit, no effort to market the ship as an attraction, or even point the way so people can easily find it, blocked and braced out of the water at the back of the yard. Mud covers the portholes from its two sinkings and resurrections. The brass doorknobs are corroded to green, and the upper rail buckles inward with rot and age.

“We get a couple of people a week, and we give them directions — it’s pretty low key,” said Anna Quinn, an owner of Imprint Bookstore, a downtown shop that sells a few copies a week of the book that resulted from Steinbeck’s trip, “The Log From the Sea of Cortez.”


John Steinbeck featured the wooden fishing boat in “The Log From the Sea of Cortez,” sold in Port Townsend at Imprint Bookstore. Credit Matthew Ryan Williams for The New York Times

“They just want to see and touch it and be in the literary aura,” Ms. Quinn said.

A final chapter for the Western Flyer may be about to unfold. And there are fierce disagreements about how — and where — its tale of fleeting celebrity and ignominious decay should end.

The boat’s owner, Gerry Kehoe, a California businessman, said he planned to collect his property within the next couple of months. The 76-foot-long vessel, he said, will be cut into two or three pieces and trucked to Salinas, Calif., where Steinbeck was born, then reassembled and installed as the centerpiece — with real water and a dock — in the lobby of a boutique hotel Mr. Kehoe is developing.

The hotel, with two restaurants surrounding the boat and glass panels telling the story of the voyage, will open in the summer of 2015 with Western Flyer in the name, he said in a telephone interview.

The nephew of the Western Flyer’s skipper in 1940 has been ferociously critical of Mr. Kehoe’s plan. He says the boat belongs in Monterey, where it worked in Steinbeck’s day as a sardine fisher, and deserves better in retirement.

“He talks a good game, but he really doesn’t know what he’s doing — he doesn’t have a clue,” said Robert Enea, whose uncle, Tony Berry, piloted the voyage by Steinbeck and the biologist, E. F. Ricketts.

Mr. Enea, a retired physical education teacher, led a nonprofit group called the Western Flyer Project that he said had raised $10,000 and was trying to buy the boat in 2010 for $45,000 when Mr. Kehoe got it instead. The group, Mr. Enea said, envisioned a mission of environmental education in Monterey Bay, echoing and honoring the Cortez trip.


Peter and Anna Quinn, owners of Imprint Bookstore. “We get a couple of people a week, and we give them directions — it’s pretty low key,” Ms. Quinn said of visitors seeking the boat. Credit Matthew Ryan Williams for The New York Times

Mr. Kehoe said the Flyer Project lacked resources to save or restore anything — not least a boat built in 1937 that would take “well into the seven figures” to be made seaworthy. And, he added, striking a note that Steinbeck himself might have savored as a champion of the underdog, the economically struggling town Salinas simply deserves the Western Flyer more than wealthy, flourishing Monterey.

“Does everybody want the rich to be richer?” Mr. Kehoe said, adding that access to the boat will be free. Salinas, he said, “doesn’t have a lot going for it, to be honest with you, but it is the birthplace of the great man.”

Literary tourism is a big business, in the bits of a writer’s life that get left around in the messy business of living, or the characters that came to life on the page. From Key West, Fla.,visitors can swill rum in honor of Hemingway, to Dickens World, a theme park in England that offers a re-creation of bleak and stinky Victorian London, writers are still earning their keep.

Here on Washington’s rainy Olympic Peninsula, setting of the hugely successful teen-vampire-romance “Twilight” novels by Stephenie Meyer, Steinbeck is small potatoes anyway. In Forks, which the heroine, Bella Swan, called home and is two hours west of Port Townsend, visitors can stay in one of the Twilight Rooms at the Pacific Inn Motel, or eat a Bella’s Barbecue Burger Dip at the Forks Coffee Shop.

Some who have come to see the Western Flyer pay homage to science. The six-week, 4,000-mile research trip in 1940 to study plants and animals formed a template for thinking and writing about ecology decades before the modern environmental movement, said Ian Hinkle, a Canadian filmmaker who came to shoot in January for a documentary on the Salish Sea called “Reaching Blue.”

“That boat was the inspiration for many ocean researchers and ecologists today,” he said. “Now it’s sitting in a boatyard, just sitting there, one more big old rotting piece of broken dreams.”

But perhaps for at least part of the summer tourism season in Port Townsend that began this weekend, the Western Flyer is going nowhere. Ms. Quinn, who owns Imprint Books with her husband, Peter, said they were hoping to do some Steinbeck readings this summer, with people gathering at the boatyard.

Steinbeck himself, in “The Log From the Sea of Cortez,” said he believed the bond of boats and people ran too deep to sever. “It is very easy to see why the Viking wished his body to sail away in an unmanned ship, for neither could exist without the other,” he wrote.