As I hopped from boat to boat and onto the platform, I noticed many of the men in attendance had sparkly turquoise polish on their grubby toenails. On one of the houseboats, a body-painting session was in full swing, but the hot California sun quickly reduced the painted swirls to an eczemic crust. Within minutes, I overheard an endless stream of conversations about start-ups, incubators, hackerspaces and apps. Naked bodies ambled by. While looking for a bathroom, I walked in on a couple having sex in a houseboat’s aft cabin.
I had arranged via Facebook and Paypal to sleep in a houseboat in the South neighborhood of the island, not realizing the logistical difficulties involved: unless a motorboat happened to be passing by, the options for moving from one platform to another were limited to kayaking or pulling oneself across with a rope while balancing on wooden planks. The rope looked precarious, so I found a soggy kayak and paddled over three days’ worth of luggage, food, and supplies. The South looked a lot like the North, only less busy. Its smaller shared platform housed the Cuddle Gallery, a large white tent adorned with a cloth jellyfish where boatless residents could nap and work by day, and sleep, or cuddle, at night.
My cabin mates were already in the South when I arrived. Cyprien Noel, a soft-spoken French libertarian and an avid advocate for the Seasteading project, had rented the houseboat from the marina with his sister and brother-in-law, who were visiting him in the Bay Area from France. He’d also invited two Chinese engineers from San Jose and a woman in her thirties who had brought with her an espresso machine, a waffle iron, and a milk frother that looked like it hadn’t been cleaned in weeks. They planned to stay afloat for four nights and four days.