Summer Essay: That Guy on the Boat

Mark Gubin shares a story about spending his summers in a tugboat on the Milwaukee River.

Photos courtesy of Mark Gubin.
Photos courtesy of Mark Gubin.

By Mark Gubin, as told to Pamela Hill Nettleton

I like lying in the hammock, on a tugboat, in the city. I live here a lot of the summer. Sometimes the construction noise can get to be a bit much, but below deck, down in my bedroom, the water is a pretty good insulator and it’s quiet.

I used to have a sort of pet seagull, Frank. He thought this was his boat. If people walked by and got too close, he squawked. Gulls can be pretty loud. I built these chairs and table out of driftwood and whatever floats by. I have a hook, I pull things in. I carved that wooden gull over there – I should repaint that for the season.

With the lights strung on the boat, and the lights on The RiverWalk, it’s pretty sitting here in the evening. I walk to the Public Market with friends, we pick out what we want to eat, come back here, and grill up dinner. From the wheelhouse up top, it’s a good place to watch a storm, to watch the lightning strikes. People walk by and talk to me.

I guess I’ve become sort of a character.

“That Guy on the Boat” is party of the essay collection, “True Stories,” which appears in the 2016 City Guide issue of Milwaukee Magazine.

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Pamela Hill Nettleton is an assistant professor of journalism and media studies at the Diederich College of Communication at Marquette University.