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Lots of boats come to Oriental, some tie up at the Town Dock for a night or two, others drop anchor in the harbor for a while. If you've spent any time on the water you know that every boat has a story. The Shipping News on TownDock.net brings you the stories of the boats that have visited recently.

Living On A Canoe
Dan Friendly
May 13, 2009

P
eople pass through Oriental on all manner of vessels, and we’ve yet to become entirely blase about them. So it was, on the last Friday of April, that a resident of town called to say he’d been down to the dinghy dock and seen a man living on a canoe.
A lived-aboard canoe at Oriental’s dinghy dock.
A few minutes later, a visit to the dinghy dock confirmed that. There it was. A 16-foot long Mad River canoe that appeared to be someone’s home. A yellow bicycle covered one half of the canoe’s length. Right in the middle of the canoe was a mast, about six feet high, with a hand-sewn sail made of a child’s bed sheet.

A sleeping bag was airing out on the dinghy dock’s railing, the morning light picking up its wet shimmer. On the dock, a man was laying out what looked like a damp tent.

A camouflage hat shadowed part of his face, which apart from the beard, was reddened by the sun.

( Publisher’s note: The following story… is what it is. It reports what a man said – no more, no less. If you Google some of what was stated, you may not find any supporting information. You can decide. )

He was friendly and when asked if he slept on the small boat, began to explain in great detail how he carries a plywood board on board and when he wants to sleep, places it between the mast and the seat. He sleeps head near the mast, and at the end of his lanky frame, feet up near the end of the canoe.

He further explained that he tied a line from one end of the canoe to the dock and deployed a grappling hook anchor — made of three curved pieces of rebar — out in the water to keep from banging on to the rocks in the night.

Plywood board that is deployed in to a bed.

TownDock’s roving reporter asked if he’d mind if we took some notes. He readily agreed. After all, he said, he was a librarian and that meant he was all for liberty and giving people information. The information he gave over the next half hour helped to piece together the narrative of his story; at the end, though, some pieces left the impression of having been jigsawed from an entirely different puzzle.

Before another question could be asked, the man began talking about the particular kind of library work he did. He said he was a Jobian Flair Librarian. He would use that phrase many times in our conversation. It came up in most of his answers, regardless of the questions.

On this first time that he identified himself as a Jobian Flair Librarian, he quickly added, “but don’t write that.” A moment later, however, perhaps caught up in the desire to explain himself, he said it was okay to share the info, which follows:

The bed on board the 16-foot Mad River canoe..

The Jobian Flair Librarians, he said, come from the days of the monarchy — which was otherwise a system of slavery, in his view. The librarians were the ones with freedom since they had access to the information and books. It was a tradition that passed from father to son.

There are 413 Jobian Flair Librarians in this country, he said, and he was the only civilian among them. One of his tasks as a Jobian Flair Librarian was to go off and have adventures and later write about them.

The rebar-fashioned anchor.

Of his own adventure so far, he provided a brief sketch. He had gotten the canoe on Christmas of last year, he said, then left Greensboro at New Years, and came down the Deep River to the Cape Fear River. Once past Wilmington, he began a northward trek up the ICW. He said he is bound for the Chesapeake.

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He was going to write about his travels, he said, but as a Jobian Flair Librarian, that would involve some effort to cloak his identity.

“Mozart, Bach and Beethoven… all of those people are Jobian Flair Librarians. Unfortunately, a Jobian Flair Librarian has a reputation for being famous before they’re born cos they know what’s coming. What’s coming is tremendous success…”

“Every single Jobian Flair Librarian is in all probability a famous individual, and if they’re a famous individual, they cannot be listed as a Jobian Flair Librarian. It’s just like writing a book. When you write a book you have to use a pen name, otherwise you can’t show your name around here because you get too famous. You see what I mean?”

“It’s why I wear camouflage,” he said, gesturing to his hat and clothing. His camo pants carried an additional level of patterning from where salt water had dried.

Getting bike off the canoe for a ride in town..

Gingerly, given what he had said about pen names, a question was posed. “What’s your name?”

“Dan,” he said.

“Do you have a last name?” He paused for a beat or two, taking more time to respond than he had to the other questions, and finally said, “Friendly.”

“Is that a pen name?”

In responding to that question, he again mentioned the Jobian Flair Librarians who he said, read all the books in their collections and then compiled them in to one book —- the Jobian Flair Handbook. The handbooks were not widely available to the general public. The few handbooks that did exist, he said, were on military bases. But he added, they were often defaced.

He offered a reason why. They are vandalized, he said, because of what they are: “a collection of the world’s best books. The Jobian Flair Handbook has the highest IQ of any book.”

“A book has an IQ?”

He answered that you can “calculate a book’s IQ based on the words used within it.” Take for example, the word “friendly” — which he was using as his surname. If a person is “friendly,” he said, he has lots of friends and therefore don’t waste energy on war. As such, he said, the word “friendly” appears often in the Jobian Flair Handbook. So, do other words, such as “very, very friendly.”

Showing the LIttle Mermaid sail on the canoe.

And in a friendly manner, he agreed to some photos. (“I don’t mind,” he said when asked if photos could be taken. “You know, knowledge is for everyone.” ) He showed how his plywood bed goes in to place. He hoisted the sail that revealed itself to be a hand-sewn “Little Mermaid” sheet.

“I just made it out of a bed sheet. It’s an experiment here.” Since it’s a canoe, he said, “It’s too tippy for more than a jib. I can’t use it unless I go down wind. Canoes don’t have a centerboard and get blown sideways too much.”

With all that gear on board, had he ever tipped it all over?

“I’m very careful,” he said. “Boating takes a little bit of practice because if you gain experience with the way boats are tippy, you tend to remember not to move around a lot. You have to very much keep your balance all the time.”

Dan Friendly on his canoe in the anchorage, settling in for the night.

He said he had no money and wanted to fish but hadn’t done so yet as a way of feeding himself. He had a plastic container in which he stored fishing lures he’d found on his trip. A visiting sailor, who says Dan told him he had come from Bermuda, gave him a fishing rod.

While the details of his boat were sparse, and those of his trip so far, even sparser, he talked with great enthusiasm for half an hour. He recommended books by Carlos Castaneda. He referenced Castaneda’s book on dreams and described how he would eventually write about his travels on the canoe; when the trip ended, he said that he would at first focus not on writing, but on dreaming.

The canoe in the anchorage.

“When a Librarian writes a book,” Dan said, “there’s no work involved. Writing is done from the vantage point of dreams because dreams are not an expression of work; they are just natural. So what a Jobian Flair Librarian tries to do is save their intellect so that they begin to dream.”

“I’ll go back and I’ll rest for a long period of time til I have enough energy that I begin to dream and when I dream I just wait and see what kind of dreams happen about this particular adventure.”

Later in the day, as the sun was setting, Dan Friendly and his canoe were out in the anchorage. The plywood bed was deployed, and the back of his neck rested against the mast. That is where we saw him last, preparing to sleep.. and perchance, to dream….

Posted Wednesday May 13, 2009 by Melinda Penkava


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