By Tim Anderson
START YOUR BOAT-BUILDING HOBBY BY
BUILDING THIS ONE.
L oren “Totch” Brown lived in the Thousand Islands
region of the Everglades his whole life. His fascinating
autobiography, Totch, A Life in the Everglades (
University of Florida Press, 1993), relates his adventures, and its cover
depicts him propelling a strange little boat with a push pole.
It’s called a “pit pan” and is now on display at work hard. If you want a boat you can take a nap
Smallwood’s store in Chokoloskee, Fla. (florida- in, you need something like this.
everglades.com/chokol/smallw.htm). Rolled up in the bottom of the boat is Totch’s
When the water was too deep for the push pole, mosquito net or “skeeter bar,” so named
he used a paddle, and when the water was too shal- because it’s where the insects go to drink and
low, he dragged or carried it. socialize. It’s a rectangular mosquito net just big
He made many such boats for hunting alligators enough to not touch the person sleeping under
over the years. Despite its crude appearance, this is it. In the old days, gauze, cheesecloth, or any
a very elegant boat. It is burdened with no unneces- open weave fabric was used. The net is held up
sary features. You can carry it and you can sleep in at the corners by sticks. If it rains, a tarp just big
it. That makes it a magic carpet to freedom. enough to keep the rain off goes over that.
In designing boats, people get hung up about the A boat can be part swan, part guitar. This boat
speed of the boat rather than the speed of building is a box with no lid. Start your boat-building
the boat, and they forget that to go fast you have to hobby by building this one.