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Photograph by Albert W. Starkweather

It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s a … boat? Technically, it’s a planeboat. And to Dave Drimmer of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., the live-aboard craft was home for 20 years.

The vessel has a colorful history. Its name, Cosmic Muffin, comes from singer Jimmy Buffett, who caught a glimpse of the yacht on a sailing trip and wrote it into his 1992 novel, Where Is Joe Merchant?

But the planeboat started out as infamous aviator Howard Hughes’ personal Boeing 307 Stratoliner in 1939. Rumor has it Rita Hayworth had a hand in decorating its 12-foot-wide interior.

In 1964, under different ownership in Florida, the plane was grounded by Hurricane Cleo.

It didn’t stay on land for long. After buying it as scrap for $70 in 1969, the vehicle’s new owner decided to salvage the ailing aircraft and turn it into a motor yacht. Then in 1981, current owner Drimmer answered an ad in the local classifieds: “Unique houseboat, great bachelor pad.”

“It was in horrible condition and almost everyone tried to talk me out of buying it,” Drimmer says, “but it had a strange and wonderful appeal that compelled me to grab it.”

With trashed floors, a leaking, rotted hull, and no motors, propellers, or rudders to speak of, Drimmer had his work cut out for him just making the boat livable. With the help of friends, he stopped the leaks, rewired the electrical system, installed a water heater, air conditioning, and fridge, and renovated the head (that’s bathroom in boatspeak). Powerful motors installed in recent years have made it seaworthy once again.

Drimmer lives on land these days, but the planeboat is docked nearby. He’s always willing to give tours and charters, and to talk on and on about the strange conveyance he once called home. He kinda misses the old girl.

“My house doesn’t move around at all,” he says. “I really enjoyed the motion of the ocean. And being in a fuselage sometimes felt like flying.”

>>Now Boarding: planeboats.com

From the column Made on EarthMAKE 15, page 23 – Megan Mansell Williams.