Life is full of questions: Am I on the right path? Should I change careers? Why couldn’t a plane be a boat? Would I want to live on a plane boat? If I lived on a plane boat, would I be a…double-captain?
If you’ve never asked those last three questions, you’re not David Drimmer.
“I’m the poster boy for the old adage, ‘for any boat, there is a buyer,’” Drimmer tells Urbo.
In 1981, Drimmer was bitten by the boat bug — which is the compulsion to buy a boat, not an actual bug living on a boat. Look, we’re not great with metaphors. Anyway, Drimmer started looking for deals when he saw a classified ad for a “unique, great bachelor pad” houseboat for $8,500. And before you ask, yes, this happened in Florida.
“I thought the price was missing a zero,” he says. “I thought, ‘something seems wrong here.’”
Drimmer took a friend out to check out the deal. The boat in question was an airplane. For most buyers, that would qualify as “something wrong,” but Drimmer found himself strangely drawn to the converted aircraft. Another issue: The lot — which had been trying to get rid of the plane boat for some time — hadn’t kept the craft in good repair.
“My friend who knew about boats told me not to buy it,” he explains. “My mother told me not to buy it — that’s what mothers are for — and my $50 lawyer told me not to buy it, because it wasn’t clear that the lot had the rights to sell it.”
Naturally, he bought it.
“They dropped the price to $7,500. I bought it on Friday the 13th of February, 1981.”
After purchasing the boat, Drimmer fixed it up, moved in (the plane boat was his primary residence for several years), and began researching its history. The boat was once owned by the famously eccentric Howard Hughes, though at the time, it was just a plane (boring, are we right?) He spoke with a few people who flew on the plane with the millionaire, and eventually, Drimmer himself became something of a Hughes historian.
The interior of the plane boat, by the way, is something to behold. It’s more of a plane on the inside — but more of a boat on the outside. It’s strange.
All the while, his houseboat was attracting plenty of attention at the dock.
And causing a few accidents.
“Where it was [when docked], you could not miss it,” he says. “I’d hear tires screeching, horns honking. Occasionally, a car might drive off the road or into a bush or something, but nothing really bad — I don’t think anyone was injured.”
Alas, restoring a plane boat is an expensive undertaking, since…well, nobody makes plane boats. Drimmer eventually moved into a normal house and tried renting the boat out for pleasure cruises, but he couldn’t justify spending money to treat the significant hull problems. In 2016, donated his nautical oddity to the Florida Air Museum.
“I wanted it to go to a home where it would be taken care of, and where people could appreciate it and interact with it,” he says. “Right now, I’m having donation remorse, because the museum isn’t really putting money into it or offering it for public use. I may try to find a new home, or I may end up living on it again — but right now, it’s in a safe place. It’s not deteriorating, and it’s safe from things like hurricanes. But I’d love to see it take on passengers again.”
Drimmer’s fascination with the plane boat is understandable.
It’s a piece of history, albeit a weird one, and a great example of creative recycling.
“When you step onto the boat, it’s like going back in time,” he tells us. “Getting behind that wheel, standing in the same place that Howard Hughes stood — it’s an incredible experience … You will notice it. You will not forget it. You will love it or hate it. It’s unique, novel, and historic.”
We asked Drimmer what people misunderstood about his relationship with — and we’re not saying this lightly — the strangest boat we’ve ever seen.
“People think that I’m a pilot,” he says. “I’m not — I wish I was. I am a bit of an aviation buff, but I’m certainly not a pilot.”
Hopefully, the plane boat will eventually hit the water again. For now, it’s resting, waiting for the right owner to come along and restore it to its former glory. That special person might be Drimmer, or it might be someone else, but he’s confident it will happen eventually. The plane boat is simply too strange to sit in dry dock.
“There are purists who say, this isn’t what a boat should look like, it’s not right. It’s idiotic, stupid. And…I agree with them,” he says. “But why not be different?”