Hacking the Free Seas Since 2007

Mare Liberum is a freeform publishing, boatbuilding and waterfront art collective, based in the Gowanus area of Brooklyn, New York. Finding its roots in centuries-old stories of urban water squatters and haphazard water craft builders, Mare Liberum is a collaborative exploration of what it takes to make viable aquatic craft as an alternative to life on land. The collective draws from sources as diverse as ocean-crossing raft assemblages, improvised refugee boats built in Senegal and Cuba, and modern stitch-and-ply construction methods which make complex, classic boat designs approachable by novice builders.  Mare Liberum’s boats, broadsheets and workshops have been exhibited by EFA Project Space, MASS MoCAThe Neuberger Museum, Maker Faire, Psy-Geo-Conflux Festival, Alexandraplatz, the Antique Boat Museum, and have been written about in The Brooklyn Rail, Bad at Sports, The Village Voice, and Vice Magazine, among others.

From 2007 to 2009, the collective built a fleet of Liberum Dories, a design that we based on the historic 15′ Banks Dory. In 2010-11 we began work on the Liberum Kayak, constructed entirely of locally-sourced bamboo, zip ties, and recycled museum-grade vinyl signage.  In 2012, for a project at the Antique Boat Museum in Clayton, New York (Thousand Islands), we constructed a boat from craft paper and wood glue, based on research into the historic paper boats of Troy New York.  In 2013, we revisited our paper boatbuilding plans and took to the Charles River in preparation for an exhibition at Boston Center for the Arts’ Mills Gallery, curated by Juliana Driever. In 2014, we have embarked on a collaboration with 350.org, called SeaChange 2014. You can find out more about the project on the SeaChange tumblr site: http://seachange2014.tumblr.com.

You can download broadsheet-sized pdf files of basic Liberum Dory instructions, or Kayak and Paper Canoe instructions.

You can also write to us if you would like to request a butcher paper template for all of the necessary parts of a Liberum Dory — just pay for the postage and materials, and we’ll send the full-scale template out to you. You can also download a pdf of the stencils you’ll need below, and then print them out “tiling” or on an oversize digital printer.

The stencils:

If you want help building a dory, finding places in New York to go boating or sailing for free, or just to get in touch and see what else we’re up to, e-mail us at: littleboats [at - anti antispam] thefreeseas.org.


Time Lapse Video of Dory Build at Neuberger Museum, Purchase, NY:

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Posted under by thefreeseas on Friday 12 September 2008 at 11:34 am


  1. Comment by Dave — December 25, 2008 @ 6:42 pm

    I am interested in building a Liberum Dory for use on Newton Creek, which is a couple of blocks from my place. Is there a better way of getting in contact with our group? I would also like to visit your location but I can’t find the address. A friend emailed me an article about Mare Liberum while I was researching boats to build. The download file hasn’t been working. I have plans that will be taking me out onto Newtown Creek which coincide with your goals/ideals.
    I hope to hear from someone.

  2. Comment by Don — January 4, 2009 @ 1:42 am

    Have you considered the boats of Thor Heyerdahl as examples for your projects? Finding the natural materials to construct a boat that is sea-worthy is more of a challenge but what did the local indigenous folks use?

  3. Comment by Nick Newton — July 6, 2009 @ 6:47 pm

    I’d love to see more pictures of boats on here. I’d also love to see the video mentioned above – where’s the link to it?

    Thank you! I’m psyched to make one of these bad boys!

  4. Comment by thefreeseas — July 6, 2009 @ 9:05 pm

    Thanks for writing, Nick. I posted the video mentioned above. There should be plenty of pix of the boats around the site, though we’ll be adding more in the coming weeks as a follow-up to the workshop we ran here at the Gowanus Studio Space last weekend. Here’s a sampling from our friend E-liz:
    Keep in touch on your boat building progress.
    Dylan & the ML Crew

  5. Comment by Boris — February 16, 2010 @ 1:00 am

    Hi All,
    So impressed with your outlook on life and passion.
    Some years ago I was teaching environmental studies and we built two dories based on plans bought from UK. They were a pulling and sailing dories used by sea scouts for training. What excitement in the water used in Moreton bay Queeensland Australia. My grown up son and I were looking for plans suitable for cutting out on my 8×4 cnc router. We are going to do this in 2010 as time permits. Has anyone else done this? Would love to chat so as not to make mistakes!!! So will make some posting of our work. How are you folks getting on with your project?
    Boris and Stefan

  6. Pingback by ELIZABETH WEINBERG PHOTOGRAPHY: BLOG - Jerko the Gowanus Water Vacuum! — October 5, 2010 @ 3:47 am

    [...] hopped in a Liberum Dory for some shots from the [...]

  7. Comment by Sanjeev Shankar — September 30, 2012 @ 2:04 am

    Hi Stephan,

    It was an absolute pleasure to see your work and meet you briefly today at the Maker Faire.

    Your work brought back memories of my own boat building project in a remote part of southern India. Here is a link to the project: http://www.sanjeevshankar.com/snakeboat.html

    I hope we meet again. I am now in New York for an indefinite period.

    warm regards and congratulations
    Sanjeev Shankar

  8. Comment by Dylan — October 1, 2012 @ 10:29 am


    Thanks so much for coming by, and for sharing your snakeboat! How amazing – 200′ long is a lot of boat. What are they generally used for? Is this the same kind of construction: Snakeboat ?

    ML Crew

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