Jack building his houseboat in 1962 - (Frank Herbert photography)

"The Santa Rosa Press Democrat sent Frank Herbert to interview me. The resulting article was headlined 'Jack Vance, Flying Saucer Expert'. In spite of this we became great friends and had many good times together. The Vances and the Herberts, seeking adventure and romance in an inexpensive location conducive to writing, planned an expedition. We took off in a Jeep Station Wagon, customised with cubbies and net slings for all manner of items and drove to Mexico.
Late in the '60s I, Poul Anderson and Frank Herbert began to talk about building a houseboat for use in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta waterways. Ever since my childhood, living near to Little Dutch Slough, this had been a dream of mine......And I suppose I pushed the most fervently, though Poul and Frank were no slouches. I put forth a plan and our partnership was established. The sections of two pontoons were built in the Vance driveway, then transported to a beach near the Standard Oil refinery in Richmond. The sections were assembled and filled with white Styrofoam blocks, for flotation. The pontoons were covered over with plywood, and sealed with fibreglass. A platform was attached to the finished pontoons, which in turn were set on poles to be rolled down to the water's edge at low tide. At this point, the owners of the marina, where we would finish the houseboat, furnished a bottle of champagne for its christening; that done, we found more bottles relaxed, listened to New Orleans,jazz and waited for high tide.
We worked most weekends building a house on the platform, anxious for the day the houseboat would be moved to the delta. One night, during a bad storm, it sank to the bottom. What to do? After serious discussion we decided that two of us should put on divinig gear, dive to the bottom carrying plastic sacks filled with Styrofoam blocks and air, wedge them under the platform and tie them to the outer edges of the hulls. Poul and I spent a strenuous couple of days, but the boat was finally raised to the surface. Cleaning out the muck took a bit longer.
About a year later, glistening with white and turquoise paint, all fitted out with bunks, steering mechanism, pot-bellied wood stove, even a head, the houseboat was ready for its voyage to the delta. A delay occurred when we grounded on a sand bar and were forced to wait for the tide to change. then another stop at a marina beneath the Carquinez Bridge to await daylight became necessary. Aside from this, all went smoothly on the way upriver; and once tied to a cleat on the dock of Moore's Riverboat Yacht Haven, located on the Mokelumne River, the good times were many.
Partners departed and others joined. Frank could not continue due to medical problems and a subsequent move to Seattle. One sad day even Norma and I had to find someone to take our place, due to plans for more extended travels. Our good friend Albert Hall and his two children were happy to oblige, especially since they already had become part of the group. Eventually, even Poul had no time for the upkeep and enjoyment of the houseboat. Another good friend Ali Szantho entered the partnership. All the writers had departed; new owners were enjoying it, and that's where my part of its history ends.

"Jack Vance, Biographical Sketch & Other Facts" edited by A E Cunningham - 2000

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