Surprise photo discovery: North Philly is full of boats

The neighborhood is kind of a giant boat yard. Who knew?

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Sheldon Abba
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Updated July 24

When the temps rise, Philadelphians start thinking about cooling off by the water.

There’s the city’s network of 70-plus public pools. There’s that elite swim club in Northern Liberties. For the rule-breakers among us, there’s fire hydrants (the city definitely doesn’t want you to open those) and the fountain in Logan Square, where swimming is technically prohibited but rarely enforced (you didn’t hear it from us).

North Philly takes it to a whole new level. A big makeshift beach recently popped up at 21st and Diamond — until the Inquirer blew up the spot and the man-made oasis was shut down.

Also: there are 30-plus boats scattered throughout the neighborhood.

Sheldon Abba lives at 13th and Girard. A few months ago, he started volunteering for the Free Library’s Lillian Marrero Branch at Sixth and Lehigh. In his free time, Abba is a street photographer. He walks nearly everywhere he goes, snapping photos all the way.

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Sheldon Abba

On his regular two-mile walk to Marrero, the rolls of film he’s filled have been unexpectedly… nautical. Abba has gotten so many photos of boats that he’s debated dedicating an entire Instagram account to them.

“A lot of different lots, if you take a peek in, you’ll see a lot of boats,” he said. “Especially in that area, there are some that have been there forever.”

A few times, Abba has seen passersby while snapping boat photos. He’s asked around, but never been able to track down any of the owners. Still, he’s heard plenty of rumors. “Some are delinquent properties, some are lot owners that have boats and need to drop them off somewhere,” he said. “Sometimes, people are living in them.”

Abba agreed to let us publish his collection. Scroll down to see more of North Philly’s urban-marine vibe.

The many boats of North Philadelphia

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Sheldon Abba

Featuring a dart board, if you’ve got nothing better to do.

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Sheldon Abba

And you can take a nap afterward.

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Sheldon Abba

This one is one the move.

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Sheldon Abba

While this one is waiting (and waiting, and waiting) patiently for its next adventure.

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Sheldon Abba

After all, the city is surrounded by rivers.

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Sheldon Abba

Why not a couple of jet skis too?

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Sheldon Abba

Do not park in front of this one, it needs quick access to the concrete.

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Sheldon Abba

Does the PPA ticket boats?

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Sheldon Abba

What would Philadelphians do without vacant corner lots.

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Sheldon Abba

That is one manicured boat dock.

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Sheldon Abba

While this one is more like a junkyard setting. (Boat still looks in good shape, though.)

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Sheldon Abba

What happens to “My Sanity” as it watches all the new construction rise around it?

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Sheldon Abba

Relegated to storage for recyclables.

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Sheldon Abba

Boat parking with a view, from trailers to steeples.

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Sheldon Abba

Seen better days — but those days were probably hella fun.

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