Monday, May 7th, 2012

After the weekend’s adventures, I was one tired guy today. A single night’s sleep was not sufficient to revive me, and I found myself dragging after lunch. I gave up, went home a bit early, and took a nap. Now I feel a ton better, so I will attempt to share with you the adventures that caused all this fatigue! But I will limit it to just the cardboard boat race. There were a lot of other things that happened over the weekend, and by “The Full Account” I mean, “The Full Account of Our Cardboard Boat Adventures.”

I have already posted video of the maiden voyage of our canoe. Our boat was one of the two selected for the first run (by what criteria, I have no idea). I gave the camera to David, and he shot the video. I have not listened to it (because I don’t really care for listening to screaming crowds), but I understand that he might have made a few comments comparing the Redux to the “HMS Sinkeytowne” which we entered in 2009. While I agree that the Sinkeytowne was a better boat than the Redux, the Redux was Good Enough.

Anyhow… I diverge. Because he was shooting video, I have no stills. You’ll just have to look at this morning’s post and watch the video (if you are able – sorry to those of you who can’t, C!).

Natasha had the most merit points so far since January, so she got to go first. And since she chose the canoe over the kayak, the next two girls who also chose the canoe got to go with her. None of them had ever paddled stern before (which is the position that controls 90% of the steering, or 100% of the steering if I’m back there with inexperienced paddlers in the front).


I dug in as hard as I could, and the canoe was handling pretty nicely. We rounded the buoy, but that could have been done better. I turned downstream, when I should have turned upstream. That way, the current would have caught the front of the boat and turned us faster.

In 2009, we went out to the buoy and made a 90 degree turn, then went to the next buoy and made another, returning to the opposite side of the dock from which we started out. This year they modified it, and we were to make a 180 degree turn and return to the same starting point. That way is more fair, because then there’s no paddling upstream for one team, and downstream for the other.

Even though the turn was made with suboptimal execution, it was still not bad, and we managed a 58 second run. That was the fastest time at that point (duh) but it was also only the first run. I was pretty pleased with it.

We got out of the canoe, and I put my next four girls in. Jane has been in our club for six years, and I know she has done some canoeing. I’ve taken her out more than once myself. I just didn’t remember that she had never paddled stern before.

The second voyage of the Redux

The second voyage of the Redux

That was my mistake. They paddled out to the buoy straight as an arrow. But then they could not get the boat to turn. Usually kids have the opposite problem in that they can only make it turn and they can’t get it to go straight at all. They passed the buoy which was maybe 80 feet off shore. Then they went another 80 feet before they finally managed a turn. If the race had been all the way across the lake, they might have done pretty OK. But it wasn’t.

At that point in their journey, they switched from not being able to turn to not being able to go straight. Pretty soon the current caught them and they were just headed downstream. When they got too far off course, the safety canoes showed up, threw them a line, and began to tow them in.

When they got within 50 feet of the dock, the girl holding the line let go. That was a mistake. They were no more able to steer that canoe 50 feet from the dock than they had been 100 yards from it. It started going all screwy on them, and in short order, they rammed it into some rocks on the shore. I headed to the bank to swap out with one of them, but before I could get there, they had backed up and were far from my help. So I scrambled back up the embankment. When I got to the top, they came in and rammed those same rocks again. So back down I went. Again when I got there, they had reversed and were back out in the lake a pretty good distance, but I stayed put this time. Again, they came in and rammed the rocks on the bank, and I grabbed the canoe.

I told the girl in the bow to get out, and for the rest to stay put. I got in. They asked, “What do you want us to do Mr Thomas?” and I told them to stay put and keep their paddles in the boat. In short order I had them back at the dock. The crowd was cheering wildly, but I think they were pretty embarrassed. At that point, our team had both the fastest time and the slowest time. We hung on to the slowest time. That was not a statistic that changed as the other nine boats ran the race.

There was a club from the Bay of Fundy up in New Brunswick, Canada who came down for the Camporee too. They had built a boat, but did not wrap it in plastic for the trip down. It poured rain, and their boat was no longer intact when it arrived. I offered to let them take a cruise in ours, and they gratefully accepted. So back at the dock, I stayed in, and the two Canadian girls boarded. While I was waiting for them to board, I noticed a little stream of water gushing in through the hull. I was kneeling in the ex-bow (but since I was facing the other way, that was now the stern). The bow had taken a beating on the rocks, and we had probably 20 gallons of water aboard by the time the timekeeper told us to go.

With all that water aboard, the Redux was a lot less responsive to the paddle. I still hadn’t figured out that I should turn upstream around the buoy, and the boat really, really didn’t want to make the latter 90 degrees of the 180 degree turn. But I insisted. We got back, and by then, the Redux had shipped about 30 gallons of water. At that rate, it was not in danger of sinking for at least another 10 minutes. The water wasn’t coming in any faster than a kitchen faucet could fill it, and just think of how long it would take to fill a 300 gallon bucket from the kitchen sink. Yeah – a long time.

I got out of the boat, as that was its third and final voyage. Then came the task of getting it up out of the lake. Thirty gallons of water weighs about 240 pounds, and the cardboard was quite limp at that point. It took four of us to lift it up onto the dock. We flipped it over to drain, and then hauled it up the hill next to the fire pit.

The Redux awaiting its funeral pyre.

The Redux awaiting its funeral pyre.

During the trip up the hill one of the ends split open. Ahhh, you had a great run Redux. But this was your expected fate.

By this time I was pretty spent, having run two races full out, one rescue mission, and then hauled the sodden mass of cardboard, duct tape, and glue up the hill. I had a brief rest while they ran some other boats. And then it was time for “KAYAK spelled backwards” to race.

Beth was the first to go. I posted a photo of that last night, so you could go see it here if you wanted to. I was nervous that she might not have a good run, and that maybe she would steer it as well as the foursome in the Redux did, wrecking on the rocks, and with it, our chances of winning the fastest time. But she amazed me with her performance. She took two port-side strokes before she cleared the dock on the starboard side, and by then, the boat was crooked. She compensated with two starboard strokes, and then she was crooked the other way. But she got it straightened out pretty quickly and then made a beeline for the buoy. That’s when the kayak showed its real strength.

The plastic kayak upon which “KAYAK spelled backwards” was formed is a white water kayak (a “Prijon Rockit” if you must know), and it was designed for quick turns in whitewater. Doing a 180 around a buoy was childsplay, even for a child. She rounded the buoy in an instant and headed back to the shore. I think she finished in something like 90 seconds.

Then it was Joy’s turn.

Joy powering "KSB" back to the dock

Joy powering “KSB” back to the dock

She also turned in a stellar performance, as did Connor and Trevor.
Connor captains the KSB

Connor captains the KSB

Trevor in the KSB

Trevor in the KSB

And finally it was Cody’s turn.
Cody rounds the buoy in and instant.

Cody rounds the buoy in and instant.

Cody was the strongest paddler to pilot KAYAK. He finished the race in 45 seconds, and that was good enough to get us a second place ribbon. The 58 second run in Redux earned the third place ribbon. And yes, that means we did not have the fastest time. The Woodstock Whitetails pulled that off with a four-man kayak in a very impressive 38-second run. Wow. My hat is off to them. They had a couple of other runs that were also faster than Cody’s 45 seconds, but the judges only considered the fastest time by each boat, as the prizes were awarded to the boats rather than to individual runs.

While Cody was making his run, a mother from another club asked if her daughter could take a turn. They did not build a boat, but the girl wanted to give it a try. So I said, “Sure, as long as it’s still seaworthy when all the kids in my club had taken a turn.” It was still exceedingly seaworthy, but it had shipped maybe five gallons of water by the time Cody got out (he was our last kid to run in the kayak). The girl stepped in, but tried to kneel in the seat instead of sitting in it. I told her, “No, your legs go in front, and you sit here on the seat.” Then she decided to not go. I must admit, that five gallons of water did take the waterline up to the level of the seat. Since she declined, I hopped in instead. Yeah. It was wet all right.

By that time I had figured out the turn upstream tactic, and that’s exactly what I did. I powered the kayak out, made the zero-radius turn in record time, and then powered it back. But my time was 47 seconds. Cody. Beat. Me.

Ah well. I am a geezer compared to him. Also, I had already been out three times and was pretty well flogged by then. When I got out and we lifted the boat out of the water, we flipped it over to drain the five gallons of bilge and saw that a sheet of un-corrugated cardboard had partly come off. We had an underwater sail. Surely, that came off between Cody’s run and mine, right? Also, there had to have been more water in the kayak by the time I got in compared to Cody, right? It couldn’t be that I’m nearly 50, and can’t compete with a strapping teenage lad. That could never be it!

We hauled KAYAK spelled backwards up the hill and placed it next to Redux. Then we got out a knife and cut out her name ot keep next to Sinkeytowns’s name in our trophy case.

Connor removes KSB's name from the bow

Connor removes KSB’s name from the bow

Some of you might be sorry to see that our boats lasted only one day. But that was what I fully expected. I knew these weren’t as waterproof as the Sinkeytowne, and the Sinkeytowne was disposed of in exactly the same way. This is How It Was Meant To Be.

I didn’t think to cut out the Redux’s name until it was already in the fire.

The Redux in flames, and KSB getting ready

The Redux in flames, and KSB getting ready

You can see how KSB could no longer hold its shape. Some of that was due to the removal of the front deck, but it was mostly because… it was a sodden cardboard boat. So sodden, that these two were unable to heave it into the fire. Peter from Limington stepped in and gave a hand.
With a heave and a hoe, KSB joins Redux in a fiery ending

With a heave and a hoe, KSB joins Redux in a fiery ending

The End

The End

So Redux had three voyages, and Kayak spelled backwards had six. Not a bad performance!

Here’s a video of the maiden voyage of “Redux,” our cardboard canoe.

This run was 58 seconds, which was good enough for third place in the event.
More to come!