Yesterday we took our raft down the Merrimack. Here’s what it looked like:

Log Raft

Log Raft

We built it from pine and birch, which are both relatively light woods. Still, I’d guess it weighed 300 pounds. I was the first one on it, and about as I expected, it had negative freeboard – that is, it completely submerged with my weight on it. That is not the same thing as sinking – it floated, just not enough to keep me dry. When I tried paddling it, it was list from side to side. I found it nearly impossible to propel.

It was able to keep itself afloat when a kid was on it though:

It floats!

It floats!

She’s doing her best to paddle it, but it wasn’t going anywhere. You don’t have to look too closely to see that we decided to tow it. It’s tied onto a canoe.

Over all, the trip was pretty great. The kids sure seemed to enjoy it. It rained a bit the whole time, but I didn’t hear a single complaint about that. Since we were already thoroughly soaked from using the raft, a little rain hardly made any difference.

The river was pretty low. I read that New Hampshire is just barely on the wet side of a drought. We’ve had about a third as much rain as is typical this summer, and the river showed it. That makes for a slower than usual trip, even if you’re not towing a pile of logs. But that wasn’t what set our speed. Something else conspired to slow us down even more.

We had with us four canoes and four kayaks. We also had about seven people who were competent paddlers. That means, of course that at least one boat had no one in it who knew how to make it go straight. This was especially difficult for the kayaks, as an inexperienced paddler will tend to make it go in circles. When they finally did manage to make it go straight, it was more often than not pointed at one of the banks or back upstream. Our speed was negative in such times.

David, a highly competent paddler, was in a canoe, and noted that he paddled almost not at all, except to slow down. Drifting was too fast.

I did not sufficiently account for these factors when I estimated how long our four mile float would take. I figured about two hours. We put in at about 11:00 and took out at 2:30.

Then I had the task of loading eight boats onto the vehicles. We did take the raft apart while it was still in the river. I saw no point in hauling a 300 pound raft up the bank. We returned the wood to Ken, as he intends to burn it (though he will allow it to dry again first).

All that took two hours, and I was pretty tired when I got home. After a nice shower, the family went to the Outback to celebrate Jonathan’s birthday. I had Va drive though, as I was just too tired.