Friday, September 24, 2004

Cardboard pirates? Shiver me corrugations!!

Construct a boat out of cardboard in two hours or less, race it in heats across the set course and then test it to see how much weight it can hold...

What, you've never heard of such a thing? Now you have!

This was the best of the organized activities we enjoyed at the conference in Ontario. A grand experience to be sure! There were about five teams of people with several days to plan and sketch. When the bell began, though, so did the judging! They scored us on everything from creativity, to consistency with our submitted designs...even safety was a factor. If someone happened to get a cut while building, the team got docked points for it.

All the teams were pre-named by the judges. We had the very dubious honor of being the "Pink Flamingos." Our team was also blessed with a complete lack of any real creative engineering skills. There were a couple handy-men who could think about constructing a bit, and I could draw a rough design, which I did. I also had the "boat captain" status which might have had something to do with the disastrous results.

I could never make you fully appreciate what a cardboard boat looks like because it could look like anything. We settled (mostly at my urging) on a semi V-shaped hull. There were about 6-8 inches of flat on the bottom (blunting the V) which we decided to add late in the game--it was a good addition I think. We never did come up with a really GOOD final design--we ended up using one of my preliminary sketches. The building process was mostly by the seat of our pants. No real idea of what to do, but it finally came together and we all started to get excited about it. It looked a little like a dugout canoe and we planned on doing well in the speed contest. Most considered us the favorites for looks at least! The others had mostly flat-bottom designs with varying structural support. Each team was allowed a couple scraps of wood--slats of wood might be more like it. Ours were used in the bottom for the most part, the excess providing our first-mate with a pirate sword.

From the beginning, we were much more pirate-like than the other teams. We had our paper pirate hats and went about our business muttering "arrrh, arrrh!" Our only problem was the pink flag which we had by default. That didn't get us down, though, and we made the best of it!

When the time came to lower out boats into the water for the time heat, we were all pretty excited and confident in our buccaneer water skills! We came to the dock for our turn at the course, lowered the boat into the water and prepared to board. Nick, my co-seaman on this voyage stepped into the back and then I into the front. No sooner did I squat down when I was confronted by a geyser of water coming from the bottom of the boat--A LEAK! The duct tape had failed us!

The first (and last) desperate thought in our minds was to start paddling for all we were worth. I had just dipped my paddle, however, when the boat swamped and I pitched forward into the water. That was the end of the tape-challenged, pink flamingo pirates!

Before anyone says "Well, how could a cardboard boat float anyway?" let me just note that everyone else successfully completed the time trials except us. Our boat was a complete wreck. There's nothing you can do when the water gets into the cardboard via exposed edges. It was a real mess but we kept our dignity none the less and dutifully carried our soggy craft back out for the weight contest. Our purpose was unclear to the other teams until we suddenly dropped the thing into the water and leaped on-top with our flag waving valiantly in the breeze! Three of us we were, and I, captain of the ship, shirked neither duty nor honor in being the last to leave our "distressed vessel" and help pull the remaining mess out after us.

The day was over for us but our reward was a rich one: the "Titanic Award" for the fastest [sinking] craft and a few good belly-laughs on top!
<< Home 2 Comments:
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Now. I can imagine the boat, but what of propulsion?


12:52 AM, October 02, 2004  
Blogger Mark R said...

We were provided with two canoe paddles. I can't tell you if they were easy to use having not tested them properly before I tested the water with my whole self.

2:27 AM, October 02, 2004  

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