Duct tape-crazed racers’ designs flawed, hearts unsinkable (with photo gallery)
SCHUYLERVILLE Fifteen minutes before race time, Amy and Alexis Broz were still working diligently on their cardboard turkey boat.
“I’m structure. She’s artistic integrity,” Amy Broz said, tipping her head toward 18-year-old Alexis as she cut slits in the cardboard neck of the turkey so she could secure the head to it.
The mother-daughter duo, who live in Schuylerville, have sailed handcrafted cardboard craft in Hudson Crossing Park’s Cardboard Boat Races since the event began eight years ago.
The annual regatta, which took place Sunday afternoon, raises funds for Hudson Crossing Park, a scenic historical site centered on Champlain Canal Lock No. 5 Island.
The park’s mission is to tie environmental responsibility to economic revitalization and to engage people of all ages in making informed choices for a sustainable future. Sunday’s race, which showcased innovative boats made mainly of recycled materials, epitomized that mission and helped to strengthen community spirit as well, said Marlene Bissell, the event’s chairwoman.
The race, sponsored by the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor and the Schuylerville Area Chamber of Commerce, typically rows in between $500 and $1,000 to help support the park’s programs.
Registrants paid a minimum of $15 to enter their human-powered cardboard creations in the race and probably spent a whole lot more than that on duct tape. The objective: to keep the cardboard crafts afloat for the short paddle from shore to the middle abutment of the Route 29 bridge and back again.
Spectators cast votes for their favorite boat for a $1 donation.
This year’s race theme was “Birds of a Feather.” Many of the boats were designed to look — and ideally fly through the water — like birds. There were boats that looked like loons, there was a long-necked pink flamingo, a gray Canada goose, the bright yellow S.S. Goldfinch, and then there was the Brozes’ Wild Turkey.
Amy Broz conceded that turkeys don’t swim.
“I think we’re creating a Titanic entry,” she predicted.
But that wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing. There was the potential to win prizes like beach towels and bouncy balls not just for coming in first, second or third in one of the event’s eight races, but also for sinking dramatically. The boat in each race that took on water in the most spectacular way was presented with the Titanic Award.
The sound of unrolling duct tape filled the air as 31 boat builders put finishing touches on their cardboard vessels.
Zeke and Abe Reiss of Arlington, Mass., were finishing up their black and red Angry Birds boat with the help of their father, Pete Reiss and grandfather, Charlie Reiss, who was installing a faux motor made from an empty gallon milk jug.
The boat took the family one day and six-plus rolls of duct tape to complete.
What they hoped would keep their boat buoyant was a hollow core specially designed by Pete Reiss, who is an architect by trade.
“It has air compartments just like the Titanic,” he said with a laugh.
Zeke, 6, had all the confidence in the world that the boat would float. His brother Abe, 12, wasn’t so sure. He gave the boat a 50 percent chance of finishing the race.
Brothers Thomas and Jesse Bradley of Wilton hoped the 20 2-liter soda bottles duct-taped around the sides of their boat, The Blue Typhoon, would help to keep it afloat. Thomas, 11, was at least hoping the boat would make it to the middle of the race.
Nearby, three-time race participants Matt MacWatters, 16, and Dan Rogers, 16, both of Ballston Spa, hoisted a rectangular paper sail on their cardboard schooner.
“At first we were serious when we built this boat, but then we decided we wanted to have fun, so we built the sail and that kind of ruined the competition part,” MacWatters said, admitting that they sank the last two times they participated in the race.
This year, things were going to be different, the boys assured.
“We made it a lot bigger and used a lot more cardboard — layers and layers, just to make it more stable and tougher,” MacWatters said.
The race starts
At 1 p.m. the races began.
“Five, four, three, two, one!” the announcer counted down, and the boats and their skippers left the shore. Some of the cardboard crafts were surprisingly sturdy, but most wobbled unsteadily as they entered the lazy waters of the Hudson River. Watched over by a fleet of rescue personnel, the boats traveled slowly toward the abutment at the center of the bridge. Some had trouble staying on course. Others slowly sank, but eventually, most of the soggy crafts crossed the finish line — some with their captains still high and dry inside them and others that were dragged ashore in soggy pieces.
Box the Magic Dragon, a pink and green entry in the Pre-Built Cardboard race, never made it past the starting line. Boat-builder Jerry Lalonde of Hudson Falls blamed his first mate — his daughter Bonnie Scofield, 10 — for the boat’s abrupt descent to the river’s bottom. She had other ideas.
“And you’re the one that said it was seaworthy,” she said, hands on her hips. “I know we should have duct-taped the whole bottom.”
Amy and Alexis Broz hurriedly slapped extra duct tape on their turkey boat’s bottom and painted its splayed tail feathers right before the second heat of the Birds of a Feather race began.
With Alexis Broz as skipper, the turkey wobbled out into the water. The craft’s wings got in the way of the paddle, so she opted to propel the boat with her hands instead. As the craft began listing to the left, her mother, watching from a dock near the shore, quipped, “I think the turkey just committed a water foul.”
Out near the abutment, the turkey boat sank, but Alexis Broz did not abandon ship. She swam to shore, dragging the limp remains of the tail.
“It was nice while it lasted,” she said, dripping on the shore. She practically crowed with delight when she heard the turkey boat had won the Titanic Award.