Have you ever built a raft? And I don’t mean just inflated something manufactured, but actually lashed together various hopefully buoyant objects? Perhaps you were influenced by reading Mark Twain’s, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and yearned for adventure.
This summer, Soggy Shorts Outfitters of Emlenton, Pennsylvania organized a raft race. Safety precautions were taken, life vests were on all rafts, and a rescue boat monitored the event. With a maximum of four people per raft, and no motors allowed, rafts used paddles, sails, or bicycle-pedaled paddle wheels, and were timed on a scenic 3.9-mile stretch of the Allegheny River.
Rafts were constructed of assorted materials. One entry was constructed mostly out of duct tape. The winning raft, “Boondock Booty,” with a time of 42 minutes, was constructed out of “foam, plywood, linoleum, and pine trim,” shared crew member Josh Fisher, “and seats from a bus, for comfort.” Josh estimated that it probably took 20 hours of weekends and long evenings to construct.
Though speed was the object of this race, for some the goal may simply have been for fun, while for others it seemed like their long awaited opportunity to don Viking helmets. As if that wasn’t incentive enough, at stake was their name on a broken paddle trophy and $50.
However, Josh Fisher had different motivation for competing in the raft race. “Three out of the 4 of us have had our Moms affected by cancer… (2 passed away, 1 in remission) We kind of did it for our Moms.” They are even considering a “Paddle for the Cure” event for next year.
Waterways were around long before roads and the raft is symbolic of our freedom and buoyant spirit. If I spot the “Boondock Booty” floating down the river this fall, I will be smiling for different reasons. (In addition, if I ever see that raft traveling upstream, I’ll know that the motor restriction has been lifted and the crew is kicking it up a notch.)
Andy Whitcomb is a columnist, outdoor humorist, and stressed-out Dad living in Pennsylvania. Visit him at www.justkeepreeling.com.