Sink or Swim! — The Cardboard Boat Race


Almost there! Contestants in the Cardboard Boat Race near the shore.

The Washington College community turned out in force for the Center for Environment and Society’s annual Cardboard Boat Race on Saturday, Sept. 23.  They were rewarded with a beautiful day, an array of activities and exhibits by the CES staff and students, and music by the High and Wides. New President Landgraf went straight from his inauguration in the morning to the race and his first official duty  — as a judge for the Cardboard Boat Race.

Seven contestants lined up for the three-o’clock start, all home-made concoctions of duct tape, cardboard boxes, ingenuity and plenty of hope. So it was in a way fitting that the first across the finish line was A Boat Full of Hope, whose crew handily out-paddled the competition. Second place was a hard slog, with the Minnow beating out the Student Life entry by a slim margin.

The crowd anxiously watches – will they make it across the finish line before they sink?

Despite the ambitions of the cardboard shipwrights, several of the entries rapidly took on water, barely making it to the midway buoy before sinking. Their sailors swam, valiantly pushing their waterlogged crafts to shore. There were “spotters” in kayaks and other boats located in several strategic places, ready to rescue any fatigued swimmers.  Fortunately their rescue services were not needed this race.  And all participants were wearing life-jackets just in case. The crowd and announcer John Schratweiser cheered all them on, with especially enthusiastic cheers for the sinking craft and their occupants. Among those who ended up swimming to shore were the crew of the popular favorite, the Goose, named for the school mascot — which ironically also took the judge’s award for Best Design.

Boatful of Hope, signed by numerous friends and well-wishers in the manner of a cast on a broken arm.

A Boatful of Hope had the slogan “All you Need Is Love” and was signed by numerous friends and well-wishers in the manner of a cast on a broken arm.  Their good wishes must have worked (along with the duct-tape) as Hope won the race!

The S.S. Minnow 

The boat Mermaid – loudly cheered around the course by the mother of one of the sailors – took the award for Team Spirit, while the Jurassic Park themed T. Wrecksosaurus took the prize for best theme. Honorable Mention went to the aptly-named There’s Room for Two.

The T. Wrecksosaurus crew brought a mascot – a friendly dinosaur who happily posed for pictures with audience members.  In between selfies, the dino danced, chased his boat crew – who were all wearing explorers’ pith helmets – nuzzled up to unsuspecting spectators, and nibbled at people’s heads and arms.

Dinosaur Mascot of the T-Wrecksosaurus boat

Spectators could also take part in a 50-50 raffle, a drawing for a ride on the CES’s oceanographic boat Callinectes, or a private tour of the CES’s research stations on Chino Farms.

Mastodon-spearing was a popular event. Note that except for one “Bulls-Eye,”almost no one hit the target.

Another popular attraction was a mastodon-spearing event, with participants using a special thrower to launch spears at a model mastodon on the far side of Wilmer Park.  Sponsored by the Anthropology Club, the event highlighted the skill and strength needed by ice-age hunters to bring down their prey.  Most of those who gave it a try were barely able to throw their spears half-way down the course where their spears would land near signs with messages like “Become a Vegetarian,” “Clovis but no Cigar,” or “Don’t worry! Bugs have protein, too!” The final sign, for those few whose spears actually reached the target, declaimed “You’ve MastoDONE it!”

Each participant got three throws using the atlatl, an Aztec spear-thrower, to determine if they were hunters or gatherers!

Aztec atlatl – spear-throwers

Cardboard Boat Race – The Judges

John Schratwieser, MC Extraordinaire!

High and Wides

The High and Wides provided lively music all afternoon.

Float or Sink experiment for kids by Center for Environmental Science


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