Great Cardboard Boat Regatta®
a cardboard boat is all about trying to meet "The
a person-powered cardboard boat that is
completing three trips around a 200-yard course.
the way, you will enjoy encountering and dealing with many
small details. But look ahead to the satisfaction of knowing
you accomplished something that most people won't even try
-- building a boat made of corrugated cardboard.
. . . start with some objective in mind. Maybe you want to
build the fastest boat at the Regatta. Perhaps you are more
interested in one of the Judges Awards for design or eye
appeal. Maybe you want to win the Best-Dressed Team Award or
the Team Spirit Award. Perhaps you want to get on television
or be the featured photo in the newspaper. Or just maybe you
want to take home the Titanic Award for the most spectacular
. . . start with a design idea, a vision of what you
want your cardboard creation to look like. But consider this
first -- it doesn't have to be a boat at all! It can be any
design you like or want to try out. We've had jeeps, exotic
cars, full-scale pickup trucks, school busses, fire trucks,
and other vehicles. We've seen space shuttles, Elvis on his
guitar, beds, foldout soft drink cans, personal computers
(with a mouse that trailed in the water), a raft with a
trailing shark fin, a floating outhouse, a taco, a
bratwurst, a giant Tootsie Roll, Tessie the Loch Ness
Monster, Deidra the Dragonfly, the Statue of Liberty hand
(from "Planet of the Apes"), and so much more. Oh,
sure, we've had lots of boats too: submarines, aircraft
carriers, PT boats, lake freighters, pirate ships, the Exxon
Valdez (with simulated oil slick), and so on.
this to save time . . . build a model using a
manila folder or other heavy paper or lightweight cardboard.
That way, you can fold, re-fold, and fold again to your
heart's content. You can cut it up, glue it together, and
try out your design idea in small scale before working on a
full-sized creation. Or you can throw out an idea that
sounded great, but just won't work, then try something else
before you have wasted any cardboard.
about a little science? If you want, you can toss in
a little physics or other sciences. Maybe you will choose to
calculate the displacement of your design idea so
that you will have some certainty about the buoyancy of your
design. Here's the basic number: a cubic foot of water
weighs about 62 pounds. That means that a 180-pound man will
float in a boat that is 1 foot by 1 foot by 3 feet -- of
course, that could be a bit uncomfortable! But at least you
would know just how much boat you will need for you (and
your crew) so you don't overdesign it and add unnecessary
again, how about some art? Perhaps you have a really
creative idea, maybe something that nobody has done before.
Unless you get your kicks from putting in lots of hours and
making discoveries along the way -- hey, sometimes that can
be great fun -- you may want to at least try out that unique
or innovative idea in model form. If you want to put a palm
tree in the middle of your "desert island," be
sure you won't make the whole thing top-heavy -- unless, of
course, you are trying for the Titanic Award.
go full-scale . . . but first, think about this: make
sure your creation will be able to get out the door of
wherever you choose to build it. We have many tales of woe
about boats that had to be dismantled -- or even trashed and
rebuilt -- just because no one thought about the size of the
boat and the size of the door.
where to get cardboard?
At some Regatta sites, the local organizers bring in a
truckload of cardboard so that boat builders can buy it. You
might get cardboard from appliance stores. The shipping
boxes for refrigerators and big freezers can be good
possibilities. Maybe you can get boxes for TVs, bedding,
bookcases, or other furniture. Of course, you can also use
smaller sheets and glue them or fasten them together.
problem-solving is the name of the game. Whether you get
your creative insights from methodical effort or from
wide-ranging trail-and-error, building a cardboard boat can
be -- no, make that, will be -- both fun and challenging.
-- there are no plans, no pre-set designs, no step-by-step
instructions here . . . no recipe cards, no
fill-in-the-blank formats. The first ingredient in cardboard
boat-building is creativity. The second important ingredient
is problem-solving. Then there is cardboard, of course --
and it has to be corrugated.
maybe you are more the "wing it" type --
okay, get some cardboard, fold it a little, cut out any
excess here and there, add a little glue or duct tape, maybe
some paint or water sealant, and presto-chango, you have a
boat for the Regatta.
see, other materials . . . you can use glue and tape.
You can use paint and water sealant and other stuff. But
first, take a look at "The Rules" to find a short
list of substances that are not to be used. We're not trying
to make it tough on you, but we are steering you away from
stuff that is toxic, either for you or for the environment.
There is also a difference in the materials that are allowed
in the Class II cardboard creations, so be sure to check out
that section of "The Rules."
-- you will find it easier and more fun if you keep in mind
a few tips.
can have strength and still keep your boat light if you
laminate layers of cardboard. In fact, try placing one
layer so that the corrugations run in one direction,
then placing the second layer so that the corrugations
run at a 90-degree angle to the first layer.
fold cardboard across the corrugations, consider scoring
the line of the fold with the butt end of your utility
knife or other rounded edge of a tool.
step on your cardboard! If you break the corrugations --
well, think about it.
keep your cardboard dry, don't forget to seal the edges
with caulk or silicone. If water gets into your
corrugations, you can have great fun watching it get
drawn through the corrugation just like in a drinking
straw. That may be okay when you have time to do
something about it, but if you see this happen in the
middle of a race . . . !!
a bunch of other items to think about.
A flat bottom is recommended. A V-shaped bottom
is likely to tip over unless the V is very gentle.
lowest center of gravity is the most stable; kneeling or
standing will cause you to tip over.
boats go faster, but they are harder to turn.
shorter than 10 feet are difficult to steer.
height, allow about 18 inches for you to sit and paddle
effectively without the edge of your boat blocking your
width, figure about 18 inches for a kayak, about 23-24
inches for a canoe. Figure about 30 inches maximum for 1
person, 48 inches for two people.
he surfaces before gluing, caulk the edges, then glue
(carpenter’s glue works great).
oil-based stains, caulk, and glue because the oil soaks
into the cardboard, may never dry, and this weakens the
tape shrinks when it is painted.
tape melts when it is painted.
paper tape works well over caulked edges and seams.
about “glue guns” because that type of glue melts on
some of the fun is in the discovery. So that's it for tips.
Now go for it! Keep in mind the other lessons you learn
along the way. That will make building your next boat just
that much easier.
fun! Be creative! If
you can dream it, you can do it!