Phosphorax, The Puffin, The Cat’s Meow, Titanic 2.0, The Pajama Defenders and USS Lexington: these were just a few of the “seaworthy” crafts that launched one bright, sunny morning in May for the second annual Long-View Cardboard Boat Regatta. A crowd gathered at the Loop 360 Boat Ramp and cheered on as 14 boats, well 13 boats, successfully completed the course, paddling out into Lake Austin and back to shore.

This event started last year at our spring Build Week. In that Build Week #4, we were challenged by one of our favorite daredevil engineers, Nate Ball, to build a person-powered, “seaworthy” boat that could reach the “middle” of Lake Austin. Oh, and the only two materials we could use were cardboard and duct tape! Excited by the challenge — and a little nervous — learners worked collaboratively and creatively to design, prototype, and build these vessels. A local architect came to consult on how to think about designing something you’ve never actually built before, and she also taught us about the importance of drawing scaled plans. Mrs. Swanson taught us about buoyancy, as learners had to make sure their boats might actually hold them because the first and only time they would put their boats in the water was on race day. We discovered the urgency for other information along the way and hosted various sessions as needed. After a busy, exciting, and challenging week, we successfully had the first Long-View Cardboard Boat Regatta. (If you want to read more about that awesome week, click the link here.)

Never repeating a Build Week, we thought this was the end of cardboard boat racing at Long-View. However, after many requests from learners and families, we decided to iterate and bring back the Long-View Cardboard Boat Regatta, with the hope that it would become an annual event.

This year, participants were invited to register and go through the process outside of school hours. We also opened up the registration to participants other than just our learners. We had teams of children, teams of families, and mixed teams with a few experts (the children) and some beginners (the adults trying to help). After completing a registration form with key information (i.e. crew member names, the designated captain who would man the ship on race day, and the name of the boat), the teams met, planned, designed, and drew blueprints on their own accord. The second phase of the process required crews to submit blueprints with a “plan view” (from the top looking down on the craft) and an “elevation view” (from the side). These blueprints were required to have measurements clearly labeled. The Long-View Cardboard Yacht Club reviewed the plans and either approved or requested re-submittal of forms after adjustments were made.

Ultimately, we had 14 beautiful crafts show up on regatta day having completed the full process. Some were small and nimble, and others were so big they had to be trailered to the launch site with some assembly at the site. Captains stood at the bow of the boat and crew members on the port and starboard sides while Long-View Yacht Club officials checked boats to ensure blueprints matched the constructed craft. Club officials also interviewed captains about the process and design choices. Once approved, boats and captains received official designations and were allowed to launch.

The “coast guard” was at the ready, traveling alongside the boats as the captains paddled through the waves of Lake Austin, around two buoys, and back to shore. The spectators cheered and watched in awe as the brightly colored vessels sped through the water. Whether the captain had a great deal of experience paddling and navigating or whether he/she had little, each captain faced the waters with bravery and determination.

After all boats made it back to shore, including the one the “coast guard” had to “rescue,” the crowd of spectators and crew members gathered under the small grove of trees for the closing ceremony. Then, as the crowd dispersed, we all agreed that this iteration of the regatta was a great one, and we needed to not only keep the regatta going next year but also to grow it. So, stay tuned in the coming months! We might just expand our cardboard fleet and continue to make the Long-View Cardboard Boat Regatta an opportunity for learning, challenge, and fun for years to come.