Cardboard Boats: Sink or Swim?

June 22nd, 2011 | Posted by denise in Everything Boating & Fishing

Students in Plentywood High School’s Advanced P.E. class received an unusual assignment this year: construct a cardboard boat and paddle across Bolster Dam.

Bolster Dam is a small, 100 acre dam on the north end of Plentywood, MT. It is a popular spot for fishing, kayaking, and the occasional jet skier. Bitterly cold temperatures during the winter months make the dam a great venue for ice fishing as it is well-stocked with perch and walleye.  The dam is typically spotted with ice fishing huts from December through March but this spring it became an entirely different venue.

In mid-May, the class brought their newly constructed boats to the dam in preparation of their maiden voyage into the brisk waters of the dam. The class had been divided into groups of four and given two weeks to construct their boats. Students were not given a template to work from but they were told that the bottom of the boat needed to be at least three layers of cardboard thick. As outlined in the assignment, they were only to use duct tape, cardboard, and water repellent paint.

Cardboard Boat Race with Lifejackets

Not knowing how their boat would fare in the water, all of the students wore life jackets. Judging from the image, you might assume that the boat was capsized due to poor construction. However, construction was not what initially sunk the boat. The team of boys who built the boat (who are all over 6′ in height) simply overestimated the capacity of their boat. All four boys jumped in the boat for the first ride, resulting in the sinking of their vessel. They cut their load down to two people per boat (like the pink boat in the foreground) which allowed for a successful voyage across the dam.

The success of cardboard boats in Plentywood (coupled with the availability of cardboard in our warehouse) has tempted some of us non-boat owners at to take a shot at building a cardboard boat of our own. That way when everyone talks about “taking the boat out this weekend,” we can join along in the conversation. Like the students in Plentywood, we can assure you that we will be taking precautionary measures by equipping ourselves with a life jacket…just in case!

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