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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Safety Third or Questionable Judgement

The Six and a Halfth Annual Trash Boat Regatta was promoted more effectively than the previous five and a half regattas combined.

I really didn't contribute to building the HMS Safety Third beyond printing the cards, proper business cards with thermographically raised ink, that read 'SAFETY THIRD.'

To my eye, the boat was basically already built, the boat being the HMS Detour downsized to the HMS Street Closed, repurposed to be the HMS Safety Third. It's a big sucker as trashboats go, made from the lid to a hot tub and some other large chunks of foam found in the East Bottoms.

A purist's trashboat carries one person and the bike they tow the boat with.

Even trimmed down, the HMS Safety Third seats seven plus two bikes and a trailer with room to regret inviting an eighth friend. It's a cruise ship of a trashboat, really.

I took Mo and three other guest riders by car to Kaw Point for the launch and when I got there, well, wow. I had trouble finding a parking spot—this for an event that has sometimes included total participation that could fit on the HMS Safety Third.

There was fire department stuff there, too, they were launching two jet boats full of helmeted firefighters ready to save us foolish trashboaters.

I spotted Michelle, the genius behind the Trashboat Regatta, and her son Thorvall Stonecrusher III, and said, 'Wow, this is a...'

'This is a proper five ring circus,' she finished. I asked about the firefighters because, really, we've done this a few times before. Five and a half times, the half being when the river was at flood stage and Joel and Michelle let us take turns rowing their trashboats on Big Eleven Lake rather than risk our lives on the Missouri River. Or maybe the half was the time they had a second regatta in September and everyone froze their asses off and some of us (on the HMS Street Closed) learned to stay away from the discharge at the water treatment plant just past Kaw Point. Anyway, there was a half.

In fairness, she'd made the Kansas City Scar, the Pitch, Ink, KCUR, and a couple of TV news stations prior to the event. She'd pimped it at the Maker's Fair, someone had contributed a banner and some slickly produced cards promoting the event, and then there was the whole social media thing.

Once someone has seen a trashboat regatta, they naturally want to participate. That's how me and Corinna got into it, we went out on Joel and Michelle's boats on Big Eleven Lake and were both like, 'can't not do this!'

So anyway, we've been down the river a few times and it's not far and it's not fast and there's not a bunch of steamboats about to run your Tom Sawyer ass over, so I didn't see the need for the fire department. But Michelle said she was glad they were providing escort instead of just trying to stop the event in the interest of public safety which, I gathered, might have been the other way they could have played it. Which again, sounded ridunculous to me since we've done this before with nothing more than a beer-laden kayak for escort.

The river was, I have to admit, high this year if not quite at flood stage. We lashed the bikes on and hopped aboard and joined the largest flotilla of garbage the city has yet launched. It was glorious.

Then we came to the first bridge pier, one that doesn't even support a bridge. I think it's from the Hannibal Bridge, built back in the 19th Century, but in any case by the time I knew we were going to hit it there wasn't anything to do but brace ourselves. It flung Corinna and Bryan off the boat when we hit, and the river did an amazing job of pinning the boat to the logs that were also trapped against the pier and made an honest attempt at prying the bikes loose from the side.

And there were the firefighters in their jet boat. Gawd was I glad to see those dudes. We'd have gotten off that pier eventually, but it would have been hard and we could have easily lost $3,000 to $4,000 worth of bikes and bike trailers (this was a Trek touring bike with a custom wheelset rocking Phil hubs, a B.O.B. trailer and a carbon fiber cross bike).

The firefighters got us all on the jet boat, then towed our raft off the log jam and we bot back on. I was embarrassed until we got to the next bridge and there were three boats stuck on its supports. I guess the river being up, it was extra important to steer towards the channel between the supports to avoid getting sucked into them.

So the regatta was a huge, smashing success largely thanks to all those firefighters who showed up to provide us with an escort I thought was absurdly unnecessary. I owe those dudes some beers, some cookies, some heirloom tomatoes, gonna have to make a care package up and deliver it. They kept a fun event fun when it could have been stressful and traumatic (and even dangerous, and it's not lost on me that I took my autistic teenage daughter on this boat) because some of us might have underestimated the power of the river just a bit.

And I bet next year we take junkier bikes along...

I think I'm going to have to build my own boat next year, though. Out of two-liter bottles, the kind soda comes in since I'm such a junkie for that stuff.

Something tells me the Trashboat Regatta is only going to get bigger. Not only was there all that pre-publicity but at least two TV news programs aired reports on it, one of them quoting Corinna heavily. Like I say, you can't see the Trashboat Regatta and not want to do the Trashboat Regatta, and more people than ever saw this one.

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