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Sunday, August 30, 2015

2015 Trashboat Regatta: Meet Charlie & Foxtrot

I started hoarding two-liter bottles last December or January. I thought I did about one a day, so I expected by July I'd have about 180 empties to work with. The Trashboat Regatta got delayed to the end of August due to flood conditions on the river, and when I got my boat lashed together I think I only had about 90 bottles.

Zippy wanted to come, but the only cat I allowed was Charlie.

And a lot of inner tubes, discarded bicycle tubes was what I lashed the HMS Clusterfuck together with. And zip ties, I used those to secure the truck my friend Will welded together for me out of a hack-sawed bike frame (the one I destroyed meeting Corinna), and two junk mountain bike forks. Oh, and I guess there were some deck screws and scrap lumber that held the two pallets together.

I wasn't at all sure about towing this thing to the river by bike. As far as O.G. Trashboat Regatta standards go, the way Joel & Michelle conceived the regatta, not only is no motor power allowed on the boat, but you're supposed to get the boat to and fro without a gasoline motor, either. At least that's the way I remember it presented to me about five years ago.

I thought maybe the best plan was to lash the barge to the Kuat on my Scion xB and tow it to the river that way. Corinna said I'd get a ticket for an illegal trailer, and maybe, but what scared me more was ruining a $500 bike rack. The Kuat is supposed to be able to take two 60 lb bikes, and that's a stout rack, but the HMS Clusterfuck weighed 200 lbs if it weighed an ounce. Part of the problem was the pallets, they were scammed from my employer, a print shop. The stuff we buy by the skid, it's paper, say 10,000 sheets of 26x40 parent size sheets. There's pallets that are three boards with a half dozen boards nailed across them. Then there's these skids, which have cross-bracing and 3/4 inch plywood floors and reinforcing blocks.

Then again, the bike tubes weigh something. Maybe not much individually, but by the time you have lashed 90 two-liter bottles to shit in a way that only one or two pop out on the river, yeah, there's some weight there. Then there's the truck, made of a steel bike frame I bent a few minutes after meeting Corinna (I rode it 5200 miles after that but shouldn't have), and two mountain bike forks. Towing the Clusterfuck was an adventure of its own, as the boat rocked back and forth my front wheel jerked about.

No rubber on the Clusterfuck's wheels. I started to put some on, but by the time my wife gives up on a tire, it's whipped. I found a pair of 26" wheels in the basement, scrounged up a couple of tubes, and before I had 40 lbs in the first tire it blew out the sidewall. So I reasoned that rims would have the least rolling resistance, plus I'd shed the (modest) weight of two tires and tubes.

The noise I made rolling along Minnesota towing this barge was epic. I was the Atlanta Rhythm Section conducted by Arnold Schoenberg or maybe John Cage. It was like atonal steel drums, and it was hilarious seeing people turn around and double-take try to figure out what the actual hell they were seeing.

I mean, I had to tow the thing upside down so it wouldn't drag, so there's all these bottles. Then there was Charlie and Foxtrot, styrofoam sculptures a client of mine had commissioned, then didn't use because they looked too psychotic for her trade show booth. She didn't want to hurt the artist's feelings so she paid for them, then gave them to me as a, uh, gratuity? I've used them as yard art ever since, and I'm actually kind of fond of the, but yeah, they look crazy enough for a Trashboat Regatta.

This was actually the first trashboat I built. Not the first I've ridden on, but after last year, Corinna felt like she'd done too much work and I hadn't done anything (I was busy, I don't remember with what). The long and short of it was I said, fine, I'll build the next boat, I'll do all the work and you can just ride down the river. I kept my word, though she didn't feel up to floating. She did help me with the tow job to the river, though, and a good thing. Because a mile and a half in, the Atlanta Rhythm Section slipped down onto my fender and I was pretty well fucked to get it back up on the rack on my own. I should have done a test tow (she told me so), but I didn't, and as a result, my tow hookup was dodgy at best.

Then as I got to Kaw Point, I didn't realize they were building some huge warehouse (or some bullshit) where the turn off used to be and I missed the turn for the boat ramp. Had to do a 180 in the road, which was pretty wide but this tow arrangement wasn't up to it. I thought Corinna had bailed and gone home, and I was tugging fruitlessly on things when I saw her coming down the bridge into Fairfax. She got me to the river and I got all kinds of street cred for doing it O.G. Trashboat style, the only one to tow his boat to Kaw Point by bike.

Then when it got time to actually launch, I ended up being one of the last boats in owing to a beer & burgers run. And paddle mightily, I could not catch up with the group. Well, I kind of did while it was still the Kaw, but once we got to the Missouri somehow everybody just dropped me like a bad habit.

A drone followed the launch!

The firefighters were out again with their jetboats. Except this year I didn't scoff because they saved my worthless behind last year (and my daughter's and my wife's and my friend's) when we got stuck on a log jam. As I cruised down the river a guy on a pontoon boat asked me if I was confident. I was like, yes, I've done this before. True, though not solo.

He was like, When you get to those bridges, the current is going to eat your lunch.

I'm like, I know the danger of which you speak, I plan to row like hell to stay within the channel. He was like, your rowing isn't doing shit (this was true as far as I could tell). So I asked, what do you suggest I do?

His first suggestion was that I abandon ship and jump on his boat. Yeah, I don't think so. This is 90 two liter bottles, a truck and a couple of sculptures I want to keeep, and a couple of pallets my friend wants. Abandoning ship makes me a litterbug, too.

Then his idea was to throw me a rope and control idle me past the bridges, but then he noticed all the people ahead of me (everyone), and went to warn them of their imminent doom and I managed to thread the needle. Getting through the Broadway bride was easy enough but then I was right in line with an old Town of Kansas pylon and had to work like hell to get clear of it. The firefighters in their jetboats were on hand in case I screwed it up, but the worst thing I did was be slow on the river. Hydrodynamics, I never studied it. They asked me if I could go faster and I told them honestly, not really.

KCMO and KCK firefighters were on the river and I could hear them meeting up with each other. 'You got medical supplies on that boat?' 'Just cigarettes.' Then I'd hear their radios talking about the last remaining straggler and I was like, 'Hey, I know that's me you're talking about.'

Then when I got to the pullout, I paddled like hell to get over and nothing. I'd been sticking close to shore, so close at one point I had to use my paddle to shove back off into the river. But there at the pullout, nothing doing. The jetboat pushed me gently in so I didn't have to land down at the Cheauteau bridge or something.

I got a wicked trophy and a much appreciated ride home. I can't wait to do this again next year, though I'm going to try and cut the weight of the craft in half. And the truck from the Clusterfuck, I think I'm going to make that into a cargo trailer.

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