Hijinks on the high seas

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Treachery, treason and a bit of innovation hit the low seas of Merigomish during the sixth annual Duct Tape and Cardboard Boat Races.

The races were part of the Merigomish Funfest on Saturday which also included carnival style games, music and a karaoke pub night.

This year’s races saw a couple of changes; boats set off from the right side of the wharf rather than the left and the race consisted of two laps around a buoy about six metres from the shore.

Brent Minshull, honorary commodore, explained that the event’s new launching spot was shallower and cleaner than the previous spot.

This was Minshull’s first year taking part in the event.

“I’ve been invited before but I’ve always been lucky enough to find something else to do,” Minshull said, well within earshot of his fellow officials.

“There was lots of good action,” Minshull said. “And there was some ramming…”

The races saw 10 competitors take to the water in five boats with first-time skipper Dale Osgood, 11, of Merigomish taking the title.

“He was very innovative,” Minshull said. “He used little tiny cubes as opposed to one big box.”

“They’re hearing aid boxes,” Osgood explained. “My mom’s an audiologist.”

Osgood’s craft – The Bluenoser – was built, in fact, from two years’  worth of boxes and its unusual design caught the eye of event judge and Pictou East MLA Tim Houston.

“It was the first time I’ve seen that type of construction,” Houston said. “I don’t think it will be the last because it was a very effective construction and very well manned.”

The Bluenoser’s eight-bit appearance, Osgood explained, was not intentional.

“I was just planning to make a raft and my father said, ‘No, that’s not going to float,’ so we added the edges and everything and apparently it worked.”

Osgood said it was “awesome” to win the event but he wasn’t sure his craft could beat the slicker, more hydrodynamic appearing vessels among the competition. He was also not expecting the level of un-seaman-like behaviour displayed by his rivals.

“People were trying to tip me,” Osgood said.

“There was at least one competitor we had to disqualify,” Houston said, alluding to the ‘oar’ incident.

Houston said he was “surprised” by the intensity of the competition over all, claiming it to be “anyone’s race” up to the beginning of the second and final lap.

“I’ve been a competitor and I’ve been a spectator and that resume was sufficient enough to qualify me as a judge,” Houston said of his involvement. “I think they had faith in my objectivity.”

Lauryn Cameron, 16, skipper of the ill-fated Paper Bag Princess, was the event’s first Did Not Finish.

As a land-loving townie, Cameron was less than thrilled about the race’s new shallower, clearer location.

“I want to take a shower, right away,” Cameron said.

Her vessel capsized so early into the race that she wasn’t entirely sure if her chief engineer, J. Wolf, made it aboard.

“I think he was in it,” Cameron said with some doubt. “He’s wet… so yes. I’m pretty sure he was in the boat.”

Cameron said her craft made it “a solid two feet” before rolling.

Wolf recalled events differently. “I think we were three or four miles out before we finally capsized,” Wolf said. “There was a big wave that knocked us over.”
No one else on scene took note of such a wave.

“We made it back to shore… barely,” Wolf added.

While the crowd and event administrative body alike referred to the Paper Bag Princess as a “dragon boat” Wolf explained the ship was, in fact, modelled after “a giraffe with a broken neck”– a design element he felt would be quite sea worthy.
The sea felt otherwise.


Dale Osgood, 11, a first-time Duct Tape and Cardboard Boat Racer was the 2016 champ at the Merigomish Funfest.  (Cameron photos)

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