Friday, June 3, 2011

Boat Building

Millions and millions of years ago Bluff was part of an inland ocean. From time-to-time visitors to Twin Rocks Trading Post claim they can still feel the primordial waters. It is almost as though, for them, the surging energy of those ancient waves continues to lap against sandy beaches that have over the millennia hardened to stone.

The Wreck of the Turquoise Trader

Most travelers, however, only see the desert, with its stark, barren, solitary beauty. Personally, I fall into that category. With only seven inches of annual rainfall, it is difficult for me to comprehend this land inundated with water.

As any desert dweller knows, moisture is revered, and there is no taking it for granted. Large bodies of water are not, however, anything I have to manage on a regular basis, so the ability to navigate them has never been part of my resume. It may come as no surprise then that I am less than competent when it comes to building floating objects. That, however, did not deter Grange and Kira from coming to me when their homework projects required constructing something that could be propelled across a tub or reservoir.

Since Grange and I had only recently completed his powder horn project to satisfactory standards, I was the natural choice when it came time to manufacturing a small, self-propelled water craft. Not knowing where to start, we drove the mile and a half across town to the Desert Rose Inn to consult Uncle Amer. Amer has a master’s degree in electrical engineering, so I reasoned he must also know about building floatable objects. “Not so,” he said, reminding me that he also originated in the desert.

He did, however, give us the key to his wood shop, cautioning us against the loss of digits. Taking a cast-off piece of 1” thick lumber from the trash heap, Grange and I cut a 5” x 6” rectangle, affixed two narrow strips of wood we hoped would serve as pontoons, fashioned a frame akin to those I had seen on air boats and attached a battery powered propeller.

By the time that had been accomplished, the clock was striking 11:00 p.m. Since the competition was only hours away, there was no time to test our engineering, so it was the proverbial sink or swim scenario. The following morning Grange placed our masterpiece in the trough specially built for the contest. His confidence rose as the boat chugged out past the halfway point. His was, however, false hope, for not long after reaching the center of the watercourse, the craft sputtered to a stop and promptly sank to the bottom of the canal, resting sadly in its shallow grave.

Overlooking my initial failure, Kira enthusiastically searched me out when it came time to build a cardboard boat sturdy enough to transport her across Recapture Reservoir. “A cardboard boat?” I questioned. “Yes,” she assured me, “it can be done.”

Having located a sturdy box measuring about 21/2’ by 31/2’, we designed a hull with a shallow draft and pointed prow, inserted the crate and attached . . . pontoons made from long narrow boxes the trading post uses for shipping Navajo rugs. After duct taping every possible seam, Kira painted it turquoise blue, sealed it with bee’s wax and declared it ready.

Imagine my apprehension as we set the craft in the water, and my elation, when it and Kira actually bobbed on the surface, riding comfortably on top of the water. “Yes,” I thought, silently thanking the Water Gods. As Kira paddled across the approximately mile long course, my confidence soared. Knowing our luck may not last, I encouraged her to work harder. Kira’s style is, however, more la-la-la than rat-a-tat-tat, so she maintained her slow progress, chatting with a kayaker along the way.

When Jana and I noticed she was getting close to the finish, we got in our old Ford truck and raced around the reservoir to retrieve her. Arriving at the other side, we discovered Kira’s pontoons had failed, water had rushed in and she had sunk, just yards from her final destination.

The moral of this tale: “Prehistoric oceans and ancient dunes do not guarantee successful pontoons,” or “The older we get the more we realize there are no morals, only stories.”

With warm regards,
Steve, Barry and The Team

Great New Items! This week's selection of Native American art!

Our TnT's purchased new treasures! Check out Traders in Training!

Enjoy artwork from our many collector friends in Living with the Art!

No comments: