Doing it the hard way..

We have had the idea of making a raft for a long time. I had it as a kid and my sister and I built one, it was something to do with reading Tom Sawyer, the bit where they are rafting down the Mississippi living life fully and freely. Of course New Zealand rivers aren’t the same as the Mississippi river.

Helena and I have had other attempts, like the one with the pallet in the sea that when you sat on it it sunk, after it had cracked me in the shins of course….. and then the ones made of lashed together sticks (usually harakeke stalks) that were never going to go far.

Helena has been curious about the interisland ferry and how could it float when it was obviously heavy and full of cars and people for ages. She has made so many little boats, trying different shapes etc.

Then recently we found someones’ illegally dumped massive sheets of insulating polystyrene. Lots of them wedged next to a tree along the cycle path. It took some effort to get one home as when the wind catches it it’s like a sail. Helena’s grandfather gave us a calculation: how much water the air displaces is how many kilos the raft can carry.

We couldn’t use it as it was as we both agreed that any polystyrene in the sea was too much. We had grand ideas of sealing it, glue etc.. but what ever we used couldn’t dissolve polystyrene or dissolve in water.

The grand idea of sides had to go bye the bye as we didn’t have enough ‘no more nails’ and it kinda defeats the purpose if you have to go out and buy stuff. We ended up just making a furrow for a piece of wood to be like a spine with two wooden ‘seats’ going across the spine. We stuck a sheet of underfloor something on the bottom as we felt that might get bashed about a bit. Then I sewed a case for it out of an old sheet, sewed the polystyrene in and we painted over it.

Not elegant but check it out it works….


Kids who are at the jetty look on with interest, sometimes envy, then they hop into their parents speed boats (which spend most of their time idle on a car port somewhere) and speed off on a donut, or have a picnic at a beach only boats get to. We have had adults comment on our kiwi ingenuity. Helena is proud as. She wants people to see her raft. She is proud that we made it and it works.

We could have brought a kayak, a paddle board or some such thing second hand but would Helena get kiwi ingenuity out of that, a sense of “I could make that” that our culture is losing as people purchase the latest thing made in another country under dubious labour and environmental laws. At Kaitoke we have seen blow up rafts in the rubbish everytime we’ve been – one use wonders..

Helena is learning how to paddle with our paddle – a stick with a jandel on the end. How to steer in the water. She has learnt a good lesson by getting a fright when she was blown a ways away from the jetty then fortunately having the wind die down so she could paddle back. She is learning balance, how to work as a team when there are two paddlers.

We have gone on it together and it sits low in the water…. we’ve tied a chair on it for me. Our aim is to paddle back from Kerr Bay after we drop the DoC truck off one morning. Should take all day!!


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