By Jackie Monies - Eufaula, Oklahoma - USA

Born on the 4th of July
click for bio

What could be more red, white and blue, more representative of all that America and American small boating stands for than the humble Puddle Duck Racer?  Born in America from an American mother, the Bolger Brick, this little scow stands for all that is good and right about America and its community of small boat enthusiasts.

Enthusiasts may be a mild understatement as applied to Duckers, some might say.  The question has been asked:  Do you have to be crazy to build a PDR?

Born in a Houston, TX garage from three sheets of ply.    Humble beginning for a humble boat.  Shorty Routh built his first PDR in 2004 as an off-shoot of his $50 boat race and announced the new class in Duckworks.

But think about it.  They have their own founding father in Shorty Routh, creator of the first Puddle Duck Racer.  They are true democracy in action, democratic almost to a fault.  They have soap box orators, lobbyists for one glue over another, one type of ply over the other and endless debate.  And just as one issue settles down, the debates start all over again.  Sounds like American government to me.


The Ducker Bill of Rights

Duckdom shall make no law respecting an establishment of a logo, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of rigging, or of accoutrements above the 10" hull line; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and sail around in circles, and to petition others to join them in such endeavors.

(thanks to Shawn Payment..
.. with apologies to James Madison)

And that is their grace and appeal to me, for never have I known a community, for that is what they are, of hobbyists who are as open, as sharing, as generous to others, and totally without pretense or affectation. After all, it is two sheets of plywood that looks like a sandbox and sails with a tarpaulin sail.  Their builders scrounge for parts, priding themselves on thrift and ingenuity, awarding their praise for creativity in build and use of materials for purposes never intended, probably never thought of before by their manufacturers. Isn’t this supposed to be the values America was built on?

Correct attire for a Duck race?  Overalls and your oxygen canister, of course!  Appropriately named “Oops!” sailed by Oregon Ducker Mike, a racer of  uncertain age and untold determination.

The Duckers have an alma mater of sorts in the Puddle Duck Racer Forum, one of the most interesting on the internet, often off-topic of boats, always fascinating and educational.  Founder Shorty Routh serves as President Emeritus of Ducker  U, with Doctor Mik (Storer) as chief lecturer and resident expert on all things nautical and non-nautical.  Visiting lecturers chime in on everything from point of sail, center of effort, degrees off  the wind , to brewing a proper cup of coffee or tea.  They have a mascot, Quizzy, and their own fight song, “Ode to A Puddle Duck”……”We may not finish first but we will damn sure finish.”

Finishing, not first, but finish.  Do it yourself.  Learn to build from others.  Share your knowledge, pass it on, help others.  Have fun, don’t take yourself too seriously.  Have fun on the water but at the same time build boats with children and first time builders, take part in community builds, fundraisers for charities, get people introduced to boating at an easy entry level.  Sounds pretty American to me.  All they need to complete the picture is John Wayne riding to the rescue in a Puddle Duck.  Wait, they did that already didn’t they?  I think it was called the Texas 200 and Jason Nabors starred.

“The Battle for the Tetra” featuring  a cast of thousands and starring the intrepid Five Ducks of Texas 200 fame!  Watch the stunning conclusion as the Tetra is wrestled from the ocean floor and floats again!

Coming to a theater near you in living Technicolor.

Well, about that “Born on the 4th of July” name.  That’s the name of one of our PDR-OZ racers.  Begun on July 4, 2009 after Mike returned from this year’s Texas 200 sailing, it is a red, white and blue, flag waving Duck.  Why build not one but two PDR’s?  Why build one at all?  Mike has built and sailed his own boats up to thirty-two feet, sailed others into the fifty foot plus range, crewed on a Tall Ship.  He isn’t exactly an entry level builder or sailor.  Why build a Duck?

Racing to get to the races, Mike built two Oz racers side by side in a record two weeks.  It's true, boats are like kittens, two are as easy as one, plus they keep each other company, with not much extra work.

It was me.  I confess that like in one of my favorite Tom Cruise movies, they had  me at hello.  When Jason Nabors took out an axe and with the help of the other four Duckers in the Texas 200  re-masted and made sails in ten minutes for Mike’s Bolger Cartopper, they had me at the axe.  Immediately I began to follow the Ducks and their forum.  When Mike returned from the Texas 200, I said order the plans from Duckworks and build a Duck.  We are joining this group and going to Georgia.  Another Ducker joins the flock!

The Infamous Cartopper Guy rescued by the Ducks  with  a  spare 2 x 2 and tarp, to sail off into the horizon and  TX 200 legend. The mystery man.  Has anyone actually seen his face?

Why, why did they appeal to me?  It was that total lack of pretension, the having-fun-out-here attitude, the struggle through adversity and laughing all the way.  Who thinks sailing a four foot by eight foot sandbox 200 miles isn’t adversity?  Then stopping and helping everyone else along the way, just because it’s the right thing to do, expecting no thanks or reward?  Andrew Linn was actually fearful I would be angry he helped Mike finish the race…Andrew fully expected him to sail to a rescue point and drop out. 

Andrew Linn, TX 200 legend and  Duck loyalist.  Instigator of  outrageous and anarchic behavior by fellow Duckers,  with his suitably named “Salem Electron” .  Veteran of two TX 200 sailings, Andrew feared  a lawsuit by Mike Monies’ “survivors”  when he was rescued by the Ducks.

The Ducks of the Texas 200 repaired theirs and everyone else’s boats, often with materials they had brought, often with materials they found washed upon the shore.  When they were praised and awarded valorous commendations, they were both surprised and modest.  They didn’t expect that.  What could be more American?  Or should be?

“ He had me at the ax.”  Jason Nabors utilizing the most useful tool brought on the TX 200 out of a pile  of thousands brought by fellow boaters.  “There wasn’t a day on the TX 200 I didn’t use it several times.”

It was that picture of the Duckers pulling their boats with ropes, through mud and thigh high water.  Bearded and tired, they struggled on.  I was suddenly struck by their resemblance to our forefathers, towing home made boats on trips of exploration down unknown waters, not sure what lay ahead, just forging on, putting one foot in front of the other.  Maybe that’s what Duckers are all about, it’s one foot in front of the other.  When they build their little boats they don’t always know where they are going, but they will know when they get there.

Onward to the horizon!  Neither mud, slime nor ferocious oyster reefs stayed the noble Ducks on their mission of discovery.  “We had a very Christopher Columbus style discussion as to where we exactly were.”

That’s the whole point in building a Puddle Duck.  You don’t have a map, you don’t have a set of plans unless you build an OZ Racer, Mik Storer’s design.  You don’t know where you’re going or usually even how you’re going to end up with a boat that floats and sails.

Riding to the Rescue!  John Wayne on  a PDR in the” Cowboy Rodeo on the Water,“ known as the TX 200. Are there boats in distress out there?

But you will figure it out and learn to cut and how to build and while you’re at it, you’ll learn what  makes a boat go and how to get it to go where you want it to.  You’ll make your own sails and find out what center of effort is, about sail plans, about rigging, about all things that move a boat by wind through water.  There are no sail shapes or plans specified, no rudder shape, no dagger board, centerboard or leeboards that are prerequisite.  A class legal PDR is a four foot by eight foot plywood hull with four sides that must  be the same for ten inches.  That’s it.  What you do with her is your choice.  You have to figure it out but there will be lots of help, lots of advice, suggestions, ideas thrown at you.  Ask for help and you will receive.  Then, you choose how to float your own boat.  Isn’t that supposed to be the American way?

Goliath" is a PDRacer with a heart as big as his sail.  Owner Gordon Seiter organizes the annual Summerland Hatches each year in B.C. to benefit special needs children in the area.  Gordon will also co-host next year's Puddleduck Championship races with Jane Turnell. Ducks head north in 2010, Canada calls!

Suppose you say, as Mike did, “I want to build a PDR but I like building from plans?” You sir, are truly in luck because just such are available courtesy of Doctor Mik, in the OZ Racer.  An Australian designer of the Goat Island Skiff, along with many others, Mik took the simple boxy hull conceived by Shorty Routh to new heights.  Streamlined and sleek, she comes with detailed plans and copious instructions including a sail plan and a personal designer/consultant in Mik, who reads and answers each and every post on the PDR Forum.  All for the $20 outlay to Duckworks for Oz’s plans, you get enough parts, woodworking and skill challenging building to satisfy even the most jaded of  boat builders.  Build an OZ and you will learn all the basic boat building skills, how to use the proper tools, the techniques.  You will have the knowledge you need to build a boat of any size or type you choose after that.  The Oz’s take some talent to build, yet even a first time builder can accomplish it and produce a craft he takes pride in.

Doctor Mik came to America on his Shoestring Tour of and Chautauqua, traveling the length and breadth of the country in everything but a covered wagon.  He disburses his wisdom and lore of all things nautical here. 

To read more and hear Dr. Mik's lectures during his recent circumnavigation of the United States, CLICK HERE

Not that all Duckers aren’t proud of their duckling offspring.  No matter whether they call them  Ugly Duckling,  Headless Duck, Duck Soup, Cold Duck or some other Daffy name, don’t be fooled by the levity.  They are proud to be Duckers.  They are proud of what they have built.  They love their little boats. They want others to join them and so they hold hatches, where multiple Ducks are born and go home with  their new mama duck.  I think the Puddle Duck group has done more to promote new people entering boating and the sailing world than any other I know of.  It’s that attitude of, “Hey, I built this boat, you can too. It’s fun, having fun on the water”.

It’s infectious, it’s Duck H2O flu, as a fellow boater said.  The virus is spreading.

Anything that floats your boat.  Any sail, any spars, any rudder, any  lee board, any dagger or centerboard, anything can be yours except the 4 x 8 shape, the rocker and the first ten inches.  Competitors in the PDRacers World Championship in Allatoona, GA demonstrated this, jockeying for buoy position in thirteen variously designed and class legal craft.

Spreading to new boaters that are introduced to boating in events like the Lake Summerland hatches, the school children they talk to, the Scouts they work with.  Boating events like the boat shows and messabouts where they often build a Duck and talk to any and everyone interested in boats.  I hope the contagion continues.  Boating and sailing in particular has long been viewed as a venue for those who can buy, the moneyed, the yachters whose criteria is how many feet can they fit in the slip.  Somehow the idea that people sailed boats in denim overalls and threw water  balloons to slow down their opponent in a race just absolutely appealed to me.

Ducker Royalty, Princess Jewell honored  winners of the Pan Galactic Inter-Dimensional World Championship Races in 2008 - two legends of Duckery, Andrew Linn  2008 Champion and Gordon Seiter, father of the Summerland Duck Hatches in British Columbia and 2007 Champion.

Can’t see that happening at any yacht clubs I’ve been in.

So, let the infection spread.  Duck H20 flu is fine with me.

I hereby nominate the humble Duck as our All-American Boat.  Do I hear a second?

The logo that Andrew Linn did for the Pan Galactic races in 2008, which exemplifies the PDR spirit. This illustrates the anarchist philosophy of the Duckers.  They are anarchists you know.

Oh, yes, about that Australian?  He’s really just displaced, with a different accent.  His ancestors plotted the wrong course when they headed our way.  Attitudes the same.

To read more and hear Dr. Mik's lectures during his recent circumnavigation of the United States, CLICK HERE


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