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By Paul cook - Las Cruses, New Mexico - USA


I spent the early part of summer working to build my second puddle duck racer (#444, Pie Rat) in time for Raft The Rio.

I know summer doesn’t officially start until late June, but here in the Southwest, come May, summer is here. Or at least the heat is here. Just like my previous boat builds, I had really good intentions of getting a lot done over the winter months. But somehow a lot of the building process always winds up getting done at the last minute. It seems like having more than one boat really starts taking a lot of time for maintenance, but then again maybe that’s because I store my boats outside in the weather.

My Boatyard

Of course the real reason I didn’t get anything done until the last minute is simply because I’m a procrastinator.

This is the fourth summer I have participated in Raft The Rio. The first year, my daughter brought a flyer home from school and asked me if we could do the race. After we built the bucket raft, we tried to talk other family members into joining us, but no one seemed too interested.

Picnic Ready

I can’t really blame them. I wasn’t sure the raft was going to hold up myself. After we completed that first Raft The Rio, everyone suddenly became very interested in joining us for the next one. It’s funny how that works. This year I had two puddle ducks and a puddle goose in the race.

Ready to start

I received a lot of compliments on my puddle goose. Several people told me they wished they had my boat instead of the craft they were in.

We had a good time this year but the wind was terrible. It blew continuously the whole time. Normally we have stretches when the wind is not blowing. It blew so hard that if we weren't paddling, the boat was sitting still. It took us two and a half hours to get to the finish line. Last year we finished in an hour and ten minutes. My daughter said she and her friend went backwards a few times in Pie Rat when they quit paddling. We didn't try to setup an umbrella this year. Last year the wind broke one of our umbrellas and mangled the bracket we had it mounted with. We had an ice-chest setup with a checkered table cloth and plastic wine goblets this year, but the wind kept knocking the goblets over so we didn’t get to use them either.

Raft the Rio 2010

I had intended on making some kind of bimini top for the goose this year, but by the time I finished resealing and painting the hull on the goose and the first puddle duck, and building the second puddle duck, I was out of time and energy. the first puddle duck didn't take that much effort, it only needed a little touching up, but the goose took a lot of work. That 1/4 inch BC pine really likes to check. I had to mix up a lot of epoxy and sawdust to fill cracks. I think our southwest sun really dries out the plywood. I need to make room to store the boats inside.

I wasn’t the only one with a puddle duck in this year’s event. Mathew Raikes brought his puddle duck (#312) down from Rio Rancho. He built an Oz Racer and it’s a nice boat.

Oz Racer

I think he took more care with his construction than I did with mine. His son came with him and Mathew said they had to row the whole way as well. (for the raft race, not the trip down from Rio Rancho) I didn't get to see him at the end of the race but he told me later that they had a great time. He said he didn’t mind it taking a while to finish. He would have been disappointed to drive all the way down here and have it be over too quickly. Since Raft The Rio, he has finished his sailing bits and taken his puddle duck out for his first sail. He said it was nice.

I need to take a moment and thank Mathew. He took lots of great pictures at the event and gave me permission to use them in this article. I only provided four of the pictures for this article. The rest were all provided by Mathew. I had intended to take a lot of pictures, but somehow got distracted trying to manage launching three boats. Sometimes I don’t multitask too well. Anyway, thank you Mathew. He’s the one on the right.

Mathew and Me

I didn’t enjoy this year quite as much as previous years. My nephews didn’t get to come and having young kids around with lots of enthusiasm makes events like this more fun.

Little Ones

Fun Times

Those aren’t my nephews, but I think you get the idea. The constant hot wind really wore us out and having to load three wooden boats onto a trailer at the end of the event didn’t help either.

Duck, Duck & Goose

We all started talking about building some uber light weight boat that would be easy to carry and move around for next year:

We envied all the folks that just deflated their plastic rafts, stuffed them in a bag, and walked away. Somehow I think they might frown if I decided to burn my puddle duck on the river bank at the end of the event.

Here is a little plug about sun safety. At the end of the event one of our party got really sick and started throwing up. Even though we had taken plenty of water bottles and everyone was trying to stay hydrated, we still managed to have someone suffering from heat exhaustion. It took a couple of days to recover and we were more than a little concerned. So if you are out somewhere for a long day in the sun and someone isn’t looking too well, pay attention. It’s very easy to get too much sun and heat without realizing you’ve overdone it. I know one person who is not too excited about participating next year.

There were a lot of interesting craft to look at before the race began. At the end of the race you’re too tired to pay much attention. A couple of folks built their rafts from worn out freezers. One of them was fixed up to look like a giant milk carton.


There was a converted fish pond, a car ferry, and a raft setup with a tent all ready to go camping.

Car Ferry

There were some rafts that caused me to wonder if their creators were really expecting them to float. The ladder raft, maybe? But I don’t see how the milk jugs could support more than a single small child. And of course there are always one or two paddle wheelers every year. For some reason I really like paddle wheelers.

Milk jugs

And finally here is another youtube video from this year’s Raft The Rio:

It has a great shot of our first puddle duck at the end of the video, the purple, Puddle Duck Princess.


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