Weekly Volcano Blogs: Walkie Talkie Blog

August 4, 2012 at 6:24am

Tacoma Maritime Festival seeking entries for fun contest

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The Quick and Dirty boat building event has been a staple of the Tacoma Maritime Festival for eight years. Teams of three people get the same materials, then have six hours to build a boat of any kind, then race it in the Thea Foss waterway, providing the boat floats. 

"When we didn't do it in 2010 because of the recession, there were a lot of long faces," said Paul Birkey, one of the contest organizers.

That's because the boat-building contest is possibly one of the most entertaining events of the free, two-day festival Aug. 25 and 26 celebrating the history of Tacoma's working waterfront. 

In a spirit of fun, teams are encouraged to dress up and be creative.  Costumes range from pirate outfits to tutus and combat boots, while the vessels themselves are no less outlandish - the most memorable crafts include "Ship Happens" and "Miss Management."

When the boats are completed, they are boisterously paraded down to the beach  ("Best Parade to Beach" is one of the judging criteria).   

"One year we were led by a group of belly dancers," Birkey said with a laugh.  "Another year we were led by a troop of bagpipers."

At the waterway, the event has reached its climax: the 100-meter boat race.  At least two people are required to paddle the boat, although winning seems to be one of the lowest priorities for contestants. 

"If you want to be a crowd favorite, sink," Birkey said. 

There's nothing more exciting than a hastily constructed boat sinking into the bay - but there are no worries because rescue crews are standing by to fish people out quickly.  But for some teams, even a sinking ship is not the end. 

"We had one group that kept paddling even after the boat had sunk," said Birkey. "They finished the race with a sunken boat!"

If the Amateur Boat Building Contest is not yet a Tacoma tradition, it should be. Birkey is hoping for a record turnout of teams. There is little skill required, he insists. In fact, some teams appear as though they have wielded few tools before, while others are carpenters by trade.  The contest managers are especially excited about the possibly of a team of Servicemembers from Joint Base Lewis-McChord entering. 

In order to enter, visit www.maritimefest.org to complete an entry form.

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