A Paper Boat Adventure in Holland

A friend pointed out to me this entertaining video clip is from Holland. Dialog is in Dutch, but it is easily followed if you're unfortunate enough not to speak the language. I think it is from some sort of TV program titled "Proefkonijnen", which my on-line translator calls "Test Rabbits".

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Modern Paper Boater Builders - Really?

We've heard from several people who just could not resist the urge to build a paper canoe. We're still not sure of the reasons people get hooked on the idea, (although I'll admit I've done it myself), but here are two more who have offered a more detailed description of their experience. They offer a variation on the 19th century theme you'll find elsewhere on this web site.

So.... give these a try.

Give them a read! You might be inspired too!

What's Old is New Again

We thought paper boating began in the 1860's.

But….. set your Wayback Machine to 1619, (about three years after Shakespeare’s death, for those of us who are history challenged).

In 1619 an Englishman, John Taylor, and a colleague began a short trip down the Thames in a paper boat! Taylor is best known to the our modern literary world as the “waterman poet”. (A "Waterman" basically ran a water-taxi business, ferrying people across and along the Thames in downtown London, which at that time had but one bridge across the river. So he could easily have taken Londoners across the Thames to catch a Shakespeare play at the Globe Theatre.)

At some point he began writing poetry and as his reputation spread, he started selling his work by subscription. He was prolific but somewhat rustic in his approach although he found wide acceptance, publishing in 1630 a collection of over 150 of his poems. A modern commentator notes that none of the poems are very good, but that they are still studied for what they reveal of the life of people in this era.

As for his paper boat journey - we know little of his boat and its construction, other than it was built of “browne paper”, (presumably a hemp paper), and contained no wood or metal. He elaborates that it had eight bull’s bladders for additional flotation. Ever the wit and social commentator, Taylor claimed the eight bladders were inflated by disreputable characters including: a usurer, a drunken bagpiper, a whore, a panderer, a cutpurse, an informer, a “post-knight”, and a "royster".

Although Taylor claimed to have traveled 60 miles in three days, within a half hour he noted that the boat began to “rot” and the bladders came to good use. To quote from his poem commemorating the journey:

     “The waters rose higher by degrees.
     In three miles going almost to our knees,
     Our rotten bottome all to tatters fell.
     And left our boat as bottomlesse as Hell.
     And had not the bladders borne us stiffly up,
     We there had tasted of deaths fatall cup”

One should perhaps take his account of this adventure with a partial measure of the proverbial grain of salt, as the story is perhaps a bit too good. In addition to the boat being made of paper, he also wrote that he used two dried fish tied to sticks as oars for the voyage. Really?.

In 2003 a British comedian, Tom FitzHigham, made a kayak of multiple sheets of A3 and A4 paper inspired by reading of John Taylor’s trip on the Thames. His plan was to beat Taylor’s mileage and to raise money for Comic Relief. He succeeded on both counts, clocking in 160 miles from Oxford to London in six days and raising in excess of £10,000. He apparently also had problems with paper construction as he is quoted as saying, “It went horribly wrong and [the hull] was increasingly gaffer taped together. It was a real struggle to get it over the finish line”

In addition, he cheated and did not use dried fish attached to poles as paddles.

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© Ken Cupery 2014