Monday, July 28, 2014

Off To The Race

When you start to drive the July children nuts, consider a classic old school Seattle toy: a homemade wooden hydroplane meant to be dragged behind a bike or trike in anticipation of the big race the first Sunday in August. That date is historically the one least likely to put spectators at risk of hypothermia. Clip a playing card onto the spokes of a wheel to simulate engine noise.

It’s trivial to cobble a model of an old-school hydro out of a scrap of one by four softwood plank. Use mounting tape to attach a right triangle of tail cut from the same stock. Add a screw eye at the prow to secure a string painter. Keep the model bottom-heavy for stability. Mason’s line is ideal for towing, although both it and the spring clothes pin that is card securement of choice are obsolete technology now. Scrounging is half the fun.

The simplest and crudest hydros are the best, because they’ll kick around on the course. The world of toy safety may be aware of risks of which I am ignorant. Use good sense and keep an eye on the proceedings. On the third, the kids can refresh their racing scenarios between heats while the grown-ups graze on an all-day barbecue.

Teach the little ones to grumble at Detroit, the unlimited mother ship, and to take pride in the race being (still?) the world’s single largest spectator sporting event. Explain that Boeing’s Ted Jones transformed a motor boat into an aeroplane with damp wing and propeller tips and that it is foolish to enter Lake Washington for several weeks after the race but thrilling to do so when the old boats are running. Tell them ahead of time how Tex Johnson proved that a 707 can do a slow roll. Let them know that Bill Boeing’s personal pilot and hydro driver Mira Slovak hijacked a Czech airliner and fled the Soviet Bloc knowing only the English words for“cherry pie and coffee”, all he ate for several weeks after arriving in the west. Especially teach the little ones English designer David Pye’s underlying assumption that nostalgia is always lying in wait for us.


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