by Luke Granholm Most boys don't make it through early childhood without birthing a dream to build and launch a homemade raft. The vision of Tom Sawyer captures a primal desire to conquer a waterway with a vessel built with your own hands from raw elements of one's environment. Somehow, I made it to the summer of my 22nd year without acting on this aquatic aspiration, and even then it was the brain child of a neighborhood youngster, Michael.
He offered a leaky kayak and various other garage-bound materials for us to begin our project. After enduring a patch job with duct tape, she was worthy to be the stabilizing feature of our craft. Between my pickup truck and our combined prowess for locating useful trash in the downtown area, we soon had the boards, barrels and bungee cords to begin building our boat. After a few afternoons of sawing, screwing, and shoving, we had a raft that, in theory, would hold four youthful lads upon all but the most hazardous of seas, though the waterway we hoped to navigate was hardly threatening. The sun had just set.
The fever for a test run was high. We had to know if our raft was buoyant and stable, so under the cover of darkness, we loaded up the boat and christened our creation in a neighbor's pool. She would stand, with some slight modification.
Days later, it was time for our debut. The real test. The canal through downtown. While we were reasonably sure our venture was legal, we had no tangible assurance. It wasn't not illegal. Saturday morning, sun shining and out of sight of scant security, we unloaded the raft and hiked it down to the canal with the help of a college roommate of mine in town at the time.
And we were off! At a blistering speed of what must have amounted to half a mile an hour, we paddled away with our broken kayak paddles-turned-oars. Through the full mile of the canal, we basked in the stares of passers-by and gladly replied that our boat was, indeed, a prototype. The glory and thrill was nearly unbearable.
Without incident, we finished our voyage and drove away, slightly wet and extremely satisfied. Who said living in the city had to be bound to traditional city-dwelling ventures? We improvised, initiated and ultimately succeeded in unlocking a previously undreamt opportunity lying dormant in the backyard, city dumpsters and downtown waterways of our city.