C points out our little boat with our push-out stick.

We had a blast at the boat pond in the Jardins de Luxembourg (if you missed it, read it here), so it was only logical that we would have found our way to Conservatory Water, an oval pond on the east side of Central Park. But before hitting the pond, we had to come up with something to float.

Many hours of surfing the web for ideas on how to build a boat of the kind we sailed in Paris turned up options from laser cut kits, and hand carved balsa wood models to driftwood designs. Needless to say, while our aspirations remain high, I thought we should start with something achievable in mere hours and with a few dollars.

So we cast about and came up with packaging from yesterday’s Lego purchases, corks care of Jay, elastic bands from our new York Times delivery, straws and a selection of plastic shopping bags.

With the help of sticky tape, scissors, a glue gun and sewing thread ‘rope’ for the rigging, we created a very bouyant raft from that assemblage. We also created two different sails, what I think was a single gaff rig from a Lego packet, and a double sloop sail from a Pylones packet.

The East River boatyard... a.k.a. our dining room table.

We still needed a stick for poking and guiding, and a weight to act as a keel/prevent capsizing. In my childhood that would have been a lead fishing weight, but this time we purchased a few plumbing supplies and our dowel poking stick came care of the ‘urban garden centre’ at Home Depot.

With all in hand we walked to the Kerbs Boathouse. Of course, I might have been tempted by a bus, taxi or even bicycle rickshaw had I realized how far up the park it was. Our little guy was undaunted, and walked the 1.5 miles without complaint, except for asking me where we were going and why we didn’t seem to be going to the boat pond.

The minute we could see the water through the trees he checked with me and took off like a sprinter, stopping at the edge of the pond. There were boats galore, wooden, large, with crisp, mostly white sails. That’s when I began to doubt whether we were actually allowed to ‘put in’ our pint-sized raft. I stalled, but Calvin was immensely proud of the boat and insisted we put it in. While visions of an angry park ranger preyed in the back of my mind, we put up the mast and let her sail.

And sail she did! Our poking stick was much employed at first, but after we cleared the flurry of feeding ducks, our raft filled her sails and cruised among the big guns, truly dwarfed. What was giant-sized and so heart warming, was Calvin’s pride at our creation.

Half-way through we changed masts and installed our two-sailed version, dwarfed by the other boats, but we imagined it leading them when we took this photo. In case you needed clarification, our boat is the tiny one in the extreme left.

Among the perfect and expensive, our little raft floated about and attracted some attention, especially among the sharp-eyed younger set who cried out, “Look at the Lego boat!” We also had a few compliments from passersby who stopped to comment and question the construction and compliment the hand- and home-made approach.

And it turns out that Conservatory Waters is pretty welcoming to those who have something to float. (Although the private vessels dent the income of the Central Park Model Yacht Club where you can rent radio-controlled models.) We spent a little time with a dual-boat, private school pair of boys being challenges by their father to, “Come about!” We also made a new friend who generously shared his radio-controlled speed boat, that ended our day with a smile.


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