cardboard boats

We’ve written a few times before about the many amazing powers of cardboard. It’s sturdy; it’s lightweight; it’s recyclable; and it’s even water-resistant! Sometimes. With enough layers of paint applied to it.

Today, in the spirit of summer fun, we’ve gathered together some amazing vessels assembled from little more than cardboard, tape, and hope. Sometimes they sink, sometimes they float, but they are all successful in that they demonstrate what humanity can achieve when it has a few simple tools and a lot of time on its hands.

First—what is a cardboard boat race?

If you’ve never heard of a cardboard boat race, we’re delighted to be the first to inform you. A cardboard boat race is just what it sounds like—a race between boats that have been constructed from cardboard. Most cardboard boat races have strict rules governing what can and can’t be used in the boats. Some allow the use of glue, duct tape, and paint, while others explicitly ban the use of glue or tape. Races are usually held in shallow lakes or ponds. Typically, even the best-constructed boats will sink under the weight of a few humans. Still, it’s a fun way to spend an afternoon, or (for those who need a practical reason to do things) a good challenge for STEM students. Such was the case for the first cardboard boat race, held by a professor in 1974.

Space shuttle boat

space shuttle cardboard boats

The “Shuttle Acacia,” named after a real, retired Coast Guard ship, set sail at the Grand Haven Coast Guard Festival in July 2021. The boat was both uniquely designed and sturdy, managing to pull through steep competition for a first-place win.

Yellow submarine

yellow submarine cardboard boats

“Fab Four” fans were doubtlessly delighted by this Yellow Submarine, created for the 2015 Float Your Boat for the Food Bank regatta. The race, held each year in Columbia, MO, has brought in tens of thousands of donations for the needy. The 2015 race raised $21,500.

Unsinkable Titanic

titanic cardboard boats

Most cardboard boats are created with the understanding that they will eventually sink. So what better way to celebrate than by reconstructing the world’s most famous “unsinkable” ship? This cardboard Titanic proved to be much sturdier than its namesake, however, nabbing a second place trophy in the 2015 United Way cardboard boat race. Its success came as somewhat of a disappointment to its captain. Insurance agent Dave Turk had stocked the boat with dry ice in anticipation of a climactic demise.

Viking ship

viking cardboard boats

At this particular race, the 2017 Cape Cod Viking 200 Cardboard Boat Challenge, all of the boats were Viking-themed. At more than 20 feet long, though, this one deserves special recognition. Christened the “Bunke Av Barn,” the amazing ship took over 80 hours to build, according to creator Paul Savini of West Dennis, MA. Though the mighty craft didn’t take home any prizes, it did make it to the finish line intact. That’s a pretty impressive accomplishment for a cardboard boat carrying 8 rowers.

Island Queen riverboat

riverboat cardboard boats

New Richmond, Ohio is home to the International Cardboard Boat Regatta, as well as the world’s only Cardboard Boat Museum. The small but well-loved attraction is home to more than 30 cardboard vessels. This one, “The Island Queen,” was created in 2009 to support the museum. After it was successfully raffled off, it was entered in the Regatta, where it ended up taking home a trophy in the “Small Stacks” category. The real Island Queen riverboat was used to ferry passengers from Cincinnati and Coney Island in the early 1900s.

Coast Guard cardboard boats

coast guard cardboard boats

The most impressive cardboard boats we’ve been able to find were created by professionals in the packing and shipping industries, which is the case for this Coast Guard-themed boat. Created by Advance Packaging, a corrugated cardboard manufacturer, the boat was 14 feet long and able to hold the weight of 8 people. Some might say that a cardboard boat built a cardboard manufacturing company has a bit of an unfair advantage. But the company had a lot to prove, as it had sponsored the Coast Guard Festival’s cardboard boat race for 2 years in a row.

“Up” house boat

up cardboard boats

Last but not least is this incredible cardboard boat modeled after the house in Pixar’s Up. Created by Wisconsin cardboard manufacturer Green Bay Packaging, the Up boat was 12 feet tall, 9 feet long, and 10 feet wide, and weighed more than 300 pounds. Multiple layers of glue and varnish made the floating house possible. More than 125 helium balloons added a delightful finishing touch on top. It set sail at the 30th World Championship Cardboard Boat Race, in Heber Springs, Arkansas, and while it didn’t win any races, it did take home the coveted “Pride of the Fleet” award.

Set sail this summer with SSI Packaging

If you live in Richmond and are ready to launch your next cardboard project—boats or otherwise—call SSI Packaging. We offer pretty much any packaging supply you can think of, including, of course, cardboard. We also stock a wide variety of printers, label-makers, and industrial machines that can help small business owners pack and track their inventory. If you have any questions we can help you with, feel free to give us a call today!

(804) 808-1606