Empty cat litter containers and milk cartons, an old tablecloth, packing foam and a couple of sections of wood fencing carried Madeleine Brown and Ginger Wireman down the Yakima River on Saturday.
Their makeshift raft – fashioned out of 99 percent reused materials – was one of six vessels in the revival of the Un-Boat Rally.
The event, which encourages the use of unconventional watercraft, started in the 1970s and was held for about 20 years. It was suspended in 1996 after floods left debris in the river, but Don Mannion and West Richland Councilman Merle Johnson decided to revive it.
Brown and Wireman put their raft together in a few hours Friday. Materials such as signs and shampoo bottles were donated by businesses and organizations. And with the exception of the duct tape, it will all be recycled or reused, they said.
“The Richland women took home the plaque for “best use of recycled materials.” Tara Johnson and Chad Whitman of Steamboat Springs, Colo., nabbed the “best decorated” title for Dumpkin, their island-themed raft.
And Troy Berglund, Eric Miller and Geoff Taylor were proud to receive not only the “most unusual design” plaque, but also the honor of being the first vessel to reach the finish. Their boat consisted of three hot water heaters connected by boards and featured a pipe rudder with a sign reading, “Danger Reduced Electrical Clearance.”
Miller and Taylor took about 1 1/2 hours to paddle down the river and came in a quarter-mile ahead of the other teams.
“We’re hoping to build some momentum,” Berglund said. “We’d like to challenge some other people to come out next year.”
Added Taylor: “Come defeat the reigning champs!”