It floats! Clover students’ 23-foot cardboard boat survives Lake Wylie

May 11, 2013 

— There is no sink in Clover.

“IT FLOATS!” several students and even adults and teachers who don’t normally scream, screamed.

The 23-foot “CHS Sail-N-Sink” cardboard boat built by a dozen Clover High School students in teacher Tom Dissington’s science club did not just float Saturday. It was no rubber ducky. The group did not stop with the monstrosity floating in all its ugly glory.

These nine intrepid students and four adults rowed the boat, with the ugly aerodynamics of a New Jersey barge carrying nuclear waste, a mile on Lake Wylie Saturday morning.

“We just paddled for a mile on a lake in a cardboard boat!” said Myranda Thomas, an 11th grader at Clover. “I have to admit, I was nervous that it was even going to float at all. Nobody knew if it would just sink like a stone.”

After the group spent three months building the boat as a science project, the boat was shuttled to the Allison Creek boat landing by none other than a roll back car wrecker. The 150-pound boat was gingerly lifted by the rowers and dropped with a plop right there next to the dock.

“It floats!” screamed out Dissington.

“But now ya gotta row it!” yelled out a wise guy father of one of the kids, because that father didn’t have to row anything.

So these students and parents got in. Gingerly, slowly, because the boat was built of boxes and a heavy foot would mean a calamity worse than a mine collapse.

Adults Tammy Parham, Sherri Ciurlik, Anne Vowell and Dissington the teacher, holding up the rear with his ample waistline and prayers that this behemoth would not fold like a cardsharp’s aces and eights, climbed aboard. The kids hopped in: Jacob Brumble, Zach and Max Dissington, Myranda Thomas, Jennifer Starcher, Angelo Allison, Aspen Golden, A.J. Ciurlik, and Sam Gordon.

The boat did not list. It was buoyant. It did not sink.

But it just sat there.

“Well, row,” said a lady in the back.

Then the boat, surrounded by well-wishers who clapped and cheered and prayed that everybody could swim, started.

Then something more incredible happened.

The boat did not leak. Not even a little bit. A boat of cardboard and glue and paint and nothing else but hope and prayers and a lot of physics and science and formulas, worked.

Tom Dissington, teacher and creator of cardboard dreams and boats, would not get fired for having a bunch of students fall into a lake on Saturday. Not even a drop seeped into the boat.

“Here we go!” screamed out one kid aboard, and the chant started for rowers. It looked like a Roman ship minus the whips. It moved as fast as a grandmother buying support hose. But it moved.

“The hard part is getting back,” quipped Ryan Gordon, father of the rower Sam Gordon. “But the thing floats right? They can make it.”

The rowers made it a half-mile to a buoy in the middle of the lake, then turned around and rowed back. The cheers and claps brought them to shore.

The students did not smile as much as beam. They absolutely glowed.

“Awesome!” said Jennifer Starcher, one of the rowers.

The cardboard boat with 13 rowers is some kind of world record, said Dissington the teacher, but he is unsure anybody will recognize it.

Nobody cared. The students, the parents, the grandparents, all had just witnessed a miracle of science and a class where learning was made fun and competitive and even better - worked.

What matters, said Dissington the teacher, is the kids built the boat. The kids believed in the boat. The kids rowed the boat after it floated.

Science became fun. School was fun. The action was fun.

“We did it!” said Angelo Allison, a rowing student.

In Clover at the high school and on Lake Wylie on a Saturday, even dreams made out of 23 feet of cardboard and glue and paint come true.

Dreams never sink.

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