The fate of the vessel F.D.S.H. Kid President was sealed quickly Wednesday morning as the small cardboard vessel, and its pilot, demonstrated why ships are built with keels.
It immediately capsized, dumping Captain Antonio Martinez, a senior, into the water.
He did not, however, go down with the ship. Instead, he helped remove the sodden lump of cardboard and tape from the water of the Fort Dodge Senior High School pool.
“The boat floats,” he said, “but not with a person in it.”
The boat building was a project in the Iowa Jobs for American Graduates program.
Instructor Jerry Ellendson said the students had spent about two weeks working on their designs, constructing the vessels and then finally Wednesday, testing the poolworthiness.
“It’s a short project where they work on teamwork, problem solving and communication,” Ellendson said.
Those lessons are more important than learning naval engineering.
“About two out of seven will float,” he said. “I hope I’m wrong.”
He did not add the additional challenge of placing a replica iceberg mid-course.
“Next time we’ll have to do that,” he said.
The boats are only supposed to use cardboard and tape. A few of the teams stretched that a bit. One had a 5-gallon water bottle, a miniature inflatable pool and plastic bags.
“I let that slide,” Ellendson said.
The only boat that made it across to the other side of the pool, and then got to show off by making it back to its home port, was a creation called the “Unthinkable.”
Contae Futrell, a junior, was part of the team that built the F.D.S.H. Unthinkable and the one chosen to pilot it across the pool.
“It was hard to paddle,” he said.
The design, which resembles a flat rectangular box with plastic bags taped to the outside, was an accident.
“We started up messing up,” Futrell said. “Then we decided to put bags on it.”
Another of the boats, this one looking something like a gingerbread man, floated for a bit before the cardboard became water logged, lost its structural integrity, then sort of crumpled around Nate Opande, a junior, who was to have piloted it.
“I had faith,” Opande said. “Me and my friends made it. I was on top of it.”
His experience with ship building helped exclude any sort of naval engineering career from his future.
“After what happened here,” he said. “I don’t think so.”
The remains of the craft were salvaged before any of their parts made it into the pool filters and that priceless necklace onboard, the one that ended up on the bottom, well, that might still be there Or not.