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How to Make Recycled Raingutter Regatta Boats

Packs can have a simple Raingutter Regatta by turning it into a Recycled Raingutter Regatta! For this environmentally friendly activity, you don't need kits–just stuff from your recycling bin and a few supplies.

recycled raingutter regatta boats

The Raingutter Regatta is a fun Cub Scout activity. The Scouts use a kit to build a trimaran sailboat that is “wind-powered” by blowing on the sail. They can work to make their boat more aerodynamic, and they can decorate it. The Cub Scouts then race their boats in water-filled rain gutters at a pack meeting.

But much like the Pinewood Derby, the Raingutter Regatta is an EVENT. It takes planning and effort to host one.

Instead, have a Recycled Raingutter Regatta that takes very little preparation time or money.

Raingutter Regatta Track

The traditional Raingutter Regatta uses 10′ gutters with end caps attached. Vinyl gutters are better because they won't bend as easily when filled with water. The problem is someone has to try to find a place to store 2 10′ gutters!

A much easier option is to purchase an inflatable track. ScoutStuff has one for less than $30.  While it's a bit more expensive than buying gutters, I believe the ease of use is well worth the extra money.

Another way to build a track is with a split piece of PVC pipe. You do need to build a frame for the pipe so it won't roll.

This image shows the track that our Cub Scout day camp borrowed from a local pack. You can see how they cut half circles in the planks for the pipe to fit in. Here are some instructions on how to build a track like this.

starting raingutter regatta

Supplies to Build Boats

Send a quick email to each family to ask them to raid their recycling bins for items that can be used to build boats.

  • Plastic water or soda bottles
  • Plastic milk jugs
  • Paper milk cartons
  • Styrofoam food trays
  • Small plastic food containers
  • Empty juice boxes
  • Pool noodles (laying around the garage)
  • Aluminum foil
  • Aluminum food containers
  • Paper

You'll also want to have some of these items available. If you don't have a fully stocked den bucket, ask parents to check their craft supplies.

raingutter regatta race

You definitely want straws for the Scouts to blow through. The boats move better with a thin stream of air rather than a big puff. Plus, asking little Scouts to blow means you're going to get some spit too! 🙂

Depending on how creative your Scouts are, you might need to build a couple of example boats to give them some ideas.

Discuss Recycling

If you have a big pack, you probably won't have time to do this part.

When the Scouts first arrive, spend a couple of minutes talking about recycling. You can start by asking them how long they think it will take for trash to decompose if it's just thrown outside.

This infographic has great information! You can click here to get your own copy.

I'm sure you'll get some crazy answers from the Scouts. Do you think any of them will guess a million years for a glass bottle?

The Leave No Trace organization has an excellent trash timeline activity. Taking abstract concepts like trash decomposition time and turning them into an active game is one of the best ways to learn, in my opinion.

You might also want to check out this fun recycling game that I did with my den.

Boat Building Instructions

After you've completed the recycling discussion, tell the Scouts that they'll be designing and building a boat from the recycled materials. Set out all of your supplies so that they can see what they have to choose from. Show them the examples, if you have any.

During the summer of 2016, my boys and I made our second trip to the Philmont Training Center where I took a class called Fun with Dens and Packs.

This was such a fun and informative class! Our instructors were Kee Ostler, Julianne McCracken, Pam Startzel, and Amy Hutcherson. These Scouters did an awesome job planning and executing our class.

Sherry's Raingutter Regatta Boat
Getting ready to race my juice box boat at the Philmont Training Center!

One of our activities was a Recycled Raingutter Regatta. We made three different types of boats, and the instructions for them are below. But these aren't the only types of boats that can be built with recycled materials. Let the Scouts use their imaginations to see what they come up with!

Sails

For each type of boat, you'll need a sail. Sails can be several different shapes: triangular, quadrilateral, or square.

You can make your sails out of just about anything:  construction paper, scrapbook paper, white or colored printer paper, cardstock, or even craft foam. I like the craft foam because if it gets wet, it won't destroy the sail.

There are several ways to make your sails.

  • Have the Cub Scouts cut their own out by hand.
  • Print sail images and have the Scouts cut them out.
  • Print sail images onto cardstock so the scouts can use them as templates to trace the shapes onto paper or cardstock.

Suz from Little Handmade Party Company has a printable with some great sail shapes! She and her son actually used them to turn mini baguette pizzas into boats. Be sure you hop over and see how they did it!

boat sails

I contacted Suz, and she graciously agreed to let me share her template with you. You can get this one and the two others at the bottom of the page.

Check out these fun sails! They have the Cub Scout logo on them. Lorraine from Auburn, WA made these. Her Cub Scout is now grown, but while he was a scout, Lorraine was her pack's treasurer, and her husband was the Cubmaster.

cub scout sail for raingutter regatta

Lorraine's pack used these boats as a recruitment tool at a school fair. Everyone got to build a boat and race it. They took the boat home along with a Cub Scout flyer. I love this idea!

You can get this one and the two others at the bottom of the page.

I created a template for those of you who would prefer a triangular sail. Enter your email to get the free download.

Get your Free Sail Template

Enter your email to get your Cub Scout Sails printable!

If you don't get an email within 10 minutes, check your spam folder. If it isn't there, let me know at [email protected]

By entering your email, you'll also get lots of other Cub Scout tips and tricks in my weekly email.

After your Scouts finish cutting out their sails, they can decorate them by drawing on them with crayons or Sharpies or by adding stickers. (Pirate stickers would be super fun to use!)

Aluminum Foil Boat

aluminum foil raingutter regatta boat

You'll need to double the aluminum foil. I think heavy duty foil works best.

Make a boat shape by bending and folding the foil. Cut a triangular sail from paper. Use a bendable straw for the mast.

Bend the straw, and tape the short end to the bottom of your boat. Decorate the sail any way you like.

I didn't have much luck with the aluminum foil boat! Mine just didn't want to go anywhere. I suspect it's because I had a hard time imagining how to shape the boat.

Juice Box Boat

juice box raingutter regatta boat triangle sail

For this boat, you'll need an empty juice box and some duct tape. Use a bit of duct tape to cover the straw hole.

Have the Scouts put the box on the table, seam side down. Hold the sides of the box with one hand, and use the skewer to poke a hole in the box.

If you're using a craft stick for the mast, you'll need to use something to make a slit in the box. A letter opener is a great alternative to a knife.

juice box raingutter regatta boat craft stick mast

Note: Please make sure you have adequate adult supervision especially for the younger Scouts. Only adults or Scouts with their Whittling Chip should use a knife. The skewers have pointed ends, so be careful with those too.

Attach the sails to the skewer or craft stick, and insert into the opening you made on the box.

Pool Noodle Boat

pool noodle raingutter regatta boat triple sails

Pool noodle boats are my favorite kind to make! We actually did this at Cub Scout day camp a few years ago. We purchased the noodles in bulk from Dollar Tree.

Then my husband used a table saw to cut them up for us. He cut the noodles into pieces about 6″ long, then split those in half.

We thought the scouts would be able to decorate the noodle with Sharpies, but the ink didn't dry even after letting it sit for a while. I guess it makes sense–something that's supposed to float probably shouldn't absorb any liquid!

One of the reasons that I like using the pool noodles is that it's easy to poke the mast into the noodle. You can cut the tip off of the skewer or use a dowel with no point. Even craft sticks are easy to push into the noodle.

If your families don't have old pool noodles laying around the garage and you'll have to purchase them, the activity becomes more of a regular Regatta rather than a Recycled Regatta.

Racing the Raingutter Regatta Boats

raingutter regatta

The Scouts will pair up to race each other. You can let this just be a fun activity where you aren't keeping track of who wins, or you can set up a tournament.

If you do a tournament, you might want to use this resource to print your brackets. The link goes to the double elimination bracket page.

Cub Scout Adventures

Tigers and Wolves can count this activity toward elective adventures.

Tiger Floats and Boats 6. Build a boat from recycled materials, and float it on the water.

Wolf Air of the Wolf 2 E. With your family, den, or pack, participate in a kite derby, space derby, or rain gutter regatta. Explain how air helps the vehicle move.

Wolf Motor Away 2. Make two different model boats and sail them. Choose different shapes for your boats.

Hope your pack enjoys your recycled Raingutter Regatta!

Yours in Scouting,
Sherry

P.S. Another way to do this is by making it an engineering design challenge. You can read about that on the Scholastic blog.  I like the idea of the scouts working together.

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