aku-aku: v.. To move a tall, flat bottomed object (such as a bookshelf) by swiveling it alternatively on its corners in a "walking" fashion. [After the book by Thor Heyerdahl theorising the statues of Easter Island were moved in this fashion.] source: LangMaker.com. Aku Aku also has another meaning to the islanders: a spiritual guide.
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Camp Tipsy: Swing Boat
Posted by dav at 2009 June 6 09:25 AM
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Chicken John, the tortured and sometimes torturing soul of San Francisco's innovative art scene, last year started the brilliant Camp Tipsy event. Camp Tipsy is a week+ long camping trip on a lake a little north of Sacramento that's all about building crazy, clever, lousy boats. In Chicken's words:

Boats are judged not only on lack of engineering but also on crummy implimentation. The coveted “last place” award for least effort is the category to watch out for. The idea of Camp Tipsy is to have fun and build boats. Build ‘em outa nothing at all. It’s an excercize in a catyclismic future that Kevin Cosner portrayed so poorly.

More details on the event: Camp Tipsy weblog.

We went to the first one last year (there were two last summer). Here's pics and video I shot:

Inaugural Launch of the Camp Tipsy Bar from Dav Yaginuma on Vimeo.

We had a great time even though we didn't build a boat, but I started idly thinking about what I wanted to build for this year soon after. My first thought was a floating human canon, so you could do canonballs into the lake with style. I have no idea how those things actually work though, and I suspect I shouldn't actually try to build one. Then I thought how about a floating catapult? That seemed doable, but too complicated. In the end I scaled it back to a swingset mounted on pontoons, so you can jump into the water. So that's the plan.


A backyard-style swing set (with a slide and maybe two swings) mounted on two long pontoons with an additional beam or two across the middle for lateral support (also serves as a platform to help get into the swing seats). The pontoons will be wooden enclosures filled with empty containers or foam or whatever can be found.

Concept rendition:


  • The whole thing might flip over. Such is life. If that seems likely to happen I guess I'll just try to make the pontoons longer on site.
  • Not sure where to mount the slide. Maybe make one pontoon bigger, or extend it for some support. I'm sure some lousy solution will present itself.
  • I'd been thinking that it would be nice if the energy produced by swinging was mechanically converted to drive a propellor, but I have doubts that 1) I could pull off implementing such a system and 2) it would provide enough thrust. So there's no plan for propulsion yet, I'll just tow it out with another boat or get a trawler motor which probably will not work either. I'd love to rig a sail, but I think that would be a disaster as well.

I have an alternative concept that would make it so that if the whole thing tipped over due to swinging, it would just land on another set of floats so you could keep on swinging, but the one depicted above is probably good enough and easier to build:

On Wednesday night I went to a class on Flame Effects at Langton Labs (billed as Learn 100% of the technical skills you need to make 80% of the fire art you see at Burning Man) so now I'm thinking it should have propane flame effects as well, but that might have to wait for the next event. Besides, we're totally going to win without going that far.


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