Raft Building

Gilwell Rafts
During Woodbadge Training at Gilwell: A Raft with a Sail and an Outrigger Raft


Building rafts stands out as one of the most fun-filled Scout Pioneering activities. It incorporates all the planning, preparation, and Scout engineering that contribute to the richness of the pioneering experience, but when the structure can actually float and carry the participants, the pronounced element of happy success inherent in the process is undeniable. Through the years, raft building has played a major role in pioneering activities, and thanks to the often hilarious exploits of John Thurman during his extended term as Camp Chief at Gilwell, riding on a raft one has designed and built is part of a rich Scout Pioneering heritage.

Three Raft Designs
Three Raft Designs
Lashing on Some Decking with the Improved Floor Lashing
Lashing on Some Decking with the Double Floor Lashing

Nothing provides the same kind of challenge and fun! Using the materials on hand to build it, and then embarking on a voyage across a lake is an adventure. Woodbadge training at Gilwell always used to include a day of Pioneering and the three main projects were towers, bridges and rafts. John Thurman never provided any clues regarding how to lash on the drums, though he did suggest that each one should receive a separate lashing. That way, if one drum was to come loose, losing it wouldn’t be the cause of an “unfortunate” chain reaction. Naturally, the bung holes should be positioned as high as possible and care should be taken that everything is lashed together tightly. As far as which comes first, constructing the framework in a complete assembly or in sub assemblies and then adding the drums, or lashing the drums into position and then constructing the rest of  the framework, the former might be the better way to go. Laudable success has been experienced by adding the drums to a well-lashed framework that is spaced to accommodate the drums so they ride low and can withstand the strain brought on by simple tight wraps secured with two rope tackles. In this fashion, the drums can be placed on top of the tightly-lashed, well-spaced framework, and then when they are solidly in place, the raft can be flipped over to add all the accoutrements.

Neat Seats!
Neat Seats!

Creativity, and ingenuity come into play during the planning and preparation phases of raft building. During construction, team work and good lashing techniques are required. When it’s time to actually get it in the water and get it moving with everybody on board, there also needs to be an extra degree of cooperation.

Sink or swim, raft building and then, hopefully, raft riding is great fun. It’s just about impossible not to have a fantastic time!