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Vishal Rawlley

Make and Row ~ How I Decided to Make a Difference?

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The Idea of the Red Boat was conceived five years ago! After several design workshops with students on making rafts from salvaged materials, it just clicked!

Prior to the boat-making workshops, I had designed a pontoon boat. In the workshops, we had made several rafts by putting together all the salvaged materials that would float, like drums, barrels, and tire tubes. Although these were great for a quick and temporary purpose, they were heavy, inelegant, and had to be dismantled after use.

Later, I designed the Red Boat to overcome the problems with these rafts. 

The idea of the Red Boat was to make an inexpensive, light, and durable craft that was simple to make and easy to use for anyone wanting to explore the enchanting backwaters of Goa.

I explored various concepts and designs like origami boat, foldable and lightweight canoe, and kayak designs, but nothing came through. But I persisted with my idea and made several paper prototypes, and eventually, I scouted for the suitable material to cast my paper design. That is when the innocuous red metal sheet commonly used for temporary roofing caught my attention. I attempted a crude prototype with that material at one of the boat-making workshops. It worked remarkably well! And thus, the Red Boat was born!

Later, I approached a fabricator (who had previously constructed my pontoon boat) to make a refined version of my crude prototype of the Red Boat. He refused, stating that it seemed impractical and unsturdy. That, however, did not deter me, and I decided to make the refined version myself. I collected the desired tools and materials and made a makeshift metal sheet folding jig. With this apparatus, I tucked the metal sheet neatly into the folds of my paper prototype, added some light bracing for sturdiness, designed a nice oar, and the boat was ready. I had to add an overhead carrier to my van to transport the boat to the water.

On the Red boat’s maiden test ride, my first passenger was a lovely dog I was fostering. The boat glided like a beauty!
We both felt very comfortable and well-balanced. It was an unbelievable feeling!

Since then, I have made three versions of the Red Boat. We have used it for several expeditions, explored different creeks, rivers, and lakes, and employed it to clean up water bodies and install floating gardens.

Why Boat Making workshops?

I came to Maker’s Asylum on one of the #Pechakucha community nights to talk about my journey and story about making The Red Boat. That’s when Vaibhav, founder of MA, came up to me and said that we need to make this into a workshop so that more folks can learn. Maker’s Asylum has been a community makerspace and their ritual of involving the community in building something that has part of them in it, resonates with me very deeply! Hence we got together and made it happen in the true #makersgonnamake ethos. 

One workshop, two days, and five new boats! 

We have added more than a dozen keen boaters to our group and provided these enthusiasts a boat of their own to explore their neighbouring backwaters and more. Instilling the Maker spirit, we now have a lot of folks who have made their own boats and sailed them too!  

The whole idea behind making boats accessible to people is, that this growing tribe gets to know more about the unseen Goa unseen-the Goa of those early settlements around the backwaters, with people living in harmony with the nature and with canoes as their primary mode of long-distance travel. There is so much to learn from this riverine ecosystem, the wetlands, the marshes, the mangroves, the Khazans, the coastal agriculture, the aqua flora, and fauna. The entire coastal landscape is surreal with its constant changes according to the rhythms of nature, the seasons, the tides, and the time of the day! Hopefully, we shall become a significant force in preserving this fragile ecosystem that sustainable living depends on!

Like the saying goes, “We may have all come on different ships, but we’re in the same boat now.”– Martin Luther King, Jr.

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