The 2005 Guerilla Flotilla
photographs by Kevin Lyons, Matt the Rat, Pirate Leslie, and Edmar.
The Guerilla Flotilla is an annual illegal invasion of the Chicago River. Most of the boats are home-made. It's a great day to sit on the riverbank and have a picnic, and maybe take a spin on a canoe or two. Click here for the (un-)official website and pictures of past events.
Naturally we Rats thought it would be an excellent time to test our new line of amphibious choppers. The impressive advancements made by CHVNK 666 had inspired us to take advantage of our lakeside city and develop a line of truly amphibious ratbikes. With St. Ratrick's day over with, I thought, "ah, I have a full month to build my floating chopper".
Fast forward: The day of the event. It's 1pm, the Flotilla started at noon. "FUCK! I NEED AN AQUACHOPPER!" I grabbed a kid's bike, a roll of duct tape, and a trailer full of plastic bottles.
The other participants had obviously put quite a bit of work into their boats. Erik's "Aqua Cat" was made from theatre seats.
Binns had taken an old mini-speedboat of some sort and converted it to electric, adding a red scoop on the front to keep the motor cool.
We were obviously among some serious boatbuilders here. However, there was definitely a spirit of DIY in the air, and none was so encouraging as Katie Rat...
She'd taken her house's old recycling tub and attempted to make a boat. The house had plenty of Odwalla bottles left over from dumpster-diving them and then fermenting them into hooch. Her paddle was a shovel. Dumpster booze and recycling bins? Talk about ratty!
With a quick plugging of a few wee holes, her craft was ready to launch.
A lesson was quickly learned: Balance is harder to establish than bouyancy.
Her boat floated, but she couldn't stay up on it. This would turn out to be a common problem.
Staying up was a concern, as the water might as well have been poisonous lava with pirahnas in it. To quote the organizers: "It is recommended to keep out of direct contact with the river. Despite ongoing cleaning of the river it is still classified as polluted. (You can get a very serious infection from any open wounds)" Any participant that came in contact with the Chicago River would face a double threat: Immediate bacteriological concerns, and long-term carcinogenic ones. Tasty!
Meanwhile, construction began on the floating kiddie bike.
The plan was to build a triangular frame from found wood, and then attach batteries of floatation in the form of kitty litter tubs and leftover Odwalla bottles.
The result? A fine craft indeed. Time for a test drive. This was to be the only true amphibious vehicle present that day.
Now to see how she floated.
I took off my clothes (I was swimming, and I'm not about to swim in clothes, that's just weird) and eased the boat into the water.
Once again, the boat floated just fine but I couldn't stay up on it! Ooh, that water sure made my cuts burn!
Here I was presented with a dilemma. Despite all of my planning (starting 30 minutes after the event began), I wouldn't be paddling about the North Avenue Turning Basin as I had hoped. Instead the best I could hope for was to bobble about until I got dunked. I knew I needed to make this lackluster attempt into a spectacle. There was only one option: Set the bike on fire and ramp it into the river.
"Oh, the aftertaste!"
The Chicago Reader (readership 250,000) published a shot of me (and my weenus) plunging into the river as their weekly "One Shot" feature. Lake Magazine did an article on the event, you can read it here. See more pictures here.