Documentary nearly finished!

Suppose you've been wondering what happened in the almost-12 months since we drove 4,800km to Darwin and placed second in the Darwin Beer Can Regatta?

Well, we've been busy, and we're delighted to show you a little of what we've been busy working on since then.

Here's a short 3min clip straight off the Stu's Mac and produced for one of our sponsors, Kooks Wines, for them to showcase at one of those pretentious left-wing chardonnay-sipping soirees they support down in Melbourne.

It includes a few key scenes from the feature-length documentary about the Bottle Boat that we will soon announce premiere screening dates for, so stay tuned!

The wrap-up

We're proud to say that we've raised more than $6,000 for the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre as of today, more than  $1,000 more than our goal. It'a fair to say that we brought a new level of awareness and competitive spirit to the Darwin Beer Can Regatta too with more than four TV appearances, four radio appearances and five newspapers covering our project. 

Here's a great wrap-up from ABC Darwin on the 2016 regatta and the role we played as the Big Smoke Bottle Boat:

Massive thanks are due to the sponsors who helped us bring the project to life:


BlueChilli Group

Kooks Wines

Britz Campervans

Paddle and Portage Canoes

Cave Foods


Two Blokes

But wait, there's more!...

Sooo much more. We have to complete our documentary, The Big Smoke Bottle Boat, which will cover the origins of the Beer Can Regatta in the 1970s, the changes over the years, and the journey we've taken to bring the Bottle Boat to Darwin to compete. It's still in production but here's our latest teaser. Stand by for more teasers in the weeks to come!

'Twas the night before the regatta...

It's been a whirlwind past few days in Darwin getting everything lined up for Sunday's race. Between our final preparations, never-ending media requests and appearances, and generally basking in the limelight at being Darwin's newest celebrities, we've been short on spare time.

Biggest news in the past few days was the arrival of the full team into Darwin! Expert paddlers Ben, Lachlan, and Hamish arrived on Friday afternoon, along with vital support team members Emily and Marissa. We were even graced by the presence of little Sam, our mascot and indispensable liaison to the newborn community.

The media circus has continued apace - we spent Friday afternoon filming a bit for Channel 9, and we work up at 6am this morning to appear on Darwin's premiere fishing-themed call-in radio show. Alan charmed the wellingtons off both the hosts and listeners with his recounting of the Bottle Boat origin story, and Ben and Matt played a vital support role as the effete Sydneysider and evil invading Septic, respectively. And Thursday's newspaper photoshoot paid off in a giant spread in the august NT News, the Territory's paper of record. 

Later on Saturday morning, the team finished up the boat assembly by gluing the final wine bottles to the topside of the boat. Turns out that one of the few rules of the Beer Can Regatta is that there has to be some above-water evidence that the boat is in fact made of alcoholic beverage cannisters. Wouldn't want to get disqualified for missing that rule.

 Co-Chief Propulsion Officers Hamish and Lachlan putting the finishing touches on the boat.

Co-Chief Propulsion Officers Hamish and Lachlan putting the finishing touches on the boat.

With all our preparations behind us, the only thing left to do is get a good night's sleep, think positive thoughts about tomorrow, and scheme about how we'll sabotage the other boats (as they're sure to try to do to us!). Wish us luck tomorrow, and check back in for how we do! 

Hello, Darwin!

WE'VE MADE IT! After 10 days, nearly 5,000 kilometers, two cracked windscreens, one shattered side window (sorry, Stu!), and a combined 36 roadside hamburgers consumed, we pulled into Darwin at about 6pm last night, a full day ahead of schedule.

Now that we're in Darwin, the media circus has begun. Stu and Alan were up at 6:30am to appear on ABC Darwin's morning radio show, we're off this afternoon for a photoshoot for the local newspaper, and Alan's phone is ringing off the hook with more requests for us to talk and look generally pretty. We can't decide whether we're really big news, or if new content in these parts is really hard to come by.

Off to the photoshoot now - but to give you a taste of what the journey was like, take a look at this short clip of some of our adventures from the trip up. (Ladies, brace yourselves for a very special shot about halfway through.)

4,000 kms down, and still three days to go

The lack of updates hasn't been for a lack of traveling - no, far from it. After a week on the road, we're over halfway to Darwin, and still on schedule to make it well before the Regatta launches in Sunday (fingers crossed).  

The past seven days have consisted of 8+ hours of driving days, so they've had the unfortunate effect of starting to blend together. Unfortunate because the scenery has been beautiful - much greener and wetter than we'd expected. And the sights have been as spectacular as you'd imagine. 

Some highlights of the past few days: 

 The Big Bogam statue at Nyngan. The RSL club there was quite a cultural education for our American member.  

The Big Bogam statue at Nyngan. The RSL club there was quite a cultural education for our American member.  

 Bessie driving west past Nyngan , into the sunset. 

Bessie driving west past Nyngan , into the sunset. 

 Old train station on the Stuart highway, north of Coober Pedy.  

Old train station on the Stuart highway, north of Coober Pedy.  

 Ole Bessie at Uluru! 

Ole Bessie at Uluru! 

T-Minus 12 Hours Till Departure

Deep breaths.... it's almost departure time! We've spent the past few days finishing our preparations for the journey - Alan and Tony spent Saturday driving Bessie, our 4WD camper donated by the awesome folks at Britz, back from Melbourne; Stuart has been getting the trailer ready to go; and Emily finished up the ultra-sparkly cover that will both protect the boat on its journey, as well as make it visible from space.

Sunday was our final prep day. We took Bessie through her paces by setting up the rooftop tent (a painless and quick endeavor), and tried out our disco driving uniforms for the first time (a truly resplendent sight). Most importantly, we determined that the fridge in the back could hold no fewer than 36 cans of beer. So in the unlikely case that we're stranded in the outback for a day or two, we'll at least be well-stocked with that most vital supply.

Now to get some much-needed rest and prepare ourselves for a 4:30am wake-up call tomorrow. Let's get this show on the road!

Look Mum! We're on the news again!

Can't. Find. The. Words!

So many people and companies have done so much to get us this far. Must come back and edit this post and mention them all in a day or so when I have my breath back.

In the meantime watch this beautiful video of this morning's media launch event on Sydney Harbour at sunrise by the very talented Stem Media:

And if you'd like to watch the news segment from this morning's Today Show on Nine, you can watch it here.

And there are also these beautiful photos courtesy of the very talented and charming Mr Tim Lumsdaine:

Tomorrow, team member Matt arrives from San Francisco, we get our paddles from sponsor Paddle & Portage, trailer stickers from sponsor Cave Foods, and team members Tony Burrett and Alan Jones fly to Melbourne to pickup an awesome 4WD camper compliments of sponsor Britz. What a time to be alive!

Look Mum! We're on the news!

Thanks to the awesome Nadia Daly at ABC Darwin our Big Smoke Bottle Boat project was featured on national TV news last night. It also features some competitive tension from representatives of the Darwin Beer Can Regatta's organisers. (Click to play the video news story below).

We're pleased to see the locals in Darwin rise up to meet the challenge of racing against a sophisticated, elite team paddling a lightweight, high-tech craft such as the Bottle Boat. And we're sure we'll only beat them by 50-100m at most.

By the way, "Chardonnay-sipping"? Please! Only savages would think of drinking a Chardonnay in that heat and humidity. A crisp Sauvignon Blanc or a chilled Rosé are really your go-to for sipping in Darwin.

Shiny, happy people

We're very excited today to take delivery of 30 metres or so of fantastic DiscoLab fabric from one of our sponsors Betabrand, who've sent us this glorious box of shiny goodness all the way from San Francisco, USA.

We're going to use some of this fabric to decorate the Bottle Boat and its crew, but the bulk of it will be used in a top secret and pivotal scene from our Bottle Boat documentary following the project, the journey to Darwin and the race.

We'd tell you more but it's a secret. Stay tuned for more details!

...and thanks Betabrand! 

Buoyancy Achievement: Unlocked — it floats!

I can't tell you how many nights I've lain awake worrying that it wouldn't float.

There are two ways to go about building a boat using little plastic wine bottles:

  1. Consult experts. Test small-scale examples of your intended craft. Create a detailed plan, and a Plan B. Budget for all the materials you will need. Assemble skilled technicians. Build what you've planned. Let's call this "The plan approach".
  2. Have a yarn with a mate over a few drinks. Come up with a very fuzzy idea for how it might work. Go to the hardware store and randomly buy some bits and pieces. Slap some stuff together. Tell yourselves you won't need a Plan B. See what happens. Let's call this the "no plan approach".

More than a few times, I've wished we'd gone with the "plan approach" (especially late at night when I can't sleep worrying about it). But it's just not in Stu and my nature. We're doers, not planners.


For example, last week, when both thought we'd probably glued enough bottles on it to create the buoyancy we needed, we realised in the most direct way possible that we didn't know how much the bottle boat weighed.

The two of us tried to lift the bottle boat and almost couldn't! Which came as a very big surprise and a considerable worry. Would a boat this heavy even be able to carry its own weight, much less the paddling crew?

See, we never stopped to calculate how much one bottle weighed, or how many bottles we'd need to create the buoyancy necessary to carry the required minimum crew of three, plus the PVC plumbing pipe frame we'd made. If we had, we'd have known how heavy the boat would be.

But in order to know that, we'd have to weigh every component used, use a known amount of lue and tape, and count each bottle as we glued it on to the frame. Whereas what we both wanted to do was race ahead and start gluing and taping bottles together as fast as we could. Because sticking bottles together isn't a fun job for very long and it isn't made any more fun by having to keep count as you go. We needed to race ahead to not die of boredom.

Extend that methodology out to every aspect of the bottle boat's construction and pretty soon you've got a mystery boat on your hands, with all sorts of unknown parameters — would it be buoyant enough? Would it be stable enough? Would the drag of all those little bottles make it too hard to paddle? Would the bottle boat just fall apart when we first picked it up, or when we turned it the right side up for the first time, or when we launched it into the water?

It's enough to keep you up nights, believe me!

It floats!!!!!! @bottleboat

A photo posted by Stuart Dawson (@smokeywombat) on


But great news; better news than even we two idiots could have hoped for: the bottle boat floats beautifully. And with some nicely fitted marine ply decking from team members Hamish and Lachlan on it, with thanks to some additional lifting power from Tony, and using Wolfgang's ute and swimming pool while he was away and without his knowledge, we were able to get it into the water and see that our "no plan approach" had worked.

It's a great boat, it's more than bouyant enough, it's easy to paddle and steer.


Now we just need to paint and decorate it, buy a trailer, build a cradle to carry the boat in the trailer, lock in a little more sponsor love (JetStar, I'm looking at you), and of course, drive it 4,000km to Darwin and win the race.

Recent news of record rains, flooding and roads cut between here and Darwin would be a problem for teams using the "plan approach". But not us "no plan" guys, we'll just figure that out when we get there.