Other Programming Round Table Spotlight

Duct Tape Pirate Ships

The content for this post was taken from one of the email round tables that I ran. It comes from Kimberly Hakel of Silver Lakes Association who consistently contributes fantastic ideas to the round tables. 


It began with a crazy idea. I decided that a pirate theme would be great this year, but I was looking for excitement and thrills. I asked myself, “What do all buccaneers have?” A boat was the obvious answer. You can’t sail the high seas without a ship.

I started on YouTube and found the following link.
Then I found some basic instructions and proceeded to gather my counselors for the grand experiment.

The kids loved the boats. The counselors discovered you get raw fingers from too much duct tape. We chose to use tape because of our facility. We do not have anywhere safe for the kids to paint something that big and let it safely dry. Many of the boats you see online were painted. Warning: Don’t paint duct tape.




  • Box cutters
  • Extra blades
  • Hand saw (for the cardboard tubes)
  • Measuring tape
  • Straight edge or yard stick


  1. We decided to use x-large boxes and not to cut them apart. They were taped like normal and the sides cut down to the correct height of approx. 12”. Size is important; our boxes were approximately 48” x 30”x 12” or 14”.  Wider is more stable, longer gives better control. Since we were using our pool, they couldn’t be too big. I really would not go smaller. Our experiments with smaller boats failed. Each boat held 2 children. The front was hot glued and duct taped onto the box using extra pieces. A pattern was made for the front pieces that made the rest of the boats easier.
  2. The first week each child only rode in the boat once before it collapsed. The next week we reinforced the bottom with 3 layers of cardboard and the sides with 2 layers. The center was reinforced with cardboard tubing along the middle, bottom and top. The counselors decided to use old lifeguard tubes and pool noodles to put pontoons on the bottom of the boat. This allowed the kids to use the boats for an hour before they collapsed.
  3. We borrowed short oars. Using hands puts too much water in the boat. Our homemade oars were an epic fail.
  4. Buy new blades for your box cutters.
  5. Buy more duct tape than you think you need. We made 12 boats and a giant-sized counselor “ark” (4 -6 counselors fit inside). The counselors insisted on their own boat. Silly me, I should have expected that. We used approximately eighty, 60 yd. rolls of tape and had to place two orders. You can buy seconds for $2.00 – $3.00 a roll at tapebrothers.com.
  6. Apply at least 2 layers of tape. Make sure there is not any cardboard showing or you will develop a leak. Even a speck of cardboard creates a major leak. Be sure the first layer is as smooth as possible. Wrinkles and air bubbles are a leak waiting to happen.
  7. Experiment with your boat. Small changes can make a big difference.
  8. Since we are a day camp with required golf, tennis, swimming, and archery, I had the boats pre-prepared. Counselors built the boats the week before camp started. Younger campers had boats that only need a little tape and decorating. Older campers taped, reinforced, and decorated their boats.
  9. Boat Storage: Duct tape does not like extreme heat. It tried to melt off our boats the first week. We stored the pre-prepared boats outside and had to make emergency repairs the first day of camp.
  10. Our buccaneers decorated their ships with colored and specialty duct tape.
  11. These boats take time to build. It took 4 counselors, three 7 hour days to prepare 12 boats.
  12. Parents came to see the boats paraded onto the pool deck to pirate music. The boats set sail and it was wildly popular.

It was a lot of fun and we will probably do it again. We had great positive feedback from the community and parents.


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Subscribe To My Email List

Please fill in the form to subscribe to my email list, and I'll email you the 10 Very Cool Low Cost and Easy Summer Camp Program Ideas PDF.

You're almost done. Please check your email.