What is a Bathtub Boat?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 06 October 2019
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the term “bathtub boat” can refer to several types of watercraft. One type has been designed specifically for the purpose of bathtub navigation, while another type is intended for use on the open water, with a form and design which is meant to evoke a bathtub, and may in fact be a bathtub in some cases. The bathtub boat should not be confused with a bathtub shaped like a boat, which is an entirely different kettle of fish.

In the sense of a boat which is intended to be used in the tub, a bathtub boat is usually designed as a children's toy, although adults have been known to indulge as well. The simplest bathtub boats are simply boat-shaped wooden or plastic blocks which float on the surface of the tub. Some may have movable pieces including tiny people which sit in the boat. More complex models may have features such as sails, along with moving parts.

Powered bathtub boats can use a variety of methods to move around the tub. Some have small engines powered by batteries which turn turbines or a paddle wheel, while others are powered by the controlled deflation of a balloon, or using other innovative techniques. Steering on bathtub boats tends to be nonexistent or very unresponsive, but fortunately they usually survive collisions with the walls and occupants of the tub due to their slow rate of speed.


In some regions of the world, people race bathtub boats at novelty events. Some communities have taken the idea of bathtub boat races to the next level, having competitors compete by racing actual bathtubs or boats closely modeled after bathtubs. The use of a real bathtub in a bathtub race is increasingly rare, with participants instead building watercraft which are designed to perform slightly better than a bathtub. Such competitions may have restrictions on design which are used to encourage people to use designs which resemble real tubs, or to force people to include an actual bathtub somewhere in the design.

The seriousness of bathtub boat racing depends on the community. Many communities use it as a novelty event which is intended primarily to be fun, rather than competitive, with particular praise going to competitors who build boats which manage to navigate the entire course. Others may place a premium on speed, with competitors using more sophisticated boats and competing against prior year champions or meeting up for district races which pit the winners of various area competitions against each other.


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Post 4

I saw a bathtub afloat on a lake once, and I did a double take. There were two college students sitting in it with their fishing poles on the edge, just as relaxed and natural as if they were in a motor boat.

Thankfully, I had my camera with me. I took a photo, and they never even knew I shot it. I try to keep my camera in my car at all times, just for once in a lifetime photo opportunities like this.

I would imagine that life-sized bathtub boats would be great at keeping water out. Their sides go up so high that waves would not be likely to splash over the edge.

Post 3

@Oceana - My brother and his buddies get so excited about bathtub boat races. They are all engineers, so they design elaborate powered boats with sophisticated yet tiny equipment to give them an advantage over the competition.

He gets frustrated working with such small parts sometimes. I can often hear him cursing in the other room as he struggles with tweezers and small pliers.

I do think it is a little funny how seriously they take it, but I will admit that seeing the final product in action is exciting. I have respect for the work and expertise they put into their bathtub boats.

Post 2

My parents didn’t have a lot of money to spend on toys for me when I was little, so they didn’t get me any battery-powered fancy bathtub boats. I was lucky to get one that simply floated on the surface.

It looked like a tugboat, and I loved it. I would make up stories around it, and I even tied a rope to it to anchor it to the faucet when it was time for the tub water to go down the drain.

I knew that it was too big to be in any danger, but still, I wanted it to feel safe. My little makeshift bathtub boat anchor gave me peace of mind.

Post 1

Bathtub boat racing sounds so funny to me! It’s crazy how a large number of adults can get so into something that seems like a child’s game.

My sister and I used to race our bathtub boats when we were three years old, but now that we are grown, we have passed them onto our children. I can’t imagine going to an event and cheering my little boat on to victory now!

However, if a person can get enjoyment out of this, by all means, they should do it. We all have our hobbies that seem strange to others, so to each his own.

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