This Weekend: Absurd Boat-Building and General D.I.Y. Hilarity at Camp Tipsy

It’s summer, and summers in San Francisco mean temperamental weather and always a possibility of fog. Even on our beautiful days, it doesn’t mean there is a lot of playing in the waters that surround us.

That's what camping is for! California camping is the best, and camping by a water source that is actually warm enough in which to swim, not to mention has decent water levels right now, justifies any excuse to get out of the city for a few days in Stonyford, Calif., a few hours away in Colusa County.

Pack your cooler, your silly inflatables, your sense of adventure and do-it-yourself sensibilities and head three hours north for a zany, boat building campout. Camp Tipsy, put on by the San Francisco Institute of Possibility, is a five-day outdoor event in on the shores of East Park Reservoir — or, as it’s more affectionately called “Lake Ladoga.” 

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“What kind of 'boat building' are we talking about here?” you may be asking. Allow me to be more specific.

There is a bunch of junk — loads of it, in fact — and that junk is plunked down with a bunch of tools which participants have the opportunity to turn into something glorious. Milk jugs, tires, inner tubes, styrofoam, busted pallets, and old barrels are only limited by your imagination and the number of zip ties used. The amount of vision required to make this pile of crap into things that float, even when loaded down with surly human life, is impressive.

Even more so, however, is what participants actually manage to build. There have been shacks with front porches, old fashioned wood fired tubs, romantic tables for two, bedroom suites, and multi-leveled structures with slides. The spectacle of craftsmanship makes one seriously rethink the limits of repurposed garbage.

Make no mistake, there are an equal amount of “building” endeavors that are less than impressive, but they are welcomed with as much gusto as those of the mad geniuses who actually made something seaworthy. In fact, if any of the above wonders were to have tipped over, they probably would have gotten an award for it.  

A contest for valueless prices and bragging rights will be held Saturday, July 4, to showcase everyone’s talent (or lack thereof). Mayhem, hilarity, and unexpected showmanship will reign as everyone vies for awards such as ”Most Likely To Kill Pilot,” “Most Likely To Get Pilot Laid,” “Worst Implementation of Worst Design,” and “Least Effort” — to name a few. So get conceptual and use props and costumes, or just drag your lazy ass to the water with an LED light on a cork, as did one past winner.

According to the website, “We recommend choreographed dance boats, live music, bad poetry, water ballet, or catapults to enhance your style and increase your chances of getting an award.”

You will ooh and aah, roll your eyes, laugh hysterically, become green with envy that you didn’t think of something first, and be really happy you aren’t within 20 feet of something else. Absurdity and skill run the gamut at Camp Tipsy. 

This campout is very family-friendly. There are zones for family camping and activities to join with your children. Kids have a blast here, but there is also plenty of adult fun and adventure. Common sense is valued over arbitrary rules and censorship. Outside of just a few strict, but basic regulations, this is a place to let loose and explore your creativity, no matter what your age.

Nighttime will feature entertainment at a stage area, including fabulous flamenco music by Trio Paz and the captivating Americana stylings of Rube Waddell. Morning coffee will be served by Ritual. There are also some fun installations that participants often bring, like a floating movie theater with old campy movies, a pedal-powered Ferris wheel on a platform supported by military pontoons, a floating photo booth, a 1930s fully automated fortune-telling booth with a hilariously snarky fortune teller, and a motorboat modified into a hot tub. It all depends on how attendees want to participate. They are are makers, builders, clowns, artists, revelers, and laid-back folks who just want to get out of the Bay Area and do something interesting. It appeals to do-it-yourself’ers who must have their hands on a tool at all times, as well as people who are just really good at sitting by the water with a beverage and snacking on chips and dip.

So in the spirit of duct tape and all things janky, buy a ticket, grab your camping gear or RV, your friends, your family, and even your well behaved dog; and get to Lake Ladoga any time now through the weekend. There is almost nothing more fun than Camp Tipsy!

Camp Tipsy, through Sunday July 5, at East Park Reservoir, $140, 18-and-under admitted free with parent/guardian. 

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