Splish, Splash, You’ll Be Takin’ a Bath!

By Deborah Van Hoewyk

You will be if you volunteer on January 16 for the hot – and wet – seat on the Dream Festival’s spanking new dunk tank (see story in this issue for info on the Festival). You know what a dunk tank is, one of those big water tanks with a seat for a willing victim? The “audience” throws some kind of ball at a target attached to a trigger mechanism. When you hit the target, the trigger releases, the seat drops, and the victim plunges into the tank.

Currently under construction, the dunk tank is a marvel of collaborative engineering. There’s at least some agreement that “It’s all Mick’s fault,” as in his previous life, Michael Winter had been successful with dunk tanks at business incentive events for the auto industry, and just casually mentioned that “people liked them, and they were “jolly good fun.” So last summer the group, all more or less connected to the Festival planning committee, set about finding a dunk tank. No go!

So . . . an engineering task force, including Winter and Larry Woelfel, Ken Orchuk (who allegedly arrived for his new life in Huatulco equipped with a cement mixer, chain saw, and 74 sweaters), and Carsten Andersen and Andersen’s friend Rick Laboucan (former boss and long-time welding partner), set about creating a dunk tank. No used water cisterns (tinacos)? Just call your connections and get a new one donated by Dublin Pub and Grill!

They cut off the top of the tinaco to create an open tank, sent Larry off to buy metal for the surrounding structures, and then got to the good part. That would be cutting the metal pieces, then changing the design here and there. And, of course, cutting the metal again so Carsten and Rick could get to welding it. Apparently, the welding team works really, really fast, so the group had to be “really, really sure” of the design before they told the welders what to do. A side benefit of the trial-and-error approach was discovering that Ken (“I’ve got one here somewhere”) had brought even more tools to Huatulco than he realized.

Once the basic supporting structure was done, the group started in on the trigger mechanism. According to Mick, they started with the Internet, which led to “splinter groups” on just how to design the trigger. The basic principle, though, was “pretty obvious once you got started.” Target, connections, and down she goes! Still needed a lot of experimenting, though, so Brenda Orchuk gets the award for being a oneWoman’s Auxiliary to supply the beer, water, and prizewinning ham sandwiches to “a bunch of grown men acting like ten-year-olds in a toy store with a huge box of Legos.”

As of this writing, the trigger-and-target mechanism is in the test phase—it works with an 80-pound bag of salt and a bunch of tennis balls, but will probably need a heavier target and more lethal projectiles. The target is a metal disk that forms the maw of a leaping shark.

Now who doesn’t want to throw baseballs at a raging shark? Step right up, three balls for a single ticket!!!

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