Once you have the prototype, it takes 40 hours to cobble together a racing bathtub. Most are fiberglass, and as long as you have a bona fide bathtub mould sitting on top of your hull, regulations on the hull's appearance are fairly loose. Some resemble water skis, others arrowheads or hydroplanes. One inspired Vancouver architect constructed a flying bathtub but pulled out of the Nanaimo- Vancouver race because of high, life-threatening winds.
Racing tubs cost from $1,000 to $3,600, and most serious competitors have a corporate sponsor. "A normal housewife can't compete against the top bathtub technology," says Lori Thomas, who finished second among the nine women finishers at Nanaimo- Vancouver and 15th overall. "A good propeller and motor can run you $1,500."
Thomas, however, is hardly what you would call a normal housewife. "I was a logger once," she says, "and being a mother is challenging too, but bathtubbing is fun. Bathtubbing is one of my ways to relieve the boredom."
Several parts of the world seem ready to adopt Thomas's antiboredom prescription. The Loyal Nanaimo Bathtub Society reports that tubbers are organizing in the U.S. and in England. Australia has always been well represented.
Five trophies are awarded at the Nanaimo- Vancouver race—the two most important go to the winner and to the first tubber to sink (a plunger painted silver). For most tubbers, though, just crossing the Strait is sufficient, and Fairholm, who lost by oh-so-little, is keenly aware of the accomplishment. "I spent 750 hours designing and building my prototype tub," he said. "I risked my life and finished a 34-mile crossing in 1:22:26 with an eight-horsepower motor. I'm satisfied with that."