Have you had the urge to go outside even in the rain, snow or dark? It could be that you have cabin fever. As early as 1918 this term was used to diagnose someone who was restless, frustrated with everyday objects, forgetful, who slept a lot and was “dying” to get outside.
Therapy for cabin fever is as simple as getting out and interacting with nature. For my husband and I, we have never been shut-up in a ship for a long period of time, isolated in an Alaskan winter or trapped in a cabin in a blizzard. In fact, people wonder how we can keep on-the-go, like we do. Last Saturday we went to an event called “Cabin Fever Model Engineering Show.” For the first time, we came upon a unique and amazing, technical wonder, a Putt Putt boat.
The “Cabin Fever Show” we attended is an event where men display the wonders of their handiwork. Featured were beautifully constructed steam engines, trains, boats, steam powered construction equipment, and an array of tools, and every gadget imaginable that would interest such men. It’s a great event for anyone suffering from cabin fever in the middle of January.
How it is that we had never seen a Putt Putt boat before, is beyond my imagination for my husband has tinkered with every technical wonder there is, or so I thought. Tucked among the hundreds of displays at “Cabin Fever” was a very, personable man whose display table had rows and rows of little tin boats. We stood watching one of these little boats running around and around in a galvanized, wash tub of water. Beside me stood two boys, about twelve years old, who had out their wallets and with big smiles on their faces exclaimed how they come each year to the event to buy Putt Putt Boats and the necessary paraphernalia to operate them.
Was this something new on the market? No! A Frenchman, Thomas Piot, filed a patent for a “pop pop” boat in 1891. A similar boat remained popular for many years, especially in the 1940’s and 1950’s, but then declined in popularity along with other tin toys as plastic toys took over much of the market. However, these boats are still being produced today and are shipped here from India.
The amazing thing about the Putt Putt Boat is its simple construction, many families have fun building them at home, out of aluminum pie tins and plastic straws. Yet, they are self-propelled by an internal engine, a simple heat engine. This consists of a small boiler, connected to an exhaust tube. When heat is applied to the boiler, expanding steam pushes water in the exhaust tube, propelling the boat forward. They are sometimes known as candle boats and before fuel cells were produced for them, mom’s candles were cut into pieces to provide fuel to run the boats.
I just know that many of you are thinking, ” where have you been all your life, Shirl?” In fact, many of you may make Putt Putt boats as a family project. Full instructions can be found on the internet. For many decades tin steam-powered boats have brought excitement to everyone who has had a chance to own them. I’m thinking that Putt Putt Boats may even cure the claustrophobic reaction to the malady, cabin fever. How? Bent over the wash tub in which the boat is going round and round and you begin to feel as if you are outdoors near a pond or lake. Have cabin fever? try this remedy! ( In case you are wondering, we could not resist the appeal of the little boats, and we are now the proud owners of our very own Putt Putt Boat!)