September 20, 2004

Only in Sunol can you dial the wrong phone number and actually know the person you mistakenly called and end up having a 10 minute conversation, then get the correct phone number from that person; only in Sunol can you attend a school, church, and business meeting within one week and see a lot of the same people; only in Sunol can you attend one of those meetings and here someone ask if anyone has seen any rattlesnakes around their homes recently, then the conversation turns to the types of snakes recently found inside their homes; only from Sunol can a small group of men enter a boat race in Pittsburg and actually win!

How quickly do you think you can build a boat? Well for Sunol residents Tom Harlan, Derek Johnson, Klay Kunkel and Irv Tiessen it took 2 hours and 15 minutes.

Last July Tom saw an ad for a home built boat regatta being held at the Pittsburg Seafood Festival, which took place a couple of weeks ago. The rules were quite simple really, $125 in materials were donated, you had to build the boat on-site within 3 hours and only hand tools were allowed, no power tools. The hard part was building a boat that could be paddled 100 yards out to a buoy and back without sinking.

"We were racing against people who had been doing this for years. I just think it was a fantastic opportunity for other people to really appreciate Sunol, but I think they really appreciated our competitiveness. I think we were a class act", said Irv.

Since all the amateur boat builders are also members of the Sunol Repertory Theater Tom said they are "good at building things fast because we build sets". An SRT veteran, Irv was chosen because "he is good at putting things together. Derek and Klay are younger and don't weight very much, so they were good choices to ride in the boat. These three helpers were quite helpful", said Tom.

According to Irv, the town of Sunol also got a lot of plugs from fellow SRT member, Suzanne Diers, who took the microphone from the race announcer and invited the crowd to the Sunol Country Festival, introduced SRT members and even gave on the spot bios on each boat builder, all without a script. Derek said she "told the crowd all about the theatre and our melodramas. She had them booing the villain and cheering the hero before she handed the mike back to the announcer".

Tom's original idea was to build a little 8-foot boat made of plywood, but during a dinner party with Pleasanton resident Bill Olson, who has boat building experience, it was decided that a 16-foot boat would be a more suitable size. And as with most great ideas the boat was sketched right there on a dinner napkin.

There were a total of 10 boats in the regatta and only 2 actually sank. But Derek and Klay paddled the fastest and after several matches were declared the winners. Be sure to check out the boat they named in SRT fashion, "Curses! Foiled Again" which will be on display at this Saturdays' Sunol Country Festival.

And speaking of the Sunol Country Festival, the big day has finally arrived. Organizer, Neil Davies of the Save Our Sunol group said, "It's truly a community event, just about every group in town is doing something". Parking will be available at Sunol Glen School, where the schools 8th graders will be selling donuts and coffee in the morning. Make sure to purchase lots of raffle tickets that day as well because some of the prizes are just amazing; among the many prizes offered are two Oakland Raider skybox tickets. Neil says booth space is still available, if you are interested contact Pat Stillman at 925-862-2263. See you in Sunol on Saturday!

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