top of page
  • Writer's pictureCamp Nisswa

Moonlite Bay’s Annual Cardboard Boat Races: A Day of Fun and Creativity on the Water | Crosslake, MN

Updated: Aug 18, 2023

Last weekend, we embarked on a short journey from Nisswa, MN, to the charming town of Crosslake, MN, to witness the highly anticipated 2023 Cardboard Boat Races at the renowned Moonlite Bay Family Restaurant & Bar. It was our inaugural attendance at this exciting event, and while we had glimpsed a few videos and images from previous years, we were eagerly awaiting the real-life experience. As the event date approached, we marked our calendars for Saturday, August 12, 2023, and set out for the picturesque town of Crosslake, just a 25-minute drive from Nisswa. Little did we know that we were about to partake in one of the most celebrated summer events in the area.

From the moment we turned the corner on the highway, we were greeted by a bustling scene that signaled the magnitude of this event. The view of Moonlite Bay, teeming with eager spectators and a colorful fleet of boats lining the docks, left us awestruck. We wisely chose a parking spot along the highway, recognizing the importance of arriving early to secure a prime location.

Stepping into the venue, our anticipation was met with a warm welcome from the friendly staff, and we wasted no time in grabbing refreshing drinks before descending the steep stairs leading to the docks. Note to fellow attendees: arrive early to secure your spot on the deck overlooking the bay. From our vantage point on the hillside, we staked out a prime spot to witness the Cardboard Boat Races set to commence at 1:00 pm, beginning with the kids' heats followed by the adult races. But before delving into the excitement of the races, let's take a moment to understand the intricate rules and boat construction that set the stage for this extraordinary event.

The Art of Cardboard Boat Construction

Crafting boats out of cardboard might seem unconventional, but this event takes it to a whole new level of creativity and engineering prowess. The rules are straightforward and diligently enforced:

Permitted Materials:

  • Unfaced cardboard of any thickness (standard 2-ply provided by Moonlite Bay)

  • Waterproof wood glue (Elmers or Titebond)

  • Water-based caulk for seams and edges

  • Two or more coats of latex exterior house paint

  • Water-based Polyurethane finish

  • Decorations that do not affect boat performance or water tightness

Not Permitted:

  • Epoxies (two-part materials)

  • Roofing cement

  • Plastic tapes, duct tape, or similar materials

  • Floatation materials (Styrofoam or foam board)

  • Rubberized materials

  • Finished box board (e.g., beer cases)

  • Flex Seal or similar products

*Note: Rule information is from their 2023 Cardboard Boat Rules

Despite the seemingly improbable materials, the boats are engineered to withstand the water, and part of the event's proceeds are directed towards supporting the Whitefish Yacht Club.

The Thrilling Races Unfold

Now equipped with insight into boat construction, we eagerly jumped into the heart of the event—the races themselves. There's an inexplicable charm in observing a lineup of home-designed cardboard boats, each adorned with vibrant colors and imaginative names, ready to conquer the water. The air horn sounded, signaling the commencement of the kids' heats, where the young participants showcased their nautical skills in a shorter race around the docks, culminating in hearty cheers at the finish line. As the heats progressed, the youthful contestants demonstrated uncontainable enthusiasm, their smiles outshining the glory of victory.

The adult races followed suit, featuring a more extensive course that showcased both skill and determination. The seasoned racers mixed with newcomers, collectively embodying the spirit of friendly competition. Curiosity led us to a conversation with a veteran racer, who generously shared his strategies: “paddle smoothly, prevent splashing water into the boat and above all, have fun while perhaps enjoying a few beers.”

The adult racers also had the prospect of cash prizes and coveted trophies awaiting them at the finish line.

A captivating halftime show, featuring professional stunt devils careening down the ultimate slip and slide into the water (about 75ft out), added an exhilarating twist to the event, as it does every year.

A Treasured Summer Tradition

Moonlite Bay's Annual Cardboard Boat Races emerge as a hallmark of summer festivities, drawing multitudes of all ages to revel in a day of wholesome entertainment. Witnessing the home crafted vessels teeter between buoyancy and submersion, alongside the camaraderie and friendly rivalry on the water, is a truly unique experience. We wholeheartedly recommend marking your calendars for next year's edition and staying updated by following Moonlite Bay on Facebook and Instagram. We will update this blog with next year's date, as soon as we know.

So, as the oars keep paddling and the creative spirit keeps afloat, we eagerly await the next chapter of this vibrant tradition. Until then, we'll leave you with a parting thought: keep paddling, keep creating, and we'll catch you at the races next year (August 10, 2024)!

Moonlite Bay Restaurant & Bar


37627 County Road 66

Crosslake, MN 56442



bottom of page