A sea cruise on a boat made of kiddie pools and buckets — what could go wrong?

Buckets are taped together and sit on a plywood board on top of two kiddie pools.
Two students were rescued off the coast of Isla Vista in Santa Barbara County early Saturday on their makeshift boat, shown here inverted.
(Sergio Sanchez / Santa Barbara County Fire Department)

Two college students in a homemade boat made from plastic kiddie wading pools, plywood, 20 5-gallon buckets and duct tape were rescued off the coast of Santa Barbara early Saturday.

The two male college students in their 20s set off from Isla Vista near UC Santa Barbara sometime Friday evening or early Saturday. Fire personnel received an emergency call at 2 a.m. from someone on shore who saw strobe lights they carried on board.

They appeared to be drifting out to sea, said Mike Eliason, the Santa Barbara County fire spokesman. Fire personnel rescued them about 300 yards from the shore at 2:37 a.m.


The students did not explain why they were out at sea at that hour. Eliason said that alcohol was not involved and that the voyage may have been part of a school project. Their school was not identified.

“If this is happening at 1 p.m., I’m not sure there’s much commotion,” Eliason said. “When you’re going out in the middle of night in a pitch-black environment, the timing is odd.” The story was first reported by

The Santa Barbara County Fire Department dispatched a group of three rescue swimmers in wet suits with long paddle boards from Isla Vista and two seacraft from UC Santa Barbara. The rescue swimmers reached the makeshift boat first.

The students were not dressed in wet suits in the mid-50-degree weather. In photos, one student had on only swim trunks, while the other was in shorts and a shirt. They were in separate wading pools bonded to a single large piece of plywood and appeared to be paddling out to sea.

Eliason said the natural course and strength of the tides pulled the duo in a southerly direction against their efforts to navigate north.


“They didn’t seem to be in any distress, but they were just floating out there,” Eliason said. “We managed to bring them back to shore and they were grateful. I just wish they had planned whatever they were doing a little better.”