Whatever Floats Your Boat race

Boat Race
Special to The Star
Published: Thursday, October 17, 2013 at 09:43 AM.

By David Damon

Unit Commissioner, BSA

Whatever Floats Your Boat is an annual “boat” race sponsored by the FSU Coastal & Marine Laboratory at Turkey Point. The rules are pretty simple, fabricate a boat out of recycled materials- and race it. Every part and every piece must be recycled or re-purposed and held together with used fasteners and hopefully float long enough to get its crew around the race course.

This past Saturday, the second annual WFYB regatta was held. The race course was laid out in a north/south configuration. Starting at an inflatable killer whale, you paddle or sail downwind about a hundred yards, then make a 180 degree turn around inflatable Nemo and head north against wind and tide to the finish line. Easy enough for a normal boat, but these boats were anything but normal.

By mid-morning on Saturday, anticipation was mounting as entrants began pulling into the staging area across the basin from the marine lab. It was a buzz of last minute fabrication and modifications along with crews making the rounds checking out their competition. One by one each of the craft was inspected by the team of three judges. Before the racing could begin, an inspection was required to confirm that the rules had been strictly adhered to, every part of each boat, down to the paddles must be recycled with only one exception, duct tape. Some boats had themes, some boats had never been tried or tested and at least one, would never hold together long enough to make it to the starting line. There were eleven “boats” in all. The intrepid crews came from all over north Florida. One boat, or raft might be a better description, came all the way from Jacksonville, built by a group of adventurous University of North Florida Marine Biology students.

Our boat, Drumroll Please was built by the Boy Scouts from Troop 8 and Crew 8 in Wakulla County. These Scouts, also known as The Barrelheads, were the returning champions from the 2012 Regatta, back again with recycled 55 gallon drums. This year, instead of a catamaran style craft, we had fabricated a long center hull with two smaller drums as outrigger floats, or amas, to keep the long hull from rolling over. The six drums (donated by St. Marks Powder) were bolted together, end to end for a total length of just under 18'. It was designed for a four man crew to sit on top, with cut out sections or cockpit, for your legs. The cut out pieces were then used to form the blades for the paddles. Over the course of about three weeks, our Scouts built, tested and modified their craft. It was a marvel of low tech engineering and creativity. It would win no contest for beauty, but function it did, and it did it well.

The crew of Drumroll Please and The Barrelheads was made up of two Eagle Scouts, Gil Damon and Zack Dunaway and two adult Scout Leaders, Alfie Boone, and myself, David Damon. Over a twelve year period, this group of Scouts had been in many waterfront competitions, usually against other Scout troops. They have a long track record of winning anything water related, they were in their element.

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