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.
As the first of two heats was held, the crew of Drumroll Please watched as the first place craft crossed the finish line in around six minutes. We now knew that the six minutes was a time we had to beat, along with any boats in the second heat. As we lined up at the starting line, the horn blasted and we were off. It was a synchronized effort of paddling combined with the latest in recycled naval engineering as Drumroll Please quickly took the lead. The hard work and fun had paid off, the last minute untested changes to our craft proved to work out well. In a few short minutes after the blast of the horn, Drumroll Please crossed the finish line to the cheers of the spectators lining the seawall. Troop and Crew 8 would again take home the most amazing first place trophy, itself built from recycled materials and spray painted gold! Along with the trophy, they received gift certificates from the race sponsors Bay Leaf Market in Crawfordville and Sopchoppy Pizza.
Three other trophies were also awarded in the spirit of the event, “Most creative use of materials”, “Titanic Award to the most spectacular failure”, and the “People's Choice”.
A special thanks goes out to the amazing staff at the FSU Coastal & Marine Lab for all their hard work and efforts! Whatever Floats Your Boat is a fun way to bring awareness to the importance of recycling. In Scouting, we have a program called Leave No Trace that encourages Scouts to be aware of their surroundings and to limit their impact on the environment, that also includes recycling.
It had been a fun day for all, both spectators and participants! If you missed this years race, come out next year, Troop 8 and Crew 8 will be back with an all new craft. Better yet, get a group of friends together, build a recycled boat and show up next year the starting line.