Sometimes in Key Largo, people get that sinking feeling. Not because there’s anything negative about Key Largo — the Florida Keys’ northernmost island features restaurants with great food, interesting attractions to explore, world-class dive opportunities, rollicking nightlife and a friendly, easygoing atmosphere.
No, it’s something else entirely that causes them to get that sinking feeling. It’s because they’re competing in a very strange regatta where, in the course of the afternoon, many participating vessels simply disintegrate underneath their passengers — leaving them dog-paddling like Gilligan when his “three-hour tour” went wrong.
Known as the “Anything That Floats” regatta, the event is set this year for Saturday, Aug. 17 — and it’s sure to be pure maritime mayhem.
Before taking to the water, participating teams are first required to build their boats (no, I’m not kidding). And since the wacky regatta is held in the Florida Keys, where we pride ourselves on doing things a little bit differently, the construction materials they can use aren’t exactly traditional.
In fact, team members must reuse, recycle and regenerate materials that might be found around the house. Wood, PVC, jugs, buckets, pool noodles, plastic wrap, lawn furniture (yes, really!) and cardboard are allowed — as are a roll of all-purpose duct tape to hold the quirky craft together and old T-shirts to hoist as sails.
Oars and paddles are permitted too. But don’t even THINK about using motors, foam, floats, rafts or (for some mysterious but unstated reason) pool toys.
Once construction of the bizarre boats is complete, it’s up to their intrepid crews to navigate them through a half-mile buoyed course along Blackwater Sound from Key Largo’s Caribbean Club to Sundowners and back.
During past regattas, even boats that looked about as seaworthy as cottage cheese somehow stayed afloat (possibly held together by team spirit alone). Each year, however, several teams get the aforementioned “sinking feeling,” and can only try to maintain their dignity as their crafts crumble around them.
Whether the vessels stay afloat or not, the event’s spectators seem most impressed by the ones that look the strangest. For example, a past regatta was won by a “sailboat” built from a converted kiddie pool and empty plastic gas cans, its mast topped with a tipsy-looking “macaw” holding a margarita glass.
(Its closest competitors included a crazy cruiser composed primarily of a plastic shelving unit and named, for reasons that quickly became apparent, the Train Wreck.)
And few spectators will forget a past entry called the Yardwork Sucks, a converted wheelbarrow fastened to pool noodles, which won the Slowest Boat Award a few years back. The team’s “oar,” a yard broom, may have contributed to its not-so-speedy pace.
Interested in attending the 2013 regatta on Aug. 17? The fun begins with a team check-in at 2 p.m., and the boats set sail at 3 p.m. Spectators can follow the wacky action from viewing areas at waterfront bars and restaurants — and then stick around to enjoy a Keys sunset, with live music and more fun to follow.
Regatta teams can win prizes for the most creative vessel, best-costumed crew, fastest vessel, best hard-luck story, and vessel containing the most participants that manages to remain afloat — completing the course without getting (you guessed it!) that dreaded sinking feeling.