Members of the Anna Maria Elementary School Bottle Boat Regatta
crew row frantically, even though a third of their boat separated
and is floating away. The students took third place. Their
project was sponsored by the AMI Sun.
Last Saturday was a good day to fly a kite or sail a boat, but it was a bad day to launch a bottle boat.
Winds whipped the waves at the Palma Sola Causeway where the DeSoto Heritage Festival’s Bottle Boat Regatta was held. The force of both tore several boats apart and even caused boats from West Manatee Fire Rescue, Manatee County and the U.S. Coast Guard to toss and pitch in the water, where they kept an eye on the festivities.
But the first bottle boat team Anna Maria Elementary School ever fielded won its first race and ultimately $200 for the school and the boat, the SOS Dolphin, performed beautifully.
That first race was against Daughtrey Prep School and the Dolphin pulled from behind to cross the finish line ahead of the surprised crew of the other boat.
In the second race of the day, the Buffalo Creek boat fell apart causing groups of empty plastic bottles to float around in the water. Rowlett Magnet School won that heat and would race the Dolphin team later.
The team from St. Stephen’s and Buffalo Creek Middle School raced the Dolphin team in a race where the three boats had trouble staying away from each other because of the giant waves that pounded them from the port side. It was a struggle just to get the boats lined up for the start of the race.
The Dolphin was ahead toward the end of the race, but the St. Stephen’s team came from behind.
"It was one of the closest races I’ve ever seen," said race coordinator Alan Levy.
"I thought they won it," said Joey Cucci, who would race later with the fifth-graders.
In its next race, the boat that the AME students designed and put together started to show the wear and tear of the powerful waves. Some of the PVC pipe that served as a frame for the three Styrofoam and bottle filled hulls came apart at the joints. Art teacher Gary Wooten and parent volunteers worked on the beached boat trying to re-glue the plastic and tie things together with plastic straps. When they were done, they walked the boat back to the starting line for one final race, this one with the fifth-graders on board.
There were four boats in this heat and the Dolphin got off to a good start, but soon one of the three hulls came apart from the other two when more plastic pipe joints separated. The older kids, who had waited all day, were not able to finish their race. Some were disappointed and others were relieved after getting bounced around by the waves.
It was a good try and a good time for the Anna Maria Island Sun-sponsored boat’s team. There’s always next year and Wooten will remember what went wrong this year and apply that knowledge to the next vessel.