It starts simply enough. Some cardboard, an idea, a group of like-minded individuals working toward a similar goal.
The results are often spectacular, sometimes common, always packed with fun-filled potential.
The Cape Coral Rotary Club's wildly popular Cardboard Boat Regatta, sponsored by Oiln Hill and Associates, returns for the 15th year of high seas hijinks April 24-25.
Sonya Znati, front, and Tim Hayes smile aboard the Fortune Cookie as they won the double 13-17 race during the Cardboard Boat Regatta last year.
First-time event chair Bob Gaglio said there will be some changes to this year's regatta, all while keeping the traditions people have come to love firmly intact with this free family event.
The regatta celebration has been expanded to two days, with an opening ceremony on Friday featuring live music by the Yard Dogs, a ribbon cutting, boat displays and the chance to interact with the boat building teams.
Another change is the regatta's location. Last year it was at Seahawk Park, but Gaglio and the regatta committee decided to bring into the downtown corridor by staging it in Four Freedoms Park.
"We needed an event where we can drive people downtown to help businesses," Gaglio said. "At Four Freedoms you have the opportunity to take the trolly (the new downtown CRA trolly) to the park, see the race and then go to lunch."
Gaglio said the event's expansion was really aimed at pushing the regatta into the stratosphere of other Lee County events like the sandcastle competition on Fort Myers Beach.
"We're really trying to bring this to a level of the sandcastle event on Fort Myers Beach. The builders work so hard, so instead of them having a frantic Saturday morning, this gives them the chance to set up on Friday and kick back," Gaglio said. "It really helps to showcase all the people who made it possible."
For many, if not all, of the boat building clubs, the thrill of entering a boat into competition is not only racing the vessel, but the time and effort it takes to construct the boat.
One of the oldest boat building clubs, the Merry Mariners, has been toiling on its entry since early February.
The Mariners often have the most oppulant boat entries for the regatta, with past years seeing Vietnam era helicopters and seaplanes entered into competition.
For this year's entry, the Mariners have gone Hollywood. To be more specific, the builders have gone undercover, invoking a certain super-secret spy as their inspiration.
James Bond's Lotus submarine from "The Spy Who Loved Me" will be the Mariners entry this year, and boat building chairman Al Phelps and his fellow Mariners can't wait to unveil their design to the world.
It was one of 10 designs debated over by the Mariners before finally settling on the Bond vehicle.
Phelps said the challenge for the design phase is finding something that can involve everyone in the club, not just those who decide to build the boat.
"Part of the thinking is to involve the entire club," Phelps said. "We have to find something the entire club is going to by into. It's the challenge of involving everybody."
The Mariners often go for the Team Spirit Award and this year's entry will be no different. The submarine theme will allow Mariners to dress as some of the most famous characters from the James Bond film cannon.
Phelps said "10 - 15 people" will be dressed as characters including Blofeld, Jaws, Pussy Galore, Goldfinger and the man himself, 007.
"Participation is what its all about ... if you do something you have ownership," Phelps said.
Of course, building the boat creates the greatest opportunity to participate, especially if you can't stick around to see the actual regatta.
Mariner Steve Warner said this year will mark the third year he hasn't been around to see the actual race. A citizen of Great Britain, Warner's visa is set to expire just days before the actual race.
"This is the third year I haven't seen the race, my passport time has run out," Warner said. "Unfortunately we have to leave two days before the race."
Unable to see the race, Warner's pride in his role as construction manager is intensified.
Having seen the Bond submarine, along with a number of the Mariner's other entries, to completion, Warner is proud of the group's efforts.
"They are a work of art," he said of the boats he's had a hand in constructing. "And it's pure enjoyment. We like being together as a group. Its camaraderie."
The camaraderie, the sense of community, the free entertainment have all become trademarks of the regatta, and has made it a Cape tradition for nearly two decades.
Gaglio feels the regatta really speaks to everything about the Cape as a water community, giving its residents the opportunity to be creative, involved and enjoy the waterfront paradise all have come to love.
For Phelps, Warner and the rest of the Merry Mariners, the idea of working together to create something original, something the entire group can be proud of is the key.
Regardless of the outcome, if the boat wins, sinks or explodes, the Mariners will be sure to have a good time during, and after the regatta.
"Whether we win, lose or draw, we celebrate," Phelps said.
A few of the new highlights this year includes:
- A program guide with coloring section, and stories about boat builders.
- Party Boat, sponsored by Banana Bay Tour Company, which takes people out onto the water to watch the Regatta.
- Two days of events featuring live music and opening ceremonies
- The regatta has been moved to Four Freedoms Park from Seahawk Park last year.