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Stafford cardboard-boat regatta full of splish-splash fun
Some float better than others in Cardboard Boat Regatta at Aquia Landing

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Date published: 8/21/2005


With the heat index rising to a scorching 105 degrees, an iceberg might have been a welcome sight for competitors at this year's Cardboard Boat Regatta in Stafford County.

Instead, crew members of 21 different homemade vessels tried to avoid running into each other in the waters off Aquia Landing Beach Park, all in an effort to prove that cardboard--if coated in enough paint, tape and glue--will actually float.

Some boats were more successful than others.

Curtis Mussen and Audrina Surman, both 8, paddled their way through weed-choked waters to bring their Star Wars-inspired Gale-X-Sea (as in one far, far away) around a buoy and back to shore ahead of a gaggle of worthy competitors.

"The other boats were all clumped together, so we just had to go around," said Audrina, who figured a canoe trip when she was 4 gave her the edge she needed.

It didn't hurt that Curtis' dad, who has a degree in naval architecture, helped the kids design the craft.

"This is what 30 years of designing submarines will do for you," Cliff Mussen said after the race.

The event, the second regatta sponsored by the Rock Hill Ruritan Club, featured boats made of everything from moving boxes to mailing tubes. Builders employed packing tape, Liquid Nails-brand glue and even Thompson's Water Seal to prevent the boats from leaking.

Designers painted them to look like alligators, rocket ships and dragons. Judges handed out awards for categories including best-designed and least likely to float before allowing the boats to race.

Some didn't survive the experience.

The X-Wing Fighter boat, built by John and Mark Schumaker, won an award for being the most creative vessel at the beach. But once in the water, the X-wings drooped, dragging the boat under.

Of note: Mark's degree from George Mason University is in art, not engineering.

Laura Lowe and David Fisher, who each had a grandson competing in the event, piloted a boat shaped like an alligator to a first-place finish in the over-50 category.

"It wasn't that bad," Lowe said. "We had a rhythm."

Fisher found the event a tad more exhausting.

"Oxygen," he pleaded. "Beer."

The Gillies family--parents Mike and Cindy along with daughters Lauren, 16, and Kate, 14--won in four categories.

Their tiny blue boat, featuring a Coldwell Banker Elite banner on the side and a For Sale sign at the helm, never sprang a leak.

Cindy Gillies attributed the boat's pluck to "lots of glue" and her husband's attention to detail.

"When he does something, if it's supposed to be two coats, he does at least four," she said. "It's called 'perfectionist.' It drives me crazy."

What was left of some of the boats ended up in an Aquia Landing trash container, but about a dozen of them were still intact at the end of the afternoon.

"The question now," said Cindy Gillies, "is what do you do with it?"

For more information on the Rock Hill Ruritan Club, visit rockhillruritans.org on the Web.

To reach EDIE GROSS:540/374-5428 egross@freelancestar.com

Pride of the Regatta--River Rocket, built by Brice Queen and son Dylan, 10.

Best design/crew costumes-- Puff the Magic Dragon, crewed by sisters Emily Moyer, 12, and Kendall Moyer, 10.

Best team effort/spirit--Little Guppie, piloted by Dave and Kim Blair; Jessica Blair, 11; Jennifer Blair, 9; and Asia Meadows, 11.

Creativity--X-Wing Fighter, built by father-and-son team John and Mark Schumaker.

Most Likely to Float--Dry Ice, captained by Addison Lutes, 8, and Kaiden Lewis, 91/2.

Titanic/Most likely to sink (it didn't, by the way)--S.S. Glue, sailed by sisters Gina Bill, 11, and Robyn Bill, 9.

Race Results

Heat 1, boats with crews ages 7 to 14--Dry Ice (2 minutes, 30 seconds), Addison Lutes, 8, and Kaiden Lewis, 91/2.

Heat 2, boats with crews ages 7 to 14--Gale-X-Sea (1 minute, 45 seconds), Curtis Mussen, 8, and Audrina Surman, 8.

Heat 3, parent-and-child team--Coldwell Banker Elite, Mike Gillies and daughter Lauren, 16.

Heat 4, groups and clubs, Countrywide Home Loans, Meghan Burrows, Mikala Michalski and Jessica Deutsch, all 15.

Heat 5, ages 15 to 50, Coldwell Banker Elite, Mike and Cindy Gillies.

Heat 6, over age 50, Alligator, David Fisher and Laura Lowe.

Heat 7, luxury liner category (longer than 16 feet), Coast Guard, Chuck Nowak and children Miles, 10, Zachary, 7, and Brooke, 5.

Heat 8, commercial entries, Coldwell Banker Elite, Mike Gillies and daughter Kate, 14.

Heat 9, grand finale (anything still floating), Coldwell Banker Elite, Mike Gillies and daughter Lauren.