As one of my earlier posts on Nanaimo street signs attested, the Harbour City has a wonderful sense of playfulness (maybe you remember Twiggly Wiggly Road?). But now that I’ve seen it for myself, I have to say that nowhere is the city’s dedication to fun better on display than at the Silly Boat Regatta.
Whatever Floats Your Boat?
An annual fundraiser for the Nanaimo Child Development Centre, the Silly Boat Regatta is just what the name says: a regatta, with silly boats. The dozen rules for the participants/boaters are straightforward. Rule #1: Have fun! The following 10 rules cover more practical matters, like construction materials (recycled only, no motors), boat assembly (must be done on site the morning of the event), and safety regulations (PFDs and proper beach footwear required). But perhaps most important is Rule #12: Be silly!
Interestingly, one of the rules makes a stipulation you wouldn’t think would be necessary: Boats “must be able to float (even momentarily).” As things turned out, despite the questionable seaworthiness of several craft, they all did. For only the second time in the event’s 34-year history, no boats sank—to the disappointment of many spectators, no doubt.
Dear Ford, Paddling Is Job One
However, for some boaters, “We didn’t sink” was about all they could boast about. Turns out if you take the motor out of Ford Motor Company, it doesn’t go too far and it doesn’t go too fast. Ford’s current slogan is “Go Further.” Hmm, like, further off course?
Some Like It Hot
For another boat, the SS Mocha, staying on course and in the race wasn’t the hard part. The real challenge was not going up in smoke. For McDonald’s Restaurants, last year’s champ, a hot drink that proved to be too hot was almost their undoing. The boat looked innocuous as it was carried down to the beach, a giant McCafé cup as the centrepiece, topped with whipped cream and Ronald McDonald’s head. (Is this garnish available at their restaurants?) As the race started, smoke began wafting from the top of the cup. What a marvelous special effect! And then . . . the flames appeared. And grew. And Ronald McDonald’s head fell off. And the smoke thickened. And the Port Authority boat moved in.
Fortunately, at that point, one of McD’s busy paddlers noticed what was going on above and shoved the McCafé into the drink, so to speak. While the whole incident failed to score points on the silly metre, it certainly provided some incendiary drama.
“We All Live in a Yellow Submarine”
The prize for Super Silliest boat this year went to a delightfully decorated craft that cruised to victory in its heat travelling above the waves, not under them, despite its design. Though the charming homage to England’s greatest band failed to snag the top prize in the finals, the vessel and its mop-topped paddlers had spectators cheering till the end.
The Silly Boat Regatta attracts over 8,000 spectators and participants each year, and in 2017 raised more than $112,000 for the Nanaimo Child Development Centre. (The 2018 tally isn’t available yet, but is expected to top $100,000.) It’s a winning formula—good-spirited fun and a worthy cause.
Kudos to all the event organizers and racers for their fabulous fundraising! And thanks for a silly great time!
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