For a few scary minutes Saturday morning, it looked like Spongebob Squarepants might sink back to his pineapple under the sea.
Spongebob was the flimsy blue cardboard boat Muskogee High School students Zachariah Vercruyssen and Ricky Arno tried to pilot past the turn buoy at the Cardboard Boat Regatta at Three Forks Harbor. Theirs was among at least 43 cardboard kayaks, canoes, outriggers and whatnots competing in the third annual event, sponsored by the Muskogee Exchange Club, Muskogee Parks and Recreation Department, Muskogee City-County Port Authority and the Greater Muskogee Area Chamber of Commerce.
“We have way more than we did last year, twice as many,” Exchange Club member Shirley Hilton said, observing that traffic was backed up to Oklahoma 10 with people trying to get in. “So this is way more successful. In the third year, we’re getting things going, and the weather is great.”
Zachariah said he and Ricky named their vessel after the cheerful waterlogged cartoon sponge because “we were inspired by the love he shows children.”
The MHS duo showed determination as they struggled to move their vessel past a Pink Cadillac piloted by “Elvis.” Almost immediately after casting off, Spongebob collapsed.
But it did not sink. Zachariah and Ricky belly-flopped on their flattened ship and paddled it past the Cadillac. Elvis and his assistant had trouble moving as Spongebob struggled past.
“Elvis hit me four times on the head with his paddle,” Zachariah said. “Our secret was we never backed down, never gave up.”
Elvis’s Pink Cadillac was a brainstorm of the Rowan family of Porum, who helped with the Midway 4-H Club’s red dragon in the 2009 Regatta.
“It’s just a family project, and we just enjoy it,” said Dana Rowan. “It took us more than 50 hours to make.”
Rowan’s 12-year-old son, Jeremiah Burch, 12, was Elvis, the older version, complete with his aviator glasses and gold-trimmed white jumpsuit.
“We enjoyed torturing ourselves with the project after work,” Rowan said, bursting into laughter.
The regatta featured all sorts of competitions. The Oklahoma State University’s black Bullet swept past the crimson University of Oklahoma’s “Poke This” boat in the Bedlam competition. Armstrong Bank’s boat defeated First National Bank’s tribute to “Gilligan’s Island,” the SS Minnow, in the banker’s challenge. The Minnow, however, won the People’s Choice Award at the River Rumba the night before.
The Hilldale High School women’s golf team’s boat came with a cardboard hornet and a cheer — “We paddle so fast, you gotta call the cops.” But it wasn’t enough to beat Muskogee High School in the school challenge.
Muskogee County 4-H Club defeated the Ben Franklin Science Academy and Fort Gibson 4-H in that heat.
BFSA seventh-grader Cynthia Langley said before the race that she expected this year’s boat to do better than what they had last year.
“Last year’s cardboard was really thin on the bottom,” she said. “This year, we’re putting it in really thick.”
• People’s Choice: SS FNB Minnow.
• Pride of the Regatta: Proud To Be Vikings From Muskogee.
• Best Decorated: Elvis Caddy.
• Best Team Effort: The Big Cahuna
• Titanic: Armstrong Bank
• Admiral Award: Advance WorkZone
• Shortest Boat: Master Batman
• Longest Boat: Proud To Be Vikings From Muskogee
Adult, 1-2 people: 1. Victorious Secret, 2. OSU Bullet, 3. Race Tracker II.
Adult 3+ people: 1. Victorious Secret II, 2. SS Interpak; 3. Proud To Be Vikings From Muskogee.
All Female: 1. SS Interpak. 2. Knotty Girl; 3. Blue Eye I.
Youth: 1 and 2. Elvis Caddy, 3. "SOS" (Summer of Service) 100.
Teen: 1. The Green Machine, 2. Hornet Express, 3. Spongebob.
Special Challenge Races: Armstrong Bank, MHS Green Machine, BFSA 4-H, Creek Casino, USS Marines.
Reach Cathy Spaulding at 684-2928 or firstname.lastname@example.org.