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Date of Issue: April 16, 2008

Palma Sola hosts bottle boat regatta

Children aboard the Lucky Duck entry in the DeSoto Bottle Boat Regatta ready for the start of their race. Islander Photos: Lisa Neff

Everyone have fun.

Everyone be safe.

No one drink the water.

Such were the rules for the annual DeSoto Bottle Boat Regatta held April 12 on the south side of the Palma Sola Causeway.

The races, a tradition of the springtime DeSoto Festival celebrations in Manatee County, drew hundreds of spectators and dozens of sailors to the causeway.

The weather seemed perfect - breezy, sunny and not too warm.

But there was a slight problem with water quality. Two days before the race, the Manatee County Health Department issued an advisory for the south side of Palma Sola Bay.

An analysis of a water sample from the area found a higher than usual level of bacteria. The level of bacteria can rise or fall depending on rainfall, stormwater runoff and animal or human sewage. The bacteria, according to the release, can cause disease, infection or rash, entering the skin through a cut or sore or ingested while swimming.

After learning of the advisory, race officials considered canceling the event. However, they consulted with the county health department first, which said there was no reason to cancel the regatta, just don’t drink the water, said event chair Patrick Hussey.

So the regatta began on schedule at 10 a.m. to the delight of bottle-boat race fans young and old, from the mainland and from the Island.

“This is the one DeSoto event I make sure I go to every year,” said Susan Olesen of Holmes Beach. “I just love it. It’s pure joy.”

Racers, most of them representing mainland schools or businesses, gathered in the shallow bay water in color-coordinated T-shirts alongside their handcrafted boats, all floating on various sorts of bottles and jugs.

Relatives, friends and colleagues cheered from the shore as each race got under way and the sailors paddled toward a finish line about 50 yards in the distance. The goal was to finish first, but race organizers emphasized that all entrants would leave with a prize - a race medallion.

“It’s like really, really, really fun,” said Patrick Killian, 6, of Bradenton, as he danced in the water around the Buffalo Creek Middle School’s “Tiki Hawk” boat.

“I remember growing up we used to do a cardboard boat regatta,” said Paul Hudson of Longboat Key. “This makes a lot more sense. I never finished a race.”

No one interviewed seemed concerned with the health advisory.

“If there was a problem, we wouldn’t be having the race,” said Amey Creamer, whose daughter competed in the regatta. “Probably there’s always something in the water. I don’t make a habit of drinking it.”

In other samplings, the water quality was rated good on the north side of Palma Sola Bay, Bradenton Beach’s waterfront, the Manatee Public Beach area in Holmes Beach and Whitney Beach on Longboat Key. Results varied from moderate to good for the south end and middle of Bayfront Park in Anna Maria.

County health officials plan to test the Palma Sola water again this week, with results available on Wednesday, April 16, after The Islander published.

Five coastal counties in the state began monitoring enterococci bacteria in the water under a grant program in 1998. In 2000, the program was expanded to 34 counties and to include testing for fecal coliform.

For additional information about testing and results, go to Florida Department of Health's at and click on beach water quality under the A-Z topics item.

Additional information can also be found at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s healthy swimming Web page,


Regatta Results

The DeSoto Bottle Boat Regatta took place April 12 on the Palma Sola Causeway. The results include:

A Class (elementary school ages): 1st Place, Daughtrey Prep School Daughtrey Dolphins; 2nd Place, Weiffenbach & Kaklis USS Tim Teboat; 3rd Place, Dillon’s Birthday Team Tiki Hawk.

B Class (middle school ages): 1st Place, SMART Sailors; 2nd, Buffalo Creek  Middle School Tiki Hawk; 3rd, The Lucky Duck; 4th, St. Stephen’s Episcopal School I Don’t Care

C Class (high school ages): 1st, Hi School “Low Expectations; 2nd, Black Medallion Blue Blooders;

E Class (women): USA Fence; Watt Electrical Corp. Black Boat.

F Class (festival cup): USA Fence; St. Stephen’s Episcopal School.