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    Grab a tube!

    Head to the Clearwater Community Sailing Center on Saturday for a first-ever competition sure to include some laughs.

    By EILEEN SCHULTE
    © St. Petersburg Times
    published April 18, 2003


    CLEARWATER -- Dan Dennehy and his fellow swashbucklers from Ye Mystic Krewe of the Santa Margarita are out for blood.

    They intend to out-paddle everybody to win the first-ever Fun 'n Float Frenzy at the Clearwater Community Sailing Center on Saturday.

    "We are seamen at heart," Dennehy said. "And we will try to live up to the spirit of our fallen brethren, the Spanish explorers of 400 years ago."

    (Actually, most members of the original Santa Margarita crew died when the ship sank off the Dry Tortugas in 1622, but Dennehy proudly points out that 64 survived even though the hurricane that sank the ship was pretty fierce.)

    The event he and his dozen or so mates will participate in is part of the three-week Fun 'n Sun Festival, which began last week with the Sunsets Beach Fest and continues until May 4.

    Nonprofit teams, families, adults and children will hop aboard inner tubes and floats, put them in the Intracoastal Waterway and paddle with their hands and feet around a buoy. They will compete for a trophy with a rubber duckie mounted on the top.

    "It's about being fun and silly rather than a serious competition," said Brian Craig, Clearwater's recreation specialist.

    There are several divisions designed for people of all ages. There will be separate races for children ages 8-10, 11-12 and 13-15, and relays for families, adult men and women, youth and seniors 55 and up.

    Also there will be competitions among six-person teams from various groups and churches. They will use rafts made up of six inner tubes tied together with ropes.

    Participants will launch their tubes from a small beach behind the sailing center and paddle around buoys. The course is 25 yards for children, 50 yards for adults.

    "It will take approximately five to 10 minutes to complete the course," Craig said.

    Lifeguards will be on duty.

    The event is a version of one of the earliest and most popular Fun 'n Sun events, the bathtub regatta, where people took porcelain bathtubs, decorated them and raced them.

    Officials hoped to revive the bathtub regatta in honor of the event's 50th anniversary but "the logistics made it difficult," Craig said.

    "Getting hold of enough bathtubs was a problem," he said.

    So they opted for 40-inch and 34-inch inner tubes. The children will race on 6-foot-long rafts shaped like alligators. The city will provide all the floatation devices.

    In between races, people can enjoy other activities, including a rock climbing wall ($1 a climb), a moon walk (free) and entertainment by Van the Reggae Man, who will perform from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

    "It's a family event," Craig said. "A little different, maybe."

    Dennehy, the Ye Mystic Krewe's chairman of special events, fully intends to win the trophy with the rubber duckie on top. "It's going to be a lot of fun," he said.

    -- Eileen Schulte can be reached at (727) 445-4153 or schulte@sptimes.com .

    If you go

    Grab your bathing suit and head for the Fun 'n Float Frenzy inner tube races from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at the Clearwater Community Sailing Center, 1001 Gulf Blvd., Sand Key. No registration is required. All flotation devices will be provided by the city. Entertainment includes Van the Reggae Man. Admission is free. For information, call (727) 562-4800.

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