GOODLAND — The Second Annual Goodland Canoe & Kayak Regatta on Saturday afternoon was as down home as the fishing outpost that hosted it, with locals enjoying live music, liquid refreshment, roast pig, and, oh yeah, a boat race.
Goodland, the fishing village on the tip of Marco Island, where civilization ends and wildlife begins, tends to do things their own way, and Saturday’s Canoe & Kayak Regatta was no exception. Unlike the Great Dock Canoe Race in Naples, which has become a mega-event, with sponsors, rules, and wall-to-wall people, the paddling party at Marker 8 was more of a seat of the pants affair.
The paddling race started with some contestants still looking for the starting line, or working on getting their boats ready, with dark clouds moving ominously by and the distant flicker of lightning. But Raiford Starke kept the tunes coming, the rains mostly held off, and the pork at Marker 8 was tender and flavorful. The event provided a great excuse for a party, as Goodland slid into sleepy summer mode.
Bartender Mike Sackett was in charge of registration for the canoe and kayak race, over a course he said was “about two miles,” and at the last moment he also became a contestant, jumping into a tandem kayak with Zach Burgess, age 11.
“We didn’t get quite as many of the Naples people this year,” said Marker 8 owner Jimmy Ketchum. “I think we have about a dozen boats.” Kim Kelsey, who won the event last year, and notched the second fastest time overall at the Dock race this year, repeated as winner, paddling his sleek racing craft. Kayak instructor Darlene Meadows was first among the females, and Tyler Gresham won the youth category.
While there were no specific divisions for older paddlers, second place overall went to Ray Prosser, 72, who glided over the finish line shortly ahead of Frank Albert, 79, in third place. Dick Pagnetter, 69, dean emeritus of the FGCU school of business, competed in a tandem canoe with Deborah Gedion.
Entertainer Raiford Starke ( a nom de music taken from two of Florida’s state prisons) stood in the drizzle, with his guitar “gently weeping,” but didn’t seem to mind, and in truth, the guitar looked like nothing could hurt it at this point. He played a wildly eclectic mix of tunes, from Johnny Cash to Jimi Hendrix, with originals like “Dog Paw Tea” and “Girl from Immokalee” sprinkled in for good measure.
Only one angler registered for the fishing tournament that was part of the event, and he didn’t catch anything except some rays.
“Yeah, I only got one guy out there. He’s guaranteed to win first, second and third,” said Rich Jones, running the fishing end of the event. “He wins his $10 back.”
“That’s like four beers,” said Paul Nocifora, the winning fisherman, seeming well-satisfied with his prize. It was that kind of day.
“It’s just a little down home party,” said David Minton, “with a bit of racin’ goin’ on.”