In early August, the Smith Mountain Lake community near Roanoke, Virginia, held a Cardboard Boat Regatta, challenging individuals and businesses to build and paddle a boat made entirely of cardboard.
Eighteen boats, including one from the local Sea Tow franchise, competed in four race classes. Though many boaters were simply happy to cross the 150 yards without sinking, some boaters seriously prepared for the race, putting almost nine months of work into their vessel. Others admitted to spending only about 40 hours constructing their cardboard boats.
Sea Tow’s boat, named Steadfast, was built by Chris Thomas, a Smith Mountain Lake local. Chris is not a current boat owner himself, but he has seen Sea Tow out on the water and out in his local community helping others and he approached Sea Tow at a local Business Expo back in the spring about sponsoring his catamaran design idea for a cardboard boat. Sea Tow Captains Rick and Nancy Ellett were quick to agree. Chris' daughter and son-in-law, Lauren and Trip Heos paddled the boat, placing 2nd in their division. The 2nd place finish, being beaten by only 1.22 seconds, didn't dampen their enthusiasm and they later paddled to victory in a grudge race against the 1st place winner.
Captains Rick and Nancy provided supplies and support for the boat’s construction, as well as day-of support. They also provided team shirts and the cheering section for racers Lauren and Trip.
When it comes to running their Sea Tow franchise on Smith Mountain Lake and supporting the community, Captain Nancy Ellett says, “Sometimes you have to think outside the box and sometimes you have to get in the cardboard box and row as hard as you can.”