John Gage, the wacky leader of this enterprise, isn't a stickler for form or rules. After living there 20 years, Gage left Hawaii because, as he says, "there were too many experts." When he dipped his paddle into the Atlantic six years ago, the canoe he used was a little different from its Pacific counterpart. For one thing, the longboats Gage now uses are made of carbon epoxy, lighter than the fiberglass or wood from which most others are made. Gage's boats are also one inch longer than the standard 44-foot boat. Why? "So they're longer," he states with a smirk. (Though a watercraft is traditionally referred to as "she," a canoe is more often personified as a male -- something to do with the shape, perhaps.)
The crews race other Florida clubs regularly but paddle mostly for fun. On Saturday mornings about 30 people participate, and on Wednesday evenings about half to two-thirds that number show up. Two canoes venture out in 20-minute shifts, allowing everyone to take a turn. At the moment the Wednesday-evening excursion coincides with high tide, and sometimes just getting the boat out seems like an intrepid or a foolhardy decision, depending upon where you draw your line in the sand.