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City is paradise for toy boaters



1-meter Soling Class sailboats

Four, 1-meter Soling Class sailboats compete around a preset course on Hillmoor Lake.

Numerous lakes attact hobbyists

BY CHRISTINA TASCON | PHOTOS BY ED DRONDOSKI

Port St. Lucie lakes and ponds are being used to race and cruise radio-controlled scale model boats and the participants tend to be former boaters.

These captains are scaling down their boats to a size that fits in the back of their SUVs. At the early morning or late afternoon gatherings at many ponds in PSL parks, the dedicated band of happy hobbyists share their passion for boating on any scale.

Whether they are racing mini-sailboats full tilt at Woodstork Trail and Midport Lake, or just puttering around Tradition Lake, these enthusiasts take an amazing amount of pride in their vessels. They also follow strict guidelines to avoid harming wildlife or intruding on others enjoying the water.

STATE REGULATIONS

Brad Keen, assistant director of parks and recreation, said that if you factor in all the natural and man-made lakes and ponds, as well as retention ponds, in PSL there are at least 100 in the area.

“People have to remember that these are regulated by the Florida Freshwater Fish and Game Commission, so they should check with them to see what is allowed,” said Keen. “They also should use caution since any water body has the potential for dangerous reptiles.”

Commodore Bob Witt got the city to agree to allow his Hurricane Model Sailing Club to hold their model boat races at Midport Lake, but the weeds have recently overtaken the shoreline. They had to move to a pond at Woodstork Trail, which they share with Club 4 and the St. Lucie River Sailing Club. All three groups race most afternoons, 1-3 p.m., Tuesday through Friday.

Witt started sailing full-scale sailboats with his father when he was 3 years old. He is 80 and still loves racing the small models with his buddies.

“Most of the guys that race used to race boats in a previous life,” said Witt. “They are retired now and looking for something to do.”

‘BIG-BOY FUN’

The city doesn’t allow any gas-powered boats, which suits the sailors’ peaceful sensibilities. The Treasure Coast RC Scale Boaters club uses electric power, which is quiet (although some have sound systems to simulate the putt-putt of a real engine). Members gather every Sunday from 8 to 11 a.m. at Tradition Lake, set up their dock and send their boats out to maneuver between other ships, some waterfowl and an occasional small gator.

“It’s funny to watch the ducks float alongside. The gator just looks as the boats goes by,” said Commodore Bill Plevik, who constructed the dock he brings over each week.

Tradition allows them to use the lake near the Square, which is close to bathroom facilities and has easy access for backing in right to the shore.

“That is important for the older guys to just pull up and open our trunks,” said Plevik. “Usually we have about 35 boaters, it’s so relaxing and we have a great group. It’s big-boy fun with all of us haggling and insulting each other as much as possible. It feels like total freedom just dealing with wind, water and nature.”


Looking for lakes?

To view the activities and locations of all of Port St. Lucie’s lakes, visit . www.cityofpsl.com/parks-recreation