As the golden glow of the setting sun cast rays over Boca Ciega Bay, a group of more than 20 Eckerd College students paddled out of Frenchman’s Creek for the Glow-n-Row—a Waterfront-sponsored event inviting students to explore the waterways as the sun set.
Armed with headlamps and glow sticks, participants journeyed out on paddleboards, kayaks and sailboats for a truly magical experience.
The Waterfront Program, directed by Eckerd alumna Renee Register ’83, runs events like this throughout the semester, encouraging students to make use of the Wallace Boathouse and Waterfront facilities and equipment. With a completed swim test, students can check out a variety of watercraft—including canoes, paddleboards, kayaks and sailboats—and with a student ID can rent fishing and camping gear for free or sign up for waterskiing, wakeboarding, fishing or events like the Glow-n-Row.
The Waterfront also offers free sailing certification classes for students.
Sam Palmer, a senior marine science student from Navarre, Florida, has been working at the Waterfront driving boats and teaching students for over a year. Although he grew up in the Florida Panhandle and was familiar with sailing, he’d never gotten certified. After arriving at Eckerd, he took the three-day sailing workshop and was cleared to drive two types of sailboats, the smaller 14′ RS Quest sailboats and the larger Colgate 26.
One thing Sam appreciates about his certification is the social aspect. “I love it,” he says. “I’ll take my friends and sail over to Skyway [the bridge] and back.”
Eckerd College Search and Rescue Team members accompanied students out on the bay for the Glow-n-Row, keeping a watchful eye out for any dangers that might threaten students in the water. These highly trained student volunteers assist forces like the U.S. Coast Guard and 911 Emergency Medical Response to keep citizens safe in Tampa Bay and neighboring waterways.
As the sun finally began to dip below the horizon, students clicked on their headlamps and cracked their glow sticks, guided safely back into Frenchman’s Creek by the lights of the EC-SAR boat Rescue 7. But no Waterfront excursion is complete without a dolphin sighting. As the last sunrays sank out of sight, a pod of young dolphins ventured close to the students, curious about the strange creatures paddling in their creek. Distant lightning high above illuminated clouds and cast flickering lights on the slick backs of the cruising dolphins, mixing with the fading glow of the setting sun to create an incredible view for those students taking part in the Glow-n-Row.