Rockville prepares for annual regatta blowout

Michael Sosnowski (left) drives a post to hold caution tape to keep cars full of Rockville Regatta party goers from running over the family well pump. Patrick Thompson holds it steady.

ROCKVILLE -- The post driver is an old pecan log with a stout steel pole for a handle. A single, soft thump tells all you need to know about how this staid boating community handles the annual party-til-you-drop invasion of its regatta today.

Michael Sosnowski's grandfather made the mallet; it's a piece of family history. On Friday, Sosnowski and friend Patrick Thompson were out in the yard along Bohicket Creek, pounding home posts in the quiet live oak shade. They'll run police tape down the dirt drive the length of the yard, to keep an expected swarm of friends' cars from pulling too far onto the grass and running over the family well pump.

"They do it every year. We try as hard we can to make sure we have water for the weekend," Sosnowki said. They used to run fencing, but gave it up. "They break down whatever we put up anyway."

The Rockville Regatta is a 120-year-old Wadmalaw Island family tradition. It's become an icon, the final race of a party-hearty Lowcountry regatta season, the home waters of the one-of-kind Sea Island One design boats that will take part.

Its reputation has all but overwhelmed it. Starting on Friday afternoon, the cruisers show up and take the prime spots in the shallows behind the orange float spectator buoys strung for two miles down the creek. By 9 a.m. today, Grayson Carter IV's mom will be calling him from her West Ashley home to tell him there's a line of crafts coming out Elliott's Cut that looks like Interstate-95, and it's headed for him.

Carter is commodore of the Sea Island Yacht Club; from its creekfront veranda the regatta will be run. From that veranda, he'll see spectator boats tied together or jostling on top of each other, sometimes four and five deep, herded by wildlife officers and Charleston sheriff's deputies in patrol boats.

The boaters will be drinking, a lot. They'll be leaping into the water from boat to boat. There will be loud music.

"When the tide drops and boats aren't properly anchored all hell breaks loose," Carter said. "You never heard such fussin' and cussin' in your life."

While boaters swelter and scream in the buoyed-off, no-man's water along the regatta, families in the community will be strolling patio to patio and partying in the shade. Friday morning, they were already getting ready. Bill Fowler and his folks were trying to figure out shrimp -- how much they'll need to serve shrimp salad all weekend.

"Rope sausage, corn on the cob, cole slaw, Rockville traditions, lots of beer and wine," he said.

"It's just a hoo-rah weekend. It's like another Fourth of July," resident Jackie Clarksaid. Her preparations involve baking a lot of peach cobbler. "I love it. I invite everybody to park in my yard. I put up flags all over the place. We hop house to house for the porch parties."

But no, she won't go out on the water. That's for the young people, she said. Most others in the community draw the same line -- feast under the cool leaves and leave the broiling waters to the younger, stranger partiers.

When Sosnowski -- shirtless, wearing swim trunks and shades -- hears that, he grins. Sure, he'll be out there. With a horde of friends.

"That fits all of us," he said.