Danelle entered the 20 mile Race For The Rivers this year in her kayak. This is her third race and she has used her third boat. She was excited to race and do her best to place high in the field. First, she needed to put on her sun screen.
With sun screen on, she was ready to paddle. She started in the first wave of paddlers heading down the river for the finish line. The kids and I stayed for the second launch to get photos and spend time before heading to the finish.
While the racers were paddling like mad for the finish like, I took the kids to the Bass Pro Shop in St. Charles to look at motor boats. The kids had a great time dreaming of boats with me. After a bit, we got some food and went to the riverfront to see the boats coming in. The kids ate lunch and went off to play in the random booths.
I managed to capture two people who couldn’t avoid the water when getting out of their boat.
We stayed for the awards ceremony having a great time chatting with friends. Eventually, Corvin and I took a ride on Mike Clark’s Junebug. The boat was amazingly stable and easy to paddle, but I got a bit muddy getting out!
I signed up to participate in the 2012 Race For The Rivers.I joined a group participating in the Voyager Class. Our boat built by Joe Ringling and Larry Hassle would be some 30 feet long and 4 feet wide, holding 14 adventurous souls! The group, Colter’s Crew, had two training runs leading up to the race. I was fortunate to participate in both training runs. Until the day of the race, there had never been a full crew of 14 paddlers in the boat. I got to the race about 15 minutes later than I wanted to and missed getting the boat in the water. I have to say that it was the best looking boat hands down!
When the race was about to start, we pushed away from the dock and warned everybody around us that we didn’t have much steering and would run them over. It wasn’t mean spirited, but just a fact. When the boat is not being actively propelled, it is a bit tippy! At the start of the race, we took an immediate lead. i wasn’t sure if it would last as it seemed too good to be true. Unfortunately, it was too good to be true. We had a tandem kayak pass us a few minutes in and slowly pull away from us the whole race.
Eventually we found ourselves in fourth place having two other boats pass us, but not by a significant distance. Our plan was to be persistent and wait them out. One of the greatest things about a canoe so big is that one person can take a quick break for food/water/rest and the boat doesn’t significantly slow down. So our goal was to wait out the other competitors to take breaks and tire out where we could pass them.
Somewhere in the first twenty miles, there was a large cabin cruiser that passed us from behind and caught us by surprise. We decided that the waves would not be that bad and took them broadside. That was nearly a huge mistake! Most of the crew didn’t realize it, but sitting in the middle of the boat, I took water over the side and right into my lap. I seriously thought the boat was going to tip. Luckily for me, most people on the boat didn’t realize what was going on, or just stayed calm and we kept going as if nothing happened.
Our drama for the race was not over. We further encountered a barge coming up the river. Our understanding was that there was not to be any barge traffic during the race. Unfortunately for us, that was not the case. Because it was a race, we decided not to pull over, figuring that we could make it. We met the barge at one of the more narrow sections of the river. Because our boat is so large, we had to start turning into the barge’s wake before it was fully past us. Plus the barge’s wake was already at us before the whole barge past. Behind the barge were HUGE waves! The first few came and went and things seemed good. Then we crested and crashed into the trough while the next wave didn’t wait for the boat to come back up. We took what we are estimating to be about 100 gallons of water into the boat
With that much water in the boat, there was little control. Larry and I spent our effort leaning side to side to counteract the water in the bottom of the boat while trying to paddle to keep the boat going forward and stable. Larry did his best to get the bilge pump out from under our bench seat, but somebody behind us had better luck freeing the pump and activating it. Larry grabbed the bucket and started trying to bail water. I started yelling out a cadence for the group to paddle in sync to. It was the only thing I felt I could do to contribute and take my mind off the events taking place.
Eventually enough water was manually bailed out and the bilge pump finished off the rest. Looking back, I believe it was probably only two minutes of terror, but it seemed more. With the water out of the boat and back in the river where it belonged, we still had about 20 minutes of rough water before the river calmed down.
The rest of the race was calm until re reached the last bridge, I-70. At this point, we were back in second place overall, but in no position to take first. i glanced over my right shoulder and thought I saw the third place boat. A quick check with others in the boat confirmed that they were trying to sneak up and take second place from us. That ignited a final half mile sprint to the finish. The whole boat was counting ONE – TWO – THREE – FOUR over and over again in cadence all the way to the finish line. The massive display of teamwork was amazing and it kept our second place overall position.
I want to say thanks to the team for letting me be a participant in this amazing adventure!!!
Race for the rivers is an annual canoe race/event benefiting the Greenway Network. They host two canoe/kayak races and a bike race during the event. At the end of the race, there is a festival. It focuses on environmental sustainability and other earthy things. This year, I was slated to participate in the 20 mile race in a dragon boat with 10 other people. I was really looking forward to this boat. I did a practice run and the boat was extremely fast.
Unfortunately for myself and the rest of the racers, the canoe race was cancelled due to the river being above flood stage. They still had the biking events and the festival. While I was sad that we weren’t racing, the family still went out to the festival and enjoyed what they had prepared.
The kids played with the pirates that had a spot at the event. Corvin tried his hand at sword fighting! This is a great event that we plan on being part of for many years to come.