East Bay Newspapers
East Bay, RI
Friday, June 24, 2005
River Run is a fun filled, laid back day
"Remember, stay right side up, Herb!" shouted Lucy Chase to a paddler about to set out on the Westport River Watershed Alliance's second annual river run.
That's about as much stress as anyone encountered during the canoe/kayak race and fun paddle on the Westport River on Saturday, June 11.
A laid-back atmosphere surrounded this festive floating family event. The friendly competitive race was combined with enjoying the scenery on the river's East Branch.
Both the challenge race and the 3.5 mile family/fun paddle started at the Hix Bridge landing. Herb Wells of Westport was in one of the seven kayaks, which, with two canoes, entered the 8.5-mile challenge race that headed south at 10 a.m., rounded Gunning Island and turned back north toward the Head of Westport.
The beginning of the family/fun paddle was a sight to behold. Sam Ladd of Osprey Sea Kayak Adventures did a masterful job of lining up an amazing assortment of single and double kayaks and canoes on the north side of Hix Bridge.
A couple of the kayaks looked more like seagoing lounge chairs and their owners definitely grasped the fun part of the ride. Watching the boats jockey for position and make allowances for wind and tide as they attempted to make some semblance of an orderly line caused one spectator to comment, "It looks like she's trying to herd cats."
At 11 a.m., Mr. Ladd shouted, "Get set ... go!"
Paddles slapped into the water and the assortment of grandparents, teenagers, fledging kayakers, and a few dedicated slackers headed off into the wild blue and sunny yonder. The tree-shaded grassy knoll at the north end of Drift Road was a perfect spot for the race committee and spectators to cheer all 39 entries as they crossed the finish line at the Head of Westport just south of Old County Road.
Photo: The Toth family cruises across the finish line
All the participants completed the course in good spirits and were treated to cheers, a scrumptious lunch, hot chowder, and cold drinks.
Gay Gillespie, WRWA's executive director, was especially happy to see so many young people involved. "They're the ones who will inherit the river," she said. "One of our goals here is to encourage them to appreciate the river as their heritage."
Since participants came not only from Westport but from several adjoining towns, they may have help from afar.
Organizers Anne Fitzgerald and Larry Hookey said they were buoyed by the turnout and the chance to highlight one of Westport's prime attractions.
BY PAUL TAMBURELLO
Copyright © 2003, The East Bay Newspapers