At the 10:30 starting time on a picture-perfect Saturday morning, the kayaks, canoes, and, oh yes, one tiny row boat, were a swirling mass of fiberglass and wood on the south side of Hix Bridge. Viewed from the bridge fifteen minutes later, the 74 vessels in the Family/Fun division appeared to be dots of colorful confetti paddling toward the Head of Westport 3.5 miles away. The Fifth Annual Canoe/Kayak Race and Family Paddle, sponsored by The Westport River Watershed Alliance and Osprey Sea Kayaks, was in full swing.
The Challenge Class had begun their 8.5 boomerang route a half hour before, looping south to Gunning Island then reversing course to pass under Hix Bridge and blast toward the Head. Many of the 16 Challenge Class would finish way before the more laid back family paddlers.
The name of the game for the racers was speed. Most sported kayaks and canoes built for competition. Many were equipped with GPS systems to monitor time, speed, and distance.
“I want to fool around and get some exercise. If I happen to pass one or two people, that’s fine,” David Crocker said as he checked over his Seda Glide Kayak prior to the race. A look at his brawny physique and the gleam in his eye belied that statement. He blew out of the start at the head of the pack and stayed there till the finish, winning himself a $50 gift certificate from White’s of Westport for his efforts.
Even the family paddlers wanted to pass at least one boat. Rosemary Crocker of Providence tapped into a nearly universal sentiment when she said, “I want to finish it and not be last in my class.” She wasn’t.
For Josie Woollam of Westport, the East Branch had a way of neutralizing the competitive instinct. “The trouble with this race is it’s too distracting,” she said. “There’s so much beauty behind each bend in the river. Every time I see a stone wall, swans, or meadows, I want to paddle nearer and get a good look.”
Woollam and her two pals, Polly Gardner of Adamsville and Carol Long of Westport, paddled lightweight fiberglass canoes. Apparently, Gardner and Long were less distracted than Woollam. They placed one and two in the single canoe division.
The venerable, somewhat battered, 1978 Sea Pal canoe entered by the brother/sister team of Dana Gillum of South Dartmouth and Jan St. Germain of New Bedford has more water under its bow than any other on the river. “By the end of the race, we’ll have traveled 4003.5 miles. We’ve been on the Saco. Slocum, and Paskamansett Rivers, “ said Gillum. “This will be no problem.”
“Sponsors and vendors really stepped up this year,” Fitzgerald said, naming four major sponsors and 30 others who provided goods, services, or hard cold cash.
Tots, teenagers, and adults from twenty-somethings to those who’ve owned their AARP cards for more than a decade crewed the assortment of boats that passed the finish line.
Fitzgerald and Hookey handed out dozens of medals while paddlers and friends munched on wraps, pizza, and watermelons in the shade of the trees at the river’s grassy edge at the Head of Westport.
If there were a medal for Beautiful Natural Resource, the river would have won it, paddles down.
SIDEBAR OF WINNERS
1. Dave Crocker
2. Mark Edwards
1. John Cooper Mullen
2. Bruce Meacham
1. Denise Hixon
2. Marcia Hathaway
1. Bob Wilkinson
2. George Kyller
Double Canoe -
1. Halpin and Olson (first names not available)
2. Darrill Goldizen, J.F. Paquin
Family Fun Class
1. Mike Spadea, Kara Gilson (Double Kayak, 2008 Grads Oliver Ames HS, Easton,MA )
2. Rob and Jamie Pollack (Double Kayak)
1. Dana Gillum, Jan St. Germain
2. Mike and Molly Sullivan
Over 55, Double Kayak
1. Ted and Tom Gibney
2. Peggy and Jonathan Stevens
Family Boat, more than 2 people
1. The Toth Family
2. The Chan Family
1. Dan and Ben (age 2 1/2) Harrington in row boat
2. Tim Groves in kayak with Ruby Groves (age 4)
Single Kayak Overall
1. Edward Earle
2. Eric LaFrance
Single Kayak, under 16
1. Nicholas Gonsalves
2. Cody Flynn
Single Kayak, over 55
1. John Hiller
2. Prue Goodale
1. Polly Gardner
2. Carol Long
SPONSORS AND VENDORS HELP FLOAT THE RIVER RUN
The Westport River Watershed Alliance and Osprey Sea Kayak Adventures are riding a wave of good will. The long list of supporters of this year’s River Run illustrates their event’s growing footprint and acknowledgement of the river’s value to the town. Major sponsors Bittersweet Farm, Graphix Plus, Lees Market, and TMJ Orthopedics were joined by 30 entities from A to Z that provided goods, services, or cash support.
A.J. Potter Jr. and Sons; Country Woolens; Dartmouth Building Supply, Inc; Doug Brown-Durfee Buffington Insurance Agency; Ellie’s Place Restaurant; Fernandez & Charest, P. C.; Graham Enterprises; Handy Hill Creamery; LaPointe Insurance; Lawton Builders; Marguerite’s Restaurant; Mid-City Scrap & Salvage Company; N.A.C. Security and Stereo Systems, Inc.; Ocean’s Catch, Inc.; Partners Village Store; Plamondon Electrical; Potter Funeral Service, Inc.; Rent-A-Jon; State Representative Michael J. Rodriques; Sticks. Stones, & Stars; The Bayside Restaurant; Tim’s Lawn Care; Village Pizza; Westport Apothecary; Westport Chiropractic; Westport Federal Credit Union; Westport Marine Specialties; WestportHappenings.com; Zibra Corporation.