WESTPORT — Under clear, sunny skies, last Saturday's Annual River Run, a Canoe/Kayak Race and Family Fun Paddle, sponsored by The Westport River Watershed Alliance and Osprey Sea Kayak Adventures, was the biggest of its five-year history.
"We had a record number of boats pre-registered," co-organizer Larry Hookey said as he, co-organizer Ann Fitzgerald, and volunteers from the WRWA and Osprey Sea Kayaks helped the 90 contestants make their way to the water's edge at the Hix Bridge starting area.
Photo: Erica Sahlin and 16 year-old son Michael Miller minutes before
the start of the Family/Fun Race.
"I went from saying 'I don't want to do this' the first time to 'Yeah, let's do it!' this time", the New Bedford Voc Tech student said.
The event drew novices and racers. Before starting time, you could hear conversations between Challenge Class participants comparing notes about their featherweight carbon fiber paddles.
And you could hear at least one kayaker in the Family Fun Paddle exclaim, "I don't have a clue what I'm doing!"
It didn't matter. A safety team on the water made sure of that.
When it comes to paddling, Dana Gillum of South Dartmouth and his sister Jan St. Germain of Fall River have been there and done that. The two have logged 4,000 miles on their battle-scarred 1978 Sea Pal canoe. The veterans entered the 3.5 mile Family Fun Paddle. They left the Challenge course to the 16 kayaks and canoes that wanted to work up a sweat. The 8.5 mile course headed south to Gunning Island and veered back north to The Head of Westport finish line.
The shorter course may not have been as arduous as their passages up the Saco, Slocum, and Paskamansett Rivers but it was relaxing. "This is going to be no problem," Mr. Gillum said as he and his sister chatted with another pair of canoers before the start.
"I've had to reinforce the bottom several times after it's ridden over rough surfaces," he grinned, surveying the fiberglass-reinforced bottom ribs.
"Anyone got some duct tape?" Carol Long has just discovered that the paddle in her borrowed canoe needs fixing. Three minutes later, a volunteer pitched a roll of the grey miracle product to Long, and fellow Westport paddler Polly Gardner started taping while Josie Woollam of Westport watched.
"We sail together. We're not used to being this close to the water— and using so many muscles," Ms. Long said with a chuckle.
Jury rigging:Polly Gardner of Adamsville wraps duct tape on her Westport pal Carol Long's broken paddle as Westporter Josie Woollam watches. Gardner and Long came in first and second in the Family/Fun single canoe category.
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 acknowledg ment 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; Timís Lawn Care; Village Pizza; Westport Apothecary; Westport Chiropractic; Westport Federal Credit Union; Westport Marine Specialties; WestportHappenings.com; Zibra Corporation.
After the morning of racing, medals were awarded, high fives exchanged, and food and beverages consumed by three generations of paddlers in the peaceful scene at the Head of Westport finish line.
In the end, the only requirement for participating was enthusiasm and a love of the river. Every paddler could have earned a medal for that.