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Lake Champlain Maritime Museum

Lake Champlain Paddlers' Trail



Paddle Challenge at Maritime Museum

by Chris Costigan

“Chris,” my publisher (we call him Ken) announced over suppressed laughter, “You’re going to be entering a race on Sunday.”

“What kind of race,” I replied with the urgency of someone left in the dark of some sick and twisted joke.

“The Second Annual Lake Champlain Maritime Museum Challenge.”

kayak “And this challenge would entail…?”

“Kayak racing my boy.”

“Kayak racing? I don’t kayak. Hell I’ve never kayaked. Ken…I like things with motors?”

“You never wakeboarded or windsurfed before this summer either.”

“Yeah, but those are board sports in which the legs are the key appendages and the means of propulsion weren’t left solely up to me. Kayaking takes upper body strength right…I mean…come on, look at the size of my arms,” frustration stammering my ability to speak and think clearly. Sensing my agitation Ken bluntly laid out the ultimatum, “Yeah, you’re probably going to be sucking some wind, if not some water. Get down to the Small Boat Exchange, John has a loaner for you.”

So, I sluggishly dragged myself into the drivers seat of Ken’s Toyota truck, picked up a Walden Vista recreational Kayak, dropped it off back at the office and headed to Plattsburgh for some weekend bingeing with some student colleagues—preparation for my weekend assignment.

Weekends have a way of expiring quicker than a male praying mantis after breeding. In a perfect illustration of this concept Friday, July 10 turned into Sunday, July 12 with the blink of an eye and my date with the paddling competition had arrived.

After rolling onto the grounds of the Maritime Museum around 1045, greeted by a parking lot congested with vehicles topped with various types of small watercraft. I unloaded my kayak. I struggled with it until Chris Strong, a museum employee and fellow contestant, helped me carry it down to the water. The race wasn’t scheduled to kick off until 12:30. This allowed me some time to familiarize myself with registration, the rules of the race and the layout of the course.

The cost of registration was $12 per entrant. This fee entitled each participant to a Maritime Museum Challenge theme graphic printed on a Tultex T-shirt. Along with the T-shirt each challenger was expected to pick up and read over a list that went over the rules of the race. The things covered on this sheet were the pre-race meeting time (1145), the race start time (1230), which horn blasts signify the status of the races commencement and other odds and ends. Personal Flotation Devices were to be worn at all times while navigating the three-mile course. The actual path of the course was a triangle. Three yellow markers were placed at Barn Rock Bay, The Palisades & the Museum’s Waterfront. All racers, regardless of class, were started simultaneously. Despite this gesture of equal sportsmanship, it provided nothing in the realm of an advantage for yours truly. I was quickly left in the dust, or should I say vapor trail.

Number 185 could be seen paddling a red kayak with the ferocity of a roid raging muscle head. Despite my frantic effort, the feeling of going nowhere fast was almost overwhelming. Something about paddling across the broad lake with a fleet of 45 paddlers pulling further and further away struck me as fruitless. Ah, but did I have fun? You betcha, I had a blast, not to mention a great workout. I haven’t competed in anything since my final wrestling match with Queensbury, NY in the junior year of my high school career. I managed to pull up next to Chris Strong (same guy that helped me lug my kayak down to the water) after staring at the back of his head for about a mile and a half. The lactic acid was burning into his arms as well, so we paddled parallel with each other for a small stretch. We shared a hearty laughter as we managed to collide with each other in the mile-wide broad lake. As a result of our little collision I pulled ahead by about a boat length. As we headed down the last stretch, Mr. Strong kept me within conversing distant (I spent a lot of time shouting at him over my shoulder). When we finally reached the finish line, I crossed ahead of Strong in 7th place with a time of 39.42. Not bad for a rookie… eh?

After the race I had a chance to speak with Nick Patch, director of outdoor educational programs, in regards to the motivation behind the Challenge.

“A lot of boats just sit around and aren’t used,” explains Patch. “This is a great way to get people out on the water using their boats.

In addition to giving people a chance to get out on the lake in the name of good wholesome competition, the race provides another activity for the annual small boat show.

The U.S. Coast Guard kept the racing triangle motor boat free throughout the duration of the race. Their efforts warrant special thanks from all competitors and racing officials. I wasn’t wearing one of those spray skirts and my balance could have been described as touch and go. Waves from foreign sources could have easily sent me rolling. I personally thank the Coast Guard for keeping the big daddies out while I was paddling. I also want to thank John Freeman of Small Boat Exchange for the use of his kayak.


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