Adirondack Guideboats- The last Howard Seaman Memorial Guideboat Race

Last time I wrote I promised to tell about the last Howard Seaman Memorial Guideboat race held in Long Lake and how I actually came in first despite overwhelming  odds against winning.  This race was held every year in Long Lake during July to commemorate the feats of Howard Seaman.  Howard was a Long Lake resident who championed guideboat racing and won many a grueling guideboat race including the 44 miler from Long Lake to Tupper Lake.

Long Lake had established a tradition of holding a boating “regatta”, a combination of races meant for fun as well as more serious canoe and guideboat races.  Some of the fun races were stand-up paddling and hand paddling in canoes as well as singles and doubles canoe races for adults and children.  There was even a tug-of-war between two canoes tethered together.

The regatta is always held at the Long Lake town beach.  The beach is a fine sandy beach that looks north down nine miles of lake to its outlet.

The Long Lake town beach.
The Long Lake town beach.

At one time many guideboats could be seen on Long Lake. But as time passed their popularity waned.  People still enjoy getting out on the lake but they now have other options for venturing out on the lake.  Kayaks are very popular and so are stand-up paddle boards.

The guideboat boat race that I entered was held about 10 years ago.  There were barely enough entrants to call it a race.  I was very hesitant to join in such a competition since in no way did I consider myself a racer.  I just like to plod along at a reasonable pace when out in my boat. However, since I had brought my guideboat to the beach that day it was hard to refuse the entreaties of the race officials to enter the race.

The race course headed straight down the lake to a buoy about one-half mile away.  The racers were to go around to buoy on the starboard side and head across the lake to another buoy.  Here again another turn to the starboard and back to the beach.  It was certainly not a long course, more of a sprint.

A question that immediately came to mind was how was I to stay on the starboard side of the buoys.  When rowing you see what has gone by and not where you are heading.  The best you can do is to snatch some glances out of the corner of your eye from time to time.  I soon found that these glances were not enough to pick up a buoy.

There were three entrants in the guideboat race, another fellow younger than I, and a woman, Mary Beth.  Now at the time I knew that Mary Beth had raced guideboats before so I knew that she would be hard to beat. Fortunately I didn’t know then that she was student of Howard Seaman’s.  When she was younger in the evenings she would row down to Howard’s home on the lake.  As she rowed back forth in front of him, Howard would coach her on her technique.  One day he said to her “You’re going to enter the 44 miler, aren’t you?”  Mary Beth knew this was a real test of endurance the included a one mile “carry” of her 60 pound guideboat around the Raquette River falls.  Knowing that she couldn’t refuse she replied “Well, I guess”.

Mary Beth
Mary Beth

So the three boats line up on the shore and await the starter’s blast on the horn.  I am now looking not for a victory but only not to embarrass myself.  The horn goes off and each of us gives  mighty heave on the oars. Almost simultaneously with the starter’s horn there is a load CRACK.  Out of the corner of my eye I see a large Northern Pike leap out of the water.  Could it be?  (Later, others said they saw it too).  One of my male co-racer’s oars has broken in two. So he is done for the day.  Mary Beth pulls out to an early led, as expected.   She maintains her lead but I don’t fall too far behind.

After the race I am awarded first place for the male racer and Mary Beth first place as the female racer in the Howard Seaman Memorial guideboat race.  Somewhere in the Long Lake archives there is a trophy bearing our names (I think there is).


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