As you might remember, the Adirondack 90 miler runs from Old Forge. NY to Saranac Lake in 3 days. It is essentially a canoe race although guideboats enter as well, This year eleven guideboats entered the race. Guideboats have an inherent handicap as will be seen.
On the second day of the race, the contestants start at lower Long Lake. They assemble enmasse in Tom Bissell’s field early on the second day of the race, which this year was Saturday, September 7th. Tom Bissell’s field adjourns our summer home so I get to hob nob with the contestants every year. I hopped out of bed early on race day and went straight to the field which was crowded with cars, people and boats.
I was particularly seeking out my friend John Homer, whom I knew was racing a guideboat. Thanks to cell phones, I caught up with him as he was entering the field.
John is a fun guy. He has a great sense of humor. When his wife, Deneen who is his pit crew, asked him if he needed anything else. He answered, “I could use a good nights sleep”.
“So how did the first day go?”, I asked him. “The wind was terrible” he replied. I remembered that there was a strong westerly wind yesterday. Guideboats must use the traditional pinned oars that were elected by the early guideboat builders. They have the distinct disadvantage of not being able to feather them on the recovery stroke. So on the recovery stroke it feels like an invisible hand is pulling you backwards. Canoeists don’t experience this problem since they can feather their paddles (turn the blade sideways to avoid the wind on the return stroke).
John said that there was something of a traffic jam in the Brown’s track wilderness traverse due to a beaver dam. The race organizers decided that to avoid chaos at the dam only one boat would be allowed to pass at a time. So boats lined up at the beaver dam awaiting their turn. Once you got to the dam you had to climb out of your boat, drag it over the dam, and be on your way.
John’s other member of his team was Dave, whom he recruited from Hornbeck Boats where they both work. Hornbeck makes the now famous lone pond single person canoe. Here is Dave wrapping his hands with tape to avoid blisters.
I asked John if the bugs were bad. “No” he replied, although “there were some at the beaver dam”. He said a sweat bee decided to hop a ride and stayed with them for about a half hour until they chased it away.
While I stood around waiting for the race to start I was conscious of the preparations that were necessary for the upcoming day’s row. Food and energy drinks were stowed.
The boat has to be tended to as well. It will be carried, upside down, over the mile-long Raquette River carry. Here is John making sure nothing comes loose when he and Dave carry the boat upside down over the carry.
Others have devised an easier way to negotiate a carry. Steve and his son Derek have a set of wheels.
Steve said that they wouldn’t use the wheels on the Raquette Falls carry because the carry was so rough. But once you commit to using the wheels they must carried along even though they won’t be used again.
There were other versions of canoes in the race such as this nine person war canoe.
So race time is nigh and John and Dave head for the beach for the guideboat start. I head for the Long Lake bridge where I can see the boats pass by on their way down the lake. Here are John and Dave as they approach the bridge.
Here is a view of the boats heading away from the bridge and down the lake.
John made these comments after the race. “The 90 miler was great this year. I had a new partner, David Fish, who did outstanding. Dave had never rowed a guideboat until the 90 miler began. We were both so busy we couldn’t find the time to train at all. Day one was difficult but fortunately Dave is a natural at rowing and caught on quickly.
The weather was outstanding each day. It did rain a little on Day 2. By the third day Dave and I were dialed in. We both were synchronized and before we knew it the finish line was in sight. Dave is a true guideboater and is already planning to do the 90 miler next year in a guideboat”.
Here is a photo of John and Dave in the race.
“I also attached a photo of all the vets (including myself) that were sponsored by the U.S. Veterans Rowing and kayaking Foundation. It is great to be a part of this organization.” (John served two tours of duty in Afghanistan. Thank you for your service, John).
Next time we float Richard’s boat.