The Essex River Race - 5/17/08
Article by Nancy Anderson, Barbara Traban, and Laura Anderson

It was another rainy and breezy Saturday morning when two teams from the Buzzards Bay Rowing Club headed up to the Essex River Race at 6:00 AM on Saturday, May 17.

The all-female pickup team called Aquaholics (Barbara Traban, MaryJane McManus, Gloria Gunderson, Deb Gabriel, Nancy Anderson, Bill Anderson as boatsteerer and team support Johan Gunderson) hooked up the boats to trailers in the rain, fought the traffic jams in Boston at 7:00 AM (who would have thought!) and arrived just in the nick of time for the start of the race. Talk about die-hard rowing fans. In the rain on the Southeast Expressway, after going over a pothole, Mary Jane noticed that the boat had shifted and was no longer lined up on the trailer properly. She found a narrow spot near an exit to pull over, and in the rain and traffic, MaryJane, Deb, and Barbara tugged and lifted the boat to straighten the boat on the trailer. They planned to arrive in Essex at 8:00 AM to register for the race and then attend the captains meeting at 9:00 and race at 9:30. Thank goodness Johan and Gloria had arrived in Essex on Friday for business and had spent the night there. At 8:50 the rest of the team and boat was still on the road and calling Gloria on their cell phones to say we might not make it in time. Gloria filled out the registration forms for all of the team so that as we finally arrived 10 minutes before the race was to start, we could sign our names, run for the ladies room, and then Team Aquaholics jumped in their boat as it was being launched and rowed over to the start of the race as Johan parked the trailer for us. Talk about cutting it close!

The co-ed team Dragons (Karen Gravel (stroke), Alex Georgianna, Dan Georgianna, David Georgianna, & Laura Anderson, with Louie Doherty as boatsteerer) left Fairhaven with the trailed boat a little later then the Aquaholics but somehow managed to arrive in Essex before the Aquaholics by skipping the Boston traffic and taking a shortcut. We’ll remember that for next year!

As we all waited at the start of what we thought would be a cold, wet, windy row, the rain stopped, the wind died down and the sun came out – much to the chagrin of the rowers who were dressed for the elements! But that didn’t dampen (groan) the enthusiasm of the ten rowers who tackled the 5.5 mile race that started at the Essex River in town, went out behind the barrier beaches of Ipswich and back. We were warned about the rough water with strong winds and currents, but no one ever warned us about the tidal flats! It takes skill to row a whaleboat (or not) over the tidal flats!

The Dragons were neck and neck with the 2 gigs Kittery (Plymouth) and Siren Song (Gloucester) throughout the entire race. First one boat took the lead, then another. Therefore all 3 boats in the lead could never lighten up on their strokes. The Dragons finished ½ boat length behind the Siren Song (gig from Gloucester) and beat the Kittery from Plymouth, which was quite a feat since both were gigs with an extra rower and all in all, faster boats. The Dragons received silver medals.

The Aquaholics team finished the race to much surprise on their part. About 45 minutes into the race and every 5 minutes thereafter, the team asked Bill “are we at the turn yet”. Bill would reply, “No not yet, can’t even see the turnaround island yet.” Oh my, we still need to turn around the island and then row all the way back again! After about 75 minutes still no turn. Then, almost all at once, the crew saw landmarks on the shore that we had seen before. We were almost at the finish line and had not even known we had made the turn to home! What relief and happiness for the crew. Was this Bill’s way of psyching us up?All said and done, both teams enjoyed this challenging race through some of the most scenic areas in New England. After a terrible start for everyone because of the tight area at the start among the marsh grasses, the Dragons were in last place far behind the Aquaholics and two gigs. On the back side of the island, the Dragons had passed both of the gigs, and the three boats raced to the finish with each boat passing the others at some point. At the finish, the Dragons were second and finished in 68 minutes, less than ½ boat length behind the winner: the Sea Sirens from Gloucester. The Aquaholics finished in 83 minutes.

And a day on the whaleboats is not complete without a party. The Aquaholics celebrated at Periwinkles – waterfront dining on the Essex River, and the Dragons celebrated at Woodmans Restaurant on Essex Harbor with plates of fried clams.

We all warily trekked home to return our whaleboats to their home port – ready for another race!