In June the Rocky Point crew of Abreast In A Boat with the much appreciated addition of Karen L from Deas headed south to the beautiful city of Portland, Oregon. The Dragon Boat Races running on June 8th and 9th 2013 are a big part of their Rose Festival.

All our crew members managed to arrive for the Friday 5pm meeting in the lobby of the Marriott Residence Inn on the riverfront, minutes away from the marshalling area and docks. An eventful practice began at 6:30pm under the direction of Jeannie and Annie from Pink Phoenix, our hosts for the weekend. Now, you have to realize that these are Kaohsiung or Taiwanese dragon boats and very different from the BUKs or Six-Sixteens we are using. They are wider and three can sit abreast in the seat. The huge, beautifully painted dragon’s head and tail are permanently fixed to the boat. You sit higher and the gunwale is lower. The paddles have a longer shaft and flare. The steering oar is longer, heavier and is fitted through a large hole in the tail. As Lynne found out there is no platform to stand on.

We formed our line-up and got in the boat. We had to paddle out of the basin and into the river. Steering is a slightly (!) different operation. The water was choppy – no problem for us but it was windy too! Next thing – boom – Lynne was in the water! Or more correctly – half in the water! In a spectacular move with Mary and Del helping she was back in the boat and getting out to the start line for a practice race. Times for races are longer. The race pace is slower because of the size of these K boats. It is nice to be able to have perfect form and be able to set up each stroke. Foot placement was also slightly different and the ability to rotate was somewhat limited. We all used the short practice time to work out the kinks! Then it was off to the Pub for a late supper with Jeannie and Annie. A short walk back to the hotel in a beautiful setting and all turned in ready for the racing the next day.

On Saturday we had three races. We came in third in our first race much to the amazement of the team we beat! We were in the Women’s division and some of the crews were very young! There was strict security and we all had to be picture identified after each race. I overheard a young whipper-snapper call us the “wild card”! Obviously someone underestimated our strength, stamina and desire to place well!

The next race was the Gorman Cup. This is a breast cancer survivor race in honour of Pink Phoenix founding member and first Captain Michele Gorman who passed away in the spring of 1998 and as well as raising awareness it was a fun race. There were four boats and the paddlers from the breast cancer teams were all mixed up and wearing lots of pink bling. We also were carrying breast cancer survivors in the seats between the paddlers! The winning boat was steered by our Lynne and the drummer was our Carol! Way to go, ladies!

We came in fourth (out of four) in our third and last race of the day. Not bad since we were never very far behind and the times of all the boats were close! We helped pack up chairs etc. and then it was off shopping, sightseeing, walking, and hot-tubbing before meeting for a team dinner.

On Sunday we were in the quarter-finals and placed third again. Our second and final race was the consolation final in section 2 and we gave it our all! Reports from shore had us neck in neck, back and forth for the lead until the last surge and we were second! Not bad for only five races in those big, beautiful boats!

Then we were invited to join Pink Phoenix members for après drinks on the floating patio of the Portland Seafood Restaurant. From there we had a great view of the start line and could watch the continuing races up close. We met and mingled with the two Pink Phoenix teams and had a great time chatting and getting to know our fellow racers. Carol gave out gift bags to the two teams and thanked them for hosting us before introducing our ‘Original’ Debbie who said a few words of thanks as well.

Lynne did an excellent job of steering of which we were very grateful. Carol was in fine voice with her usual clear drumming and calling. Judy W. our flag catcher was amazing and the whole team tips their hats to her incredible performance. She had to climb up the dragon’s head at the right moment; strap herself securely to the horns; squeeze out onto the top and lean way, way, way out over the nose to catch the flag! She never missed! Five for five! Wow! Thanks again to Karen for completing our team so well she is now a honourary Rocky! One other person deserves a special mention – Sheila K came down as our spare flag catcher and ended up racing with us to keep the balance since we only had 19 paddlers. Thanks, Sheila. Also we as a crew thank our wonderful Coach Debbie – with her enthusiasm and always up for anything attitude; our Captain Marcia, our motivator extraordinaire and most of all – our secret weapon – Manager Diane F!

We were made to feel so welcome by the members of Pink Phoenix! They provided chairs in our own tented area; coffee, water, snacks on both days and a catered lunch on Saturday. It was so much fun to have their company and helpful information about Portland. Loved Powell’s Book Store and the Market. Sorry to have missed Voodoo Donuts though! All too soon it was time to pack up and head north. I am sure that the seven of us who have now been to Portland three times will want to go back again along with the others!

Dorothy Fenning

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