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FORT-itude Saves a Life

VANCOUVER GLOBAL BC – They are all survivors, living through a battle against cancer, and last weekend they saved a man’s life.

The FLCC Fort-itude (Fort Langley Canoe Club, part of Abreast In A Boat) dragon boat team was about to begin its usual Saturday practice session in Fort Langley last Saturday, when they heard someone yelling for help.

FORTitude at 2013 Canadian National Dragonboat Championships

FORTitude at 2013 Canadian National Dragonboat Championships

Turns out a man had been out for a row earlier in the day and had grown tired. When he went to remove one of his oars before pulling up to the dock he fell in to the water without a lifejacket on.

Jan Choquette was standing on the dock at the time. She is not part of Abreast In A Boat, but she is on a dragon boat team.

“I heard a man saying ‘help, I need help’ and I turned around and saw a man floundering in the water there,” she said.

She yelled at the people nearby for help and to call 9-1-1 and that is when her water-safety training kicked in.

“I pointed,” she said. “I kept my eye on him and I pointed at him, and that’s one thing that we’re told all the time and drilled every time we go out in the boat.”

Choquette said a man on the dock at the time also jumped into the water to swim towards the drowning man.

“And then the man, as he was floating down the river a bit, he kept yelling ‘help, help me’ and I called out to him time and again ‘help is coming, hold on,’” she said, “and I just kept walking and then I saw the fellow dive into the water, swim towards him and that’s when I saw you guys paddling down [the] river.”

The ‘you guys’ were the FLCC Fort-itude, who had heard the man’s cries from hundreds of metres away.

“And I said to our crew, ‘somebody needs help, let’s go’,” said Fort-itude member Heather Innes. “It was like doing a 500-metre race, from the other side of the bridge, coming down.”

As the group of women reached the two men in the water they threw them their extra lifejackets, their First Aid kit and a few lines.

“The girls on the team were so amazing,” said member Juanita Peglar.

“The fellow in the water was so cold, so weak, we tried to get him into the boat but he just said ‘I can’t do anything, I can’t do anything’,” she said.

They towed the two men to the shore where they sat for about 10 minutes until they began to feel stronger, and then they brought them to the main dock alongside the river.

By that time the paramedics had arrived.

“It was a scary thing,” said Peglar.

Choquette said it was a very emotional day and without all the people coming together to save this man the outcome could have been very different.

“The fellow who was in the water, he was not staying afloat,” she said. “He wasn’t able to swim, his head was going under the water, I think had it been in many more moments he wouldn’t have made it.”

“It was that close.”

Global BC News, http://globalnews.ca/news/1273368/breast-cancer-survivors-dragon-boat-team-save-drowning-mans-life/


CIBC Run For The Cure Sponsor Paddle

CIBC Group Sponsor Paddle

CIBC Group Sponsor Paddle

As the “2014 CIBC Run for the Cure” Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation Directors boarded our boats to experience what Abreast In A Boat is all about, the skies opened up with a torrent of rain.  The Directors, meeting in Vancouver in preparation for the 2014 Run in October, were from all parts of Canada.

As the paddle progressed their initial apprehension of climbing into the seemingly unsteady boats and paddling in the rain seemed to disappear.  Our two boats settled into the rhythm of the stroke, warming our bodies and putting smiles on the faces of our guests as we glided past the beautiful city landscape and seascape of False Creek.

CIBC Run For the Cure Paddle, April 5, 2014

CIBC Run For the Cure Paddle, April 5, 2014

Juanita Peglar and Margaret Hobson each coached a boat and put us through our paces, with good stretches in between.

We are so grateful to our sponsors for helping to keep us on the water, and we were so happy to be able to share our experience, and tell our seat partners what AIAB means to us.  I heard the words, hope, empowerment, a sense of good health, support, exercise, friendship and opportunity mentioned throughout the boat.  Yes, that is what it is all about!


Leaving the dock - Sponsor Paddle, April 5, 2014

Leaving the dock – Sponsor Paddle, April 5, 2014

One of our guests sent us the following thank you:

Thank you Juanita for showing me how to paddle this past Saturday. I had a great time and experience…even in the rain. I am in awe of you and your fabulous team for what you do and am happy to do my part as a Run Director for the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation CIBC Run for the Cure. Thank you and your team for taking us out!!! Fundraising Run Director – Victoria

Thank you to Barb Baker and Rena Pratt for organizing this very important “thank you” paddle.

Linda Hopwo

AIAB Communication Chair

Paddling Clinic with Kamini Jain

Margaret Hobson & Kamini Jain

Margaret Hobson & Kamini Jain

Over 65 Abreast In A Boat Paddlers attended Kamini Jain’s dry land training on Friday, April 4th.  Kamini, owner of Right Angle Performance (www.rightangleperformance.com) and her “Premiere” paddlers reinforced the proper technique for holding our paddles, rotating, hinging, and extending out for our strokes.  We were reminded to think about reaching across a table to shake someone’s hand and not to get our sleeve in the gravy.  Great analogy!  The novices were given an overview on the erg machine while the rest of us found a partner and practiced some paddling exercises.  Kamini shared a video link with us which demonstrated the proper paddling technique, and by the end of the evening we felt ready to give it a try on the water either at the Saturday or Sunday clinic.

Three experienced helpers were on each boat to work “one on one” with the novices and to help those who were having difficulty mastering the technique of the stroke.  Kamini travelled alongside us in a coach boat where she was able to get a better view of the entire boat, and able to quickly see where instruction was needed.

Kamini & Premier Paddlers (Taro too!)

Kamini & Helpers (Taro too!)

As always we came away feeling exhilarated, and excited that we have taken our paddling to another level.  Rain or shine it is always great to be on the water!

Here are a few quotes from some of our paddlers about their experience this weekend:

“Every time I attend a paddle clinic with Kamini I learn something new. She is a wonderfully motivating coach.” ~ Neoma Ham

“Each time I attend one of Kamini’s clinics I always learn something new and I have a deeper understanding of the paddling stroke due to her analogies and direct coaching style.” ~ Lisa Tildsley

“I have a better understanding of the catch and finish.  You know you are going back to far if you go further than your shoulder (for the finish), don’t know why I didn’t get it before cause that is mid-thigh!!” ~ Tannis Hutfetler

Geri Maden, Denise Nelson & Cheryl Linsey

Geri Maden, Denise Nelson & Cheryl Linsey

“I really enjoyed this clinic, the weather cooperated, we were once again in a sea of pink, and Kamini as always was her engaging self. There was a lot (but not too much to take in) new information and at times when the two boats came abreast of each other, I felt the urge to hinge down to the gunnel waiting for the horn.” ~ Arleigh Bennington

Thanks to Margaret Hobson, our Richmond Crew coach for organizing the clinic and to Kamini and her helpers for their patience and for making it all look so easy.


Spring Fling 2014

First off, a big thank you to Barb Baker our Events Coordinator, and to Lenki Borthwick, and Sally VanIngen, our Social Coordinators, for all the hard work they put into making the Spring Fling such a success!  Thanks also to everyone who helped set up and clean-up, a challenging task considering the moulting pink boas!

Sally & Lenki

Sally & Lenki

The weather certainly didn’t make it feel like spring was just around the corner, but the spring flowers at VanDusen Gardens, and the sunny disposition of the women inside certainly did.

We were welcomed at the door by Eleanor Vandergaag, who handed out name tags and goody bags and instructed us to put our food contribution on the tables that were already “groaning” under the weight of so many amazing dishes.  There is one thing the ladies of AIAB know how to do and that is put on a great imaginative spread!   It was so well planned out, that we hardly had any leftovers.   The Sporty Jewellery and clothing table always seemed to have a crowd around it so shopping appears to be another thing we do well.

Juanita Peglar, our President opened the day by saying a few words and introducing our 2014 Board.

Our sponsors, donors, and supporters were thanked for their generosity.    It was acknowledged by Rena Pratt, our Sponsorship Chair that without them it would be difficult to stay the water.   To give back, we were asked to consider volunteering for some upcoming events put on by our Sponsors and Donors like the Scotiabank Half Marathon and The Run for the Cure.  Please watch for volunteer opportunities.

Juanita & Dr Don McKenzie

Juanita & Dr Don McKenzie

“Dr. Don”, who we affectionately call him, put on a very inspiring presentation and talked about the original study and its findings.   Although many of us know about our beginnings, it is always good to hear it again to reinforce why we paddle, and especially for our Novices to hear about how it all began.

Dr. McKenzie reminded us that when the boat leaves the dock it is about health, exercise and the rest of our life!  Dr. Don continues to throws a flower on the water at every Flower Ceremony that he attends to remember his own Mother who died of Breast Cancer when he was very young.  He stressed the importance of exercise in breast cancer survival and that you can reduce your recurrence rate 35% by exercising only twice a week.  

Dr Don McKenzie & Brenda

Dr Don McKenzie & Brenda

As  Vancouver is the “go-to-place” and the leader in breast cancer dragon boating we set the standard.  Let’s see what we can do spread the word, not only through North America but the World. 

Cathy Marr, our AIAB Captain for the Vancouver Run For The Cure, quoted from an inspiration book she was reading.  She read that the benefits of our sweat are worth more than that of a 20 year old man! So let’s encourage each other to work harder at getting into shape, or paddling stronger in the boat.  It really is good for us.  There will more news coming about how you can join the Vancouver  Run For The Cure AIAB Team, or form your own.

We also had a fun interactive dance exercise led by Cinzia, a certified fitness instructor.  Cinzia’s focus is on movement rehabilitation for cancer patients and survivors.  She calls it ” Movement For Life”.   The exercises are meant to open up the lymphatic system.

There were lots of door prizes and a fun” Meet and Greet” contest to keep things interesting.  One of the questions on the “Meet and Greet” form ~ “ If Dr. McKenzie had been a bowler and not a paddler what would the name of the Breast Cancer Survivor Bowling Team been?”  Here are some interesting answers:

–           Abreast With Spares

–          Abreast In A Gutter

–          Abreast On The Floor

–          Abreast With A Ball


It was a great day for the Novices to meet all the other crews and to see how powerful we are as a group.  As always, it is a very emotional time for the rest of us when the Novices are introduced.  It probably reminds us of our Novice year when were ready to” get our life back” and of how unsure we might have been  about joining a dragon boat team.    We are so glad you decided to join us ~ we are now all in this boat together!

Paddles Up and enjoy the season.

Chinese New Year ~ 2014

Abreast In A Boat was represented at Willowbrook Mall in Langley on Sunday February 2, 2014.

As part of a Chinese New Year Celebration, 10 members of Abreast with FORTitude along with three crews from the Fort Langley Canoe Club, promoted dragon boat paddling.  There was a video of dragon boat races and a demonstration of how we paddle.

With our AIAB pamphlets and postcards as well as information from CBCF, we took the opportunity to raise awareness about breast cancer.  We talked with a number of breast cancer survivors as well as the general public about Abreast In A Boat, it’s history, and the many teams now around the world. As a dragon wound its way through the mall with lots of families following, we hoped to encourage others to live a healthy, active lifestyle.

Linda, Yana and Cheryl celebrate Chinese New Years.

Linda, Yana and Cheryl celebrate Chinese New Years.

Cheryl T., Cindy R., Lisa T. and Cheryl W. at Willowbrook Mall.

Cheryl T., Cindy R., Lisa T. and Cheryl W. at Willowbrook Mall.

AIAB Table at Willowbrook Mall.

AIAB Table at Willowbrook Mall.

Linda and Yana with AIAB table.

Linda and Yana with AIAB table.