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HomeNL-2017-04 Buffalo Bayou Regatta

Buffalo Bayou Regatta
March 11, 2017
by Kent Walters


This trip was different for each person in many respects because of its structure and the intentions of each participant. David Portz and I signed in as safety/sweep boats and had our hands full with capsizes, snakes, missing paddles, and paddling instruction. Will Blumentritt and Ray and Debra Chenault came to have a good time paddling in the event, and David Jacobs came with the intention of racing.

The regatta “process” started under ominous dark overcast skies that had been drizzling on us as we travelled to the put-in on San Felipe just west of Voss. Registration was well organized, leading to the staging of the boats on the steep banks – odd numbers on River Left, even numbers on River Right. The 372 “racing teams” were organized into “waves” or heats, according to their registered class. The serious racers, like David Jacobs, left first.

David assisting after a capsize

There was a LOT of activity from the time David P and I got our boats wet after the second wave launch through the first 10 miles – from people swearing to me that you have to steer tandem canoes from the front, to bailing and dumping water out of capsized boats (lots of them – the first one belonging to the lady who steers from the front), to a lady who jumped out of her canoe because a snake dropped out of a tree into the water in front of her, putting her in the water with the current now helping her close the distance between her and the aforementioned threat. A small group of paddlers in her immediate vecinity surrounded her and got both the lady and her canoe to the coincidentally “friendly” shore. In the excitement, she lost her paddle, which sank in the murky water, never to reappear. I think the snake took it. Truly up the creek without a paddle now, and with about 7 miles to go, a generous kayaker (a guy named Matthew) broke down his double blade and graciously offered her the longer piece of his remaining two halves, and they finished the course in this fashion. David says he thinks the snake was actually a small twisted branch that dropped out of its tree.

By the way, the lady in the tandem canoe that kept showing me how you steer from the front was still running into banks at Mile 11. It was all I could do to resist the temptation of asking how that was working for her as I watched her collect some new mud on the front of her canoe.

The previous paragraphs covering the paddling portion of the event would probably be similar for David Portz, Will, Ray and Debra, but with the different variations of entertainment provided by the moments they were in each location. David Jacobs would have likely had an entirely different experience, since he was officially not lollygagging.

Debra and Ray Chenault

Conditions deteriorated steadily in the last 5 miles for the worst of the lollygaggers (that would be me), with the rain and wind continuously increasing, and the current disappearing in the last couple of miles.

The “FINISH” sign came into view, complete with some scary-looking nice guys who helped manhandle us and our boats out of the water, and carried our boats up to the park from the landing while our legs started working again. Will, David P and I reunited at the HCC / Galveston BayKeeper canopies with the land-based gang. From there, Paul Woodcock graciously offered to haul our sorry wet butts, gear and boats back to the put-in. Will and I took him up on his offer. David P took the shuttle bus back to his car and came back for his boat for the full regatta experience.

For those who are interested in results, here’s how it stacked up:

One of David’s more spectacular “saves”

Kent Walters

The author, Kent Walters