After two weeks of postponements due to ice, on Wednesday Dale Cross was finally able to say the words that canoeists and kayakers have been waiting to hear all spring.
“The races are on,” the longtime race director of the first two canoe races on the Maine schedule each spring. “I can tell you the St. George [River] is flowing fairly nice and it looks like we’ll have plenty of water for the weekend.”
Races will be held this weekend, with the St. George River Race in Searsmont set for Saturday and the Passagassawakeag River Race in Waldo to be held on Sunday.
Registration for each race will run from 8 a.m. until 9:30 a.m., with the actual racing set to start at 10 a.m. both days.
But while the races will go off — finally — that doesn’t mean Cross’s work is done. He’s working feverishly to make sure the race courses are safe for the paddlers who will flock to the two rivers over the weekend.
“Ice is out of the St. George, but there are a few trees in the way and I’m bushwhacking those out to make sure it’s safe enough for racers,” Cross said.
With that said, Cross admitted that paddlers should keep their eyes open.
“There’s going to be some new obstacles this year,” he said. “We’re able to get around them, and they’re not in a place where they’re going to be not safe.”
Over on the Passagassawakeag, Cross is still hoping for some help from Mother Nature, but is confident that the river will be passable on Sunday.
“The Passy still has a little bit of ice in it, but I believe that’s going to be out for Sunday, so we’re looking to do the two-race weekend,” he said.
And paddlers appear to be eager after being iced out for the past two weeks.
“We already have a number of boats signed up,” Cross said. “Over 40 pre-registered so far, and they’re calling in fast and furiously right now, so that/’s great. We’re looking forward to a great weekend.”
In other paddling news, the two other races that had been scheduled for this weekend — the Souadabscook Stream Canoe Race and the Marsh Stream Canoe Race — have been postponed due to ice.
Renee O’Donald, who directs the Souadabscook Stream Canoe Race with her husband, Rick O’Donald, reported on Tuesday that the popular race has been moved to Saturday, May 2.
Registration for the Souadabscook race will begin at 9 a.m. with a 11 a.m. start time.
A post on the Maine Canoe and Kayak Racing Organization web page says the Marsh Stream Race, which was originally scheduled for this weekend, has been postponed and may be held on Sunday, April 19. That date is tentative, however.
And finally, race organizers of the area’s largest race, April 18th’s Kenduskeag Stream Canoe Race, are monitoring a racecourse that has yet to open up.
“We’re certainly keeping a very close eye on conditions, like all the other race directors this spring,” said Tracy Willette of the Bangor Parks and Recreation Department. “We’ll be looking at many spots on the stream to check on conditions, ice thickness, and to see what’s out there. As everybody has found, conditions this year have been unique, and unlike what we’ve seen before.”
Willette said the race committee is still hoping for mild weather that would clear the stream of ice.
“At this point we’re hoping that the race will be run as scheduled, but we’re certainly keeping an eye on the stream and will adjust if that’s required,” he said.