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06/22 - NE Canoe-O Championships

Beautiful blue skies greeted paddlers at the 30th annual New England Canoe-O Championships held on Buffumville Lake in Charlton, Massachusetts.  Buffumville Lake is an Army Corps of Engineers flood control impoundment of the tiny Little River, a tributary of the French River that empties into the Quinebaug, then the Thames, finally reaching Long Island Sound at New London.

Buffumville Lake is about 2-1/4 miles long and about 1/5 mile wide and is bisected by Oxford Road with a large culvert connecting the two segments.  A trail follows the circumference and there is a popular swimming beach in the north basin.  While motorboats are allowed, the relatively shallow depths and presence of federal rangers discourage the kind of wild operators we encountered last year on Lake Quinsigamond.

It is ever more difficult to locate original, interesting and safe canoe-o venues acceptable to governmental authorities, still unknown to the competitors and within reasonable driving distance of NEOC members.  Buffumville Lake was a winner with the exception of Jim Henderson who told me he’d visited before for disc golf!

Over the three decades of New England Canoe Orienteering Championships our participation has ebbed and flowed.  It clearly isn’t a sport for everyone.  Not every orienteer is a paddler and not every paddler is interested in orienteering, but I am always surprised by the number of people who just love it.

Beginning last year we partnered with the New England Canoe and Kayak Racing Association, listing our canoe-o on their schedule, and they included us in their point series.  This year for the first time, more than half of our paddlers were NECKRA members.  The beauty is that new people are exposed to orienteering.

Repeating as New England Champions, Steve and Seth Miller, both NECKRA paddlers, blistered the long course in 1:05:39.  Not far behind, and exhibiting great orienteering sense, were two more NECKRA racers, Jamie Doucett and Shawn Burke.  Remarkably because they were in a recreational canoe and are only occasion paddlers, Ian Smith and Sam Leviton, grabbed third.  Ian’s on-land speed and accuracy were key factors.

A four person team of Pia, Lucas, Tor and Mark Webb won the medium course with Pia doing a lot of running, including wading into so yucky mud.

Only one person entered the short course, new-comer Laura Lappin, and so she was the winner.

We awarded the traditional New England Canoe-O Championship t-shirts to the course winners and to everyone who completed the long course in under two hours.  A lot a smiling people were seen driving home sporting their championship shirts.

Lots of people helped out.  Nicole Giles of the Army Corps was encouraging and helpful.  Paul Bourget paddled with me while I hung the controls and even continued despite our boat overturning after hitting a submerged stump in otherwise deep water.  John Messinger arrived early and helped carry gear.  Jim Henderson went for drinking water when our supply sprung a leak.  Terry Myers Coney and Laura Lappen handled registration.  Ian Smith, Sam Leviton, Bill Warren and David VanDorpe made control pickup go very quickly so I got home the earliest after any of canoe-o ever.

Aims Coney