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06/21 - New England Canoe Orienteering Championships

31 and Done, the 2015 New England Canoe-O Championships
Squam Lake, New Hampshire
June 21, 2015

Course Map

Of all the orienteering disciplines, I love canoe-o the most.  I love competing in a canoe-o and I love course setting.  I love making the map and scouting the shoreline.  I love paddling to hang the controls the day before and paddling out for them the afternoon after.  I love hearing the stories- how hard the people found the ones I thought were easy, and how they handled the really hard ones.  The people I’ve met through canoe-o are some of the best I’ve ever known, they’re both paddlers and orienteers- could there be a better mix?

And yet, I’d decided that this year’s 31st Annual New England Canoe-O Championships is my last.  I’m not saying never again, but am not committing to 2016.

Rocky Marciano, the heavy weight boxer, retired undefeated.  Peter Gargarin put on 13 excellent Billy Goats then called it quits.  And now, while not at all in the same class, I’m saying enough after 31 New England Championships.

Next year I’ll be in my first summer since 1958 off the academic or corporate calendar.  I hope to take a long vacation, hiking and paddling the Pacific Northwest while my daughter Katie still lives in Seattle.  I want to be out there during the longest days of the year, and to spend time with my first grandchild who’ll be already six months old.

In the three decades I’ve been organizing the New England Championships countless volunteers, too many to name, made it almost effortless.  I must however specifically thank two people.  J-J Cote’, in addition to using his skills to win us four USCA championships and countless local events, taught me enough OCAD to make crude maps and as Robert Frost said, “that was all the difference”.  And way, way back at the beginning, Valerie Murray took dozens of panic phone calls as I figured out how to be a meet director.  I would have quit a bunch of times were it not for Valerie. Thank you both, and thank you everyone else who did so much.

* * *

The 2015 New England Champions were the first ever held in New Hampshire.  Many thanks for a superb suggestion from John Messinger regarding Squam Lake.  Then John introduced me to John Jurczynski, co-director of Rockywold-Deephaven Camps, “a remarkable retreat … made up of vintage cottages nestled along the shores of Squam Lake”.  I had lost touch with Rockywold but that is where I went to stay with my grandparents for two Julys as an eight and nine year old.   At 8 I had learned to solo paddle my grandmother’s canoe- she gave me a little push and said “don’t go out of the bay”.  And, I still have that canoe, a 1913 Old Town 16-footer.  Nostalgically, this would be a great event for me.

Squam is a beautiful lake with dozens of islands amid rings of mountains.  Much shoreline is private and largely undeveloped, adding to the beauty.  Houses, where they exist, are hidden in the trees.  Unlike its noisy cousin Winnipesaukee, motor boats are well behaved and follow predictable routes to avoid the copious rocks.

Squam was also the summer home of Brad Washburn, alpinist, explorer, aerial photographer and the first director of the Museum of Science Boston.  During the 1960’s Brad lead a team who mapped Squam and the surrounding terrain with high precision.  The chart looks like an orienteering map, showing every submerged rock as a dot.  They even created a huge grid on the ice and over three winters drilled at each spot to take a sounding.  Was I going to do better than that?  Nope, so I took the wise route and scanned the Brad Washburn map and created the courses in Purple Pen.

 * * *

On the Monday before the event, I began hearing that Tropical Storm Bill was going to hit Texas and the remnants would then spiral up through the Midwest into New England.  Every day I checked the forecast and every day it was different in timing or intensity or location.  By the end of the week though the forecast had settled down and while Saturday would be nice, Sunday looked awful.  I considered canceling- Squam’s broad bays would be dangerous in a storm but there was really no way to notify everyone.

Saturday was just glorious on the water as my old friend Paul and I made the circuit to hang up the controls.  It was great having Paul’s company but it also meant I would return with him to Massachusetts and drive back Sunday rather than spend the night near the meet.

I left the house Sunday morning in an absolute deluge.  I was convinced no one would come and I’d be sitting under the canopy alone all day with a book and then have to pick up the controls in the storm.  Driving on 495 and up the Everett Turnpike was white knuckle; wipers on high speed, defroster vents at full fan, tires splashing in puddles, on the edge of hydroplaning, visibility lousy, going 35 a risk.  Not only was the weather awful, now I was going to be late too.

After Concord I found I was on intermittent wipers and by Tilton was using sunglasses occasionally.  The weather radar showed a big gap over central New Hampshire with most of the storm rolling up the coast rather than inland.  As the sky brightened I was finally able to do the speed limit but I’d still be late.  “If anyone even comes,” I thought.

I stopped to put out direction signs as I neared and entered Rockywold.  Rockywold was hosting two weddings and we had been assigned a small, out of the way area to the east so it was important to direct the orienteers, if any, that way.

I was surprised that two cars had already arrived and had caused a bit of a crisis for some Rockywold staff who weren’t aware of our event and didn’t know where to send them.  Eventually we got all that sorted out, got the canopy up and the registration table going.

The first four boats had departed and been gone a bit when the sky suddenly darkened and a hard rain began.  The rest of us huddled under the canopy.  Radar showed an isolated storm that would soon end and when it did the remaining boats set out.  However, unknown to us on our sheltered shore, the open bays had huge whitecaps and the paddling out there was more adventurous than most preferred.

Eventually, all the boats made it back, taking more time than expected thanks to the conditions.  The Miller brothers dominated again with flawless navigation, sensible route choices and terrific speed.  A review of the results will show that everyone else won their class too.  Kudos to all!

Then the crowd went home and it was time to pick up controls.  I started out in a cold wind wearing a turtleneck and was awfully glad to have my surfski for that rough water I’d encounter in the middle.  By control 1 however the wind had gone and I was hot enough to take off the shirt.

Life is so unfair- here I was having another glorious day on Squam Lake while only hours before the orienteers had suffered so.

-Aims

Team

Course

Class

Gender

Plastic

Elapsed

Stephen & Seth Miller

Long

Race Canoe- 2 Persons

Male

N

1h 36m 2s

Jeff Shapiro & David VanDorpe

Long

Rec Canoe- 2 Persons

Male

N

2h 2m 3s

Keith Durant & Sean Morton

Long

Stock Canoe- 2 Persons

Male

N

2h 10m 48s

Stephen Morss

Long

K-1 Recreational

Male

Y

2h 32m 13s

John Messinger

Long

K-1 Sea Kayak

Male

N

2h 33m 41s

Lori Drake & Priscilla Reinertsen

Long

Race Canoe- 2 Persons

Female

N

2h 54m 15s







Terry Myers Coney

Medium

K-1 Touring

Female

N

2h 49m 26s