Celebrating Blaine’s history afloat

Published on Thu, Aug 15, 2002 by Mikael Kenoyer

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Celebrating Blaine’s history afloat

By Mikael Kenoyer

The Blaine Harbor marina will be afloat with people and boats August 17 – 18 as part of the second annual Plover Days festival. Like last year, Drayton Harbor Maritime’s (DHM) waterfront celebration will spotlight a two day Wood on Water exhibition of wooden boats and steam launches, the prestigious George Raft Race, and the Plover Swim, now in its seventh year.

DHM executive director Richard Sturgill said Plover Days evolved from the yearly swim, a fundraiser for the upkeep of the Plover foot ferry. Participants take pledges from the community members, then take the plunge from the end of the harbor and swim to Semiahmoo. The swim has been so successful that three years ago, DHM purchased a boathouse for the Plover. “What I hope to accomplish this year with the Plover Swim is to pay off the remaining debt on the Plover’s moorage,” Sturgill said. He is confident the community will pledge the $3,800 needed.

The idea for the raft race came from England. Race coordinator Bob Knapp said he remembered raft races all over the country being “just a big hoot,” and thought it would be a great way “to get locals to the waterfront and realize we can have fun with it.” The race was named after actor George Raft. Last year the team from Harbor Café won, and the trophy, constructed by Knapp of “bits of stuff left over from the restoration of the Plover,” is on display in the restaurant.

Knapp said the homemade, human powered crafts can be made of anything, though he recommends against a repeat of the laundry basket and milk bottle raft which sank last year. Teams can be as large as four, five with the dog. While no pre-registration is necessary and there is no cost to enter, Knapp said “this year we were just hoping we might get small donations to help cover the cost of insurance.”

“Last year we had a modest beginning,” Sturgill said of the wooden boat exhibition, adding he thought this year’s festival would be bigger. “We hope the community will help support this,” he said. Confirmed boats coming in for the festival include the Dream, a 1939 motorized naval captain’s gig. “It has an East Hope engine in it, made in B.C. That’s a real classic engine,” Sturgill said. The Cutty Sark is also expected. It was first used as a lightship on the Columbia river with a steam engine as power and today is a fish-buyer. The Plume, a longboat owned by the Homeport Learning Center in Bellingham, is also on the list of boats that will be on display, along with half a dozen steam launches.

“Everybody’s invited,” Sturgill said. We don’t know but I’d say at least a dozen. If you have a wood boat, come and join us. Show off your boat.” To view the boats, go to Blaine Harbor’s Gate #2 ramp.

The race starts at noon on Saturday. Registration begins at 10:30 a.m. The swim begins at 4:00 p.m. and the Plover ferry will not run for an hour as it watches over swimmers. The Wood on Water display runs from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Saturday and Sunday..
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