Plover Days a wet affair
“We made 150 cookies, cake to serve 120 and 100 cups of coffee, and ran out of everything,” said a delighted Richard Sturgill, organizer of Blaine’s annual waterfront swimming party and raft race celebration known as Plover Days. This year’s event celebrated the restored passenger ferry Plover’s 60th birthday, and included the annual George Raft Race, open houses on local wooden boats and free excursions with area members of the Puget Sound Steam Society on a fleet of small steamers.
Angus Pratt and Tyson Gorsuch of the Blaine Sea Scouts won Saturday’s George Raft Race held during one of the summer’s only rain storms, a soaker of Biblical proportions that dumped nearly an inch of badly needed precipitation on Blaine the first day of the event.
“What great fun,” said Pratt, 46, who is the skipper, or adult leader, of the local sea scouting group. “Once you’re wet anyway,” he laughed, “it didn’t really matter one way or the other.” Like all four racing rafts, the sea scout entry was built of bits and pieces of surplus floating junk that Sturgill keeps in a “raft builder’s library,” a vacant corner of a web locker that over the year seems to collect boards, rope and hunks of styrofoam that racers can use for that year’s raft. The scouts built their raft on the lawn outside Sturgill’s web locker and christened it Son of Charee, after their sloop Charee that was donated to them last year.
Second place went to a Port of Bellingham team headed by local Blaine Marina staff, third place to Sturgill’s own Gauntlet and fourth place to race organizer and local marine upholsterer Bob Knapp on his creation called Catfish.
The Plover once carried cannery workers from Blaine to the Alaska Packers Association (APA) cannery on Semiahmoo Spit. Preceded on the run by converted fishing boats, some of which were sail powered, the Plover was built specifically as a passenger ferry at the Bryant Marina in Seattle and brought north to Blaine in 1944, the same year that APA bought their 103-foot water tower as surplus from a factory in Oakland, California, and shipped it up to erect on the spit.
After service in the late ’60s as a local harbor tug, it was put into storage when the cannery closed until Sturgill and a group that is now known as Drayton Harbor Maritime found it and restored it, launching it for the second time eight years ago on the Fourth of July weekend. It now runs weekends from Memorial Day through Labor Day weekend.