14 Wing's Dragon Boat team participated in an event on Lake Banook, Datmouth (near Halifax) as part of the Kiwanis Make-a-wish Community Dragon Boat Festival on Sept. 26th. Organized by a young and energetic air maintenance lieutenant and with a wide range of trades, ranks and ages represented, we scraped together about 20 adventurous souls. About half of us made a trip down the previous Thursday to practice for an hour, and for many of us, including myself, that was the first time in a dragon boat.
I'm reasonably comfortable in a canoe, but the dragon boat paddle and stroke are quite different than canoe paddling. Timing is everything, and a good vertical insertion of the paddle's blade into the water is essential. After one practice, we were grateful we were just doing the 200 metre distance, and not the full 2 kilometres.
14 Wing team demonstrates close order drill with their paddles:
Dragon boats on the lake, preparing for a heat. Most of the day the sun was out, but it was often quite cold.
Mike the Paddling Padre:
In our first heat, we barely came in under a minute for 200 metres. Our competition was much younger, with at least one group being from a local cadet corps. A lot of folks had more paddling experience than we did. However in our second heat we decreased our time by a few seconds and we were more together. You can soon tell watching a boat if the crew is working together, and you can feel the difference in the boat when all the blades are in the water at the same time.
Here we are heading out for our third and final heat of the day. That's me seated third up from the back in the black ball cap:
Our coxswain or steersperson or whatever the appropriate dragon boat term is was very experienced and was kindly leant to our team. Without him we wouldn't have done nearly so well.
The final heat, all straining to be first to the finish:
It wasn't about winning, but we were pleased to be awarded gold. Another team came ahead of us (platinum elite paddlers, maybe?) but we all felt good about the day and about the $3000+ we raised for Kiwanis Make-a-wish charity. Here we are at the awards bit afterwards:
I'm told that a new dragonboat can start at $5000 and easily go up to $15K. We are hoping to lobby the Wing to buy a dragon boat for a permanent team, and do more of this. Judging by the day, it would be good investment in morale and team spirit.
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