Southport Rowgatta 2017 cancelled due to weather

Posted:  Saturday, August 12, 2017 - 3:00pm

The 24th annual Southport Rowgatta scheduled for Saturday, Aug. 12 was cancelled due to the chance of severe weather, said event volunteer Erik Bertelsen.

Bertelsen said the Coast Guard had advised organizers against holding the event due to a storm coming up the coast from Portland. Forty people had preregistered, said Bertelsen. The race benefits the Boothbay Region YMCA swim program. He said signup fees could be pushed to next year, refunded or given as a donation.

Rowgatta founder Susan Quinby said the 12-mile race around the island has only been cancelled a couple of times due to weather. One foggy day, colored balloons had been attached to the boats to assist navigation.  By mistake, one of the boats had crossed the Sheepscot River to Five Islands, leading several others to follow.

“They finished the race,” said Quinby. “There are a million stories,” she added.

Quinby began the tradition in 1993 on a bet begun at a dinner party. The next day, she took her eight-foot dingy around the island and proposed that the YMCA sponsor the event as a fundraiser. After the 20th year, she gave over the organization of the race to the Y, she said.

Although in recent years most of the paddlers are in kayaks,  all sorts of manually propelled vessels have entered, including standup paddle boards and the sit down variety, she said. “It is all for fun.”

Shawn Griffith and Aurelia Recoing showed up for the race start, having paddled around from the Southport Bridge. Griffith said the duo might consider completing the circuit in spite of the cancellation.

Quinby offered a platter of homemade bite-sized blueberry muffins to those who lingered at the dock. “I got up at 5:30 to bake these,” she said.

This year’s rowgatta was dedicated in memory of photographer Meredith Knowlton, who had taken event pictures for 20 years before her death this spring, said Quinby.