Ski to Sea

Ski to Sea canoe leg more than a lazy ride down Nooksack River

Nick Bauer and Jim Bauer of Bank Of The Pacific Veterans (212) battle Trevor Robinson and Joe Manns of GetSimpleBox.com during the canoeing leg of the 2014 Ski to Sea Race.
Nick Bauer and Jim Bauer of Bank Of The Pacific Veterans (212) battle Trevor Robinson and Joe Manns of GetSimpleBox.com during the canoeing leg of the 2014 Ski to Sea Race. The Bellingham Herald

THE COURSE

Year leg added to the race: 1973 (one of the original three).

Where: On the Nooksack River, from Everson’s Riverside Park to Hovander Homestead Park outside Ferndale.

Course length: About 18 1/2 miles.

Approximate time to complete: One hour, 45 minutes for top finishers, two hours or more for everybody else.

Course description: It’s not just a lazy ride down the Nooksack River. Competitors will have to navigate a course that is considered class 1 (on a 1 to 6 scale), but there are plenty of deceptive hazards due to logjams, submerged logs, undercut trees and other obstructions. Water level will play a key role in the speed of the river, and it’s likely a number of competitors could go for a swim.

Canoe race chair: Don Hale.

Canoe exchange co-chairs: Sue Schwab and David Schwab.

Pre-race meeting: 9:30 a.m. at Riverside Park in Everson.

Recommended departure time from Bellingham: 7:45 a.m.

Timing chip: Receive the timing chip from the road biker, swipe the chip to record the finish time for the road biking leg, canoe to Hovander Homestead Park, pass the chip to the cyclocross biker. The cyclocross rider will swipe the chip to record the finish time for the canoe leg.

8.5 Approximate average current speed of the Nooksack River (in mph) at high river levels. That speed varies dramatically from year to year.

1:56:34 Time of last year’s top canoeing tandem, Ivan English and Mike Vincent of Aeromech — nearly 13 minutes slower than the top time from 2014 because river levels were so low in 2015.

2 Competitors for each team in the canoe leg — the only Ski to Sea leg that isn’t an individual event.

What’s new in 2016

More spring runoff: After low snowpack in the mountains last year, the Nooksack River was much lower and slower than usual in 2015. The top time in the leg was nearly 10 minutes slower than teams have been averaging, and that was a direct result of the water levels. With a more normal snowpack this year, expect the water levels to be up and the river speeds to be closer to the 8.5 mph they average on race day. But don’t get too excited — conditions around race day can greatly impact the river levels and have been known to cause problems and even have forced the leg to be cancelled in the past.

TRAVEL AND VIEWING ADVICE

Park Drive, directly in front of the park, will be closed from 10 a.m. until 1 p.m. to all vehicles to facilitate the exchange. Traffic between Lynden and Everson will be routed to Van Buren Road and Hampton Road during the exchange time. Parking for participants will be in a field just north of the park, unless it rains. Parking will be distributed throughout the area if the fields are too wet to drive on.

Best place to watch the leg: While any of the bridges over the Nooksack River between Everson and Ferndale offer a great view, the best place may be any beaches near the Guide Meridian and Hannegan bridges if the water levels aren’t too high. If it’s a nice day, bring a picnic lunch.

TIPS FOR THE RACE

▪ Racers can take canoes to the park Saturday, May 28, and Boy Scouts will watch them overnight.

▪ Racers should remember that they must haul their canoes down the dirt path to the launching area. Boy Scouts also will be available to help haul the canoes.

▪ Loose-fitting clothing is best. Keep in mind you’ll have to wear a life vest. Wear a jacket that you can easily take off because you’ll work up a sweat.

▪ You can tip over. Be ready for this. Wear clothing that air-dries fast.

▪ Stay in the middle of the river. Paddling from side to side won’t give racers an advantage.

▪ Coast Guard-approved life jackets must be worn at all times during the leg. The river also will be closed to all boats but those in the competition and safety boats.

2015 Top finishers

Men: Ivan English/Mike Vincent (Aeromech / Sensible.Technology) 1:56:34

Women: Catherine Trask/Fiona Vincent (Boomer's Drive-In Mixed) 2:09:17

Mixed: Jacki Caplan-Auerbach/Collin Smith (#calmerthanyouare) 2:12:22

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