TATAMAGOUCHE – Jamie Shortt’s face lit up like a light bulb when the idea hit home. Then he took off in a flash.
Moments after launching a handmade canoe in the Waugh River at Patterson wharf, the North Colchester High School student shot into a crowd of onlookers leaving his rowing partner Tristan Hayton watching water slowly pool in the bow.
“We’ve got a leak,” said Hayton, pointing to a steady stream of water seeping into his canoe. “He’s gone to find some gum.”
Not willing to sacrifice a chance to win bragging rights at the inaugural Quick n’ Dirty boatbuilding challenge boat race on Wednesday, Shortt returned seconds later madly chomping a piece of chewing gum to soften it just enough to plug the hole.
“It’s working,” he exclaimed after shoving the sticky wad into the troublesome gap.
Once the pair was confident the boat was sound, they jumped in, grabbed their paddles and joined two other rowing teams at the race starting line.
This event marked the conclusion of a community project that began in early August spearheaded by the Boat Shop at the Creamery Square in Tatamagouche.
On Aug. 3, four teams took on a challenge to build an 18-foot long Peace Canoe within 15 hours using only hand-tools.
Supplies were provided and mentors were available to assist teams during their daunting task.
“It’s ultimately about getting an apprentice program at the boat building shop,” said challenge spokeswoman Jayne Holmes.
“That’s my goal.”
She said another aim of the event was to raise awareness of boat building in the community highlighting its historic ties to the area.
“It was to celebrate the skill and use of hand tools to create a boat.”
Teams trying their hand at boat building were Big Al’s (restaurant), North Colchester High School, Tatamagouche Centre and the Creamery Square Arts Society.
Holmes said the initial plan was to race the boats the day they were completed, however, an “attachment” happened and the builders wanted time to waterproof and paint their prized new vessels to preserve them.
While the Tatamagouche Centre team was unable to participate in the race, the remaining three teams were eager to test their handyman skills.
Once the ‘start’ flag was dropped, paddlers quickly dug in, heading to the finish line at Campbell’s bridge. High school students and staff who came to the wharf to cheer on their team, jogged more than a half-kilometer along the Trans Canada Trail to the former railway bridge over the French River for a bird’s-eye view of the paddler’s progress.
The meet lasted 10 minutes and 14 seconds with Big Al’s boat, paddled by high school student Nick Carey and Spurgeon Stewart, first to cross the mark.
“We had the wind on our faces the whole way and we were fighting a current,” Spurgeon said after a round of congratulatory high-fives and hugs on dry land.
Hayton, taking on the full burden of paddling, and Shortt, laid back relaxing at the stern, took second place, gliding to the finish with ease, water-stopping gumball still intact.
“There was no competition because we knew we were second,” said Hayton.
“We were a little bit zigzaggy at first when we were steering but we did OK after that.”
Lou Tyacke, sporting sparkly blue eye shadow with her flaming red hair in braids, and teammate Sara Brinkhurst enjoyed the morning ride so much they opted to drop out of the race to enjoy the view.
“We were looking at the kingfishers,” said Brinkhurst. “We were going for style.
“It’s not the destination, it’s the journey.”
Holmes said plans are already underway for the second annual Quick n’ Dirty event.
“It was just a tremendous success and the feedback has been nice,” said the spokeswoman. “The feedback has spurred me on and made me more determined to do it next year.”
Quick n’ Dirty facts:
The Quick n’ Dirty boat building challenge was held Wednesday in Tatamagouche.
The four teams entered in the challenge were: Big Al’s (restaurant), North Colchester High School, Tatamagouche Centre and the Creamery Square Arts Society.
Each team constructed an 18-foot long Peace Canoe using only hand tools with in 15 hours.
In the weeks since construction on Aug. 3, three of the boats were painted to preserve the wood.
The painted boats, each carrying two team members, raced from Patterson Wharf to Campbell’s bridge on Sept. 18 setting the record to beat of 10 minutes 14 seconds.
The Creamery Square Arts Society is raffling off its canoe as a fundraiser for the group. The draw will be held on Oct. 1 at 8 p.m., at Big Al’s. For ticket information, visit the Facebook page Creamery Square, Tatamagouche.