Lake Escapes: New Hampshire Lakes Association challenges world record – and aquatic invasive species
Kayaks and canoes fill Weirs Bay as a Guinness record attempt is made on Sunday, August 3, 2014. (Alan MacRae/for the Monitor)
Hoey & Suprenant (Alan MacRae/for the Monitor)
Volunteers from NH Lakes pressure wash kayaks to prevent the introduction of invasive species in Lake Winnipesaukee prior to Sunday's event. (Alan MacRae/for the Monitor)
In addition to trying to break two Guinness book records, organizers of Sunday's "Raft-a-palooza on Lake Winnipesaukee sought to raise awareness of and to prevent the introduction of invasive plant species into New Hampshire's lakes. (Alan MacRae/for the Monitor)
The white sticker on my life jacket noted me as No. 277.
I stood among a colorful line of canoes and kayaks, poised on the Lake Winnipesaukee shoreline at Weirs Beach in Laconia yesterday morning. Like other boaters around me, I held the end of my kayak and crouched at the ready. The water lapped quietly at our ankles.
Then, the siren.
Hundreds of people suddenly pushed their canoes and kayaks into the water. I saw a splash to my left, where one kayaker tipped into the water. Eleven-year-old Alison Goedecke paddled her long blue kayak past me with an exhilarated giggle.
“I almost tipped in,” she shouted over to me.
Alison and I (and the unlucky kayaker to my left) were among nearly 400 boats on the water for the New Hampshire Lakes Association’s annual LakeFest. This year, the group was attempting to break two Guinness World Records – one for the largest simultaneous boat launch, the other for the largest boat raft. The Lakes Association, however, had an even bigger goal.
“It’s an educational event in disguise,” Vice President Andrea LaMoreaux said.
Sure, LaMoreaux and event organizer Kim Murdoch had numbers on their minds. But the real purpose of LakeFest is to send a message to as many boaters as possible about “Clean, Drain and Dry,” their campaign to prevent the spread of harmful aquatic species from one body of water to another.
“We thought, ‘What will bring out all these boaters to educate them about the aquatic invasive species?’ ” Murdoch said.
The prospect of breaking a world record did indeed bring out the boaters. A group in Tasmania set the current record for largest simultaneous
boat launch last year; their number was 308. In order to put our effort in the books, we needed to launch more boats from the shore in a 15-second period. The group also challenged a second record for largest raft of canoes and kayaks, which is held by 2,099 boaters in Sutton’s Bay, Mich. The results won’t be official until the Guinness judges review video footage and other information from the event, but 396 boats participated in the launch at Weirs Beach.
Among those participants were Jeff Surprenant, Michele Hoey and their other family members from Lowell, Mass. They sat on their kayaks on the beach and looked out at the open water, soon to be teeming with boaters like themselves.
“It’s really about being out there with 200 or 300 other boats,” said Surprenant, 54. “Take in the view.”
In keeping with the Clean, Drain and Dry promotion, Hoey said she and her sister scrubbed their boats before bringing them to the beach. They chatted with a Lakes Association volunteer before the launch about preventing the spread of those aquatic invasive species. Their team – “Surp’s Up” – donned tie-dye bandanas as they waited for the launch to begin. And they plan on doing it all again, Hoey said.
“We plan on doing it every year,” she said. Until they hit the record, Surprenant joked.
Before the launch, volunteers like the one Hoey met were on site to spread the Clean, Drain and Dry message and conduct boat inspections. LaMoreaux said some species, like different types of milfoil, are damaging to the environment and the aesthetics of lakes. While only 80 of New Hampshire’s roughly 1,000 lakes are home to these aquatic invasive species, they can travel in just a single drop of water. So LaMoreaux said cleaning, draining and drying a boat can help contain them.
“That’s how we prevent the spread of unwanted animals and plants,” she said.
Whether fighting invasive species in New Hampshire’s lakes or challenging a world record, LaMoreaux said yesterday’s efforts made her proud.
“Just the sight of all those boats, I was so pleased we all banded together,” she said.
As we gloated bumper-to-bumper on the lake, the chaos of our launch calmed. I could see Alison’s dad, Peter Goedecke, with a small video camera mounted on his baseball cap to catch footage of his kids. Nearby, a boy pulled out a lunch box he had stowed away in the body of his kayak. I watched a couple take a selfie. A little dog peeked out from between the two paddlers of his canoe. We raised our paddles in a communal salute.
The results of the Guinness World Record challenge will be returned in a few weeks. We didn’t have enough boaters to beat the Sutton Bay record, but I heard a voice cry out from somewhere in the crowd:
“We have more spirit!”
(Megan Doyle can be reached at 369-3321 or firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @megan_e_doyle.)