Drayton Harbor Days, raft race, this Saturday

Published on Thu, Aug 5, 2010 by By Jeremy Schwartz

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Pirates of all sorts will descend upon Blaine Marina this weekend for the annual Drayton Harbor Days celebration. Visitors to the marina will be able to enjoy numerous activities from a pirate dress-up contest to a display of vintage wooden boats.

“The celebration started about 15 years ago and evolved into this maritime waterfront festival,” said Richard Sturgill, one of the organizers of the event.

Sturgill said the pirate theme developed over the last few years and eventually stuck. In addition to the dress-up contest, which will be judged at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday, a treasure hunt will take place on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the H Street plaza.

For those simply interested in boating, the celebration will also host antique boat displays and rides on the historic Plover ferry. Mike Dodd will be presenting his model boats on both days.

A U.S. Coast Guard helicopter from the Port Angeles air station will provide a rescue demonstration at noon in Drayton Harbor that can be viewed from the downtown plazas as well as the marinas at Blaine and Semiahmoo and the U.S. Border Patrol will also be present to demonstrate their remote controlled patrol vessel, Sturgill said.

As a first for the celebration, a tug of war will take place at 3 p.m. on Saturday at Blaine Marine Park.

A detailed schedule of Drayton Harbor Days events can be found at www.blainechamber.com.

For the last nine years, amateur raft builders of all ages have cobbled together anything that floats in order to compete in the prestigious George Raft race. Anyone interested can become a part of this famed tradition.

The 10th annual George Raft Race will take place Saturday, August 7 as part of Blaine’s Drayton Harbor Days. The race will begin at 1 p.m. with registration starting at 12:30 p.m.

Anyone with an inkling toward the nautical can build their own raft from recycled materials and race from Blaine Marina’s boat launch to the Blaine Boating Center Gate 2, said Bob Knapp, the George Raft race’s founder.

Using only recycled materials is one of the few rules to the race, Knapp said. Rafters attempting to use surfboards or anything else specifically built for travel on water have been disqualified in the past, Knapp explained.

“[Racers can use] what ever floats, really. Everyone gets pretty ingenious,” he said.

The use of paddles is allowed, and wearing personal floatation devices is encouraged. The rafts can be built to hold a total of four people and one dog, Knapp said.

Knapp said there’s no real secret to building a successful raft. Everything from cardboard tubes to empty milk jugs tied together have been used in previous races, he pointed out.

“It’s always hit or miss whether they’re actually going to float or not,” Knapp said.

The idea for a raft race originated in Knapp’s home country of England. Knapp said he decided to bring the idea of small, inter-pub raft races near London to Blaine Marina after talking with Sturgill.

The George Raft race takes its name from a Cockney expression referring to something fun that caused people to laugh, Knapp explained.

Since the race often inspires laughter, Knapp said he thought the George Raft race would be a perfect fit.

“I didn’t think anyone would get it, so it didn’t really matter,” Knapp joked.

Joking aside, Knapp said he thought using an obscure English expression would add to the fun of the raft race. He explained the name has nothing to do with the American actor named George Raft.

The Blaine flotilla of the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary will be staffing a boating safety booth at the Drayton Harbor Days Street Fair. Along with a display of boating safety information, boaters may sign up for a free vessel safety examination or enroll in the Boating Skills and Seamanship class to be held at the Blaine Marina this fall.

For more information on the race and where to borrow building supplies and a personal floatation device, call Bob Knapp at 360/332-3111.