Adam Spencer, The Triplicate

For the third year in a row, the Gasquet Raft Race garnered record-breaking participation on a sunny Saturday on the Smith River that drew hundreds of rafters and spectators.

It was the largest fundraiser yet for race host Gasquet American Legion Post No. 548, with live music rocking the crowd and deep-pit barbecue pleasing taste buds at the legion's after-race party.

"We made out like bandits," said Jina Bowen, who's been organizing the race for the past three years and designed this year's T-shirt for the 213 racers.

What really added to the delight of spending a sun-soaked day on the river in Gasquet was the attire.

Many rafters, especially those less concerned with

finishing the fastest, vied for best costume and best raft design. In

the 44th annual event, best costume went to a group of women with

glittery wings and brightly colored tutus, the "Super Fairies."

The prize for best raft design went to the Starship

Enterprise, a full-sized river raft that had a round, blow-up kiddie

pool fixed to the front to mimic the Enterprise's disc shape. Water

noodles shooting out from the back looked like the spacecraft's

thrusters. The Enterprise was manned by the Gastineau family and

friends, including Crescent City Councilman Ron Gastineau, who sported

Spock ears.

"Sorry, we only have trophies for first place, but

everyone is a winner here in Gasquet," said Paul Nelson, the MC for the

after-party, as he handed out awards.

Beyond learning my status as a "winner" just for being

in Gasquet, I established three rules for participation in the Gasquet

Raft Race.

Rule No. 1: Be prepared. Especially in a low-water

year, you're bound to hit some rocks, which might just rip your ride. A

stash of repair materials, even it's only duct tape, is key. Preparation

also include snacks, cold beverages and - most importantly - firepower.

Squirt guns, fixed water cannons and other liquid projectors provide the only means of protecting yourself.

Some Gasquet residents with river-front property spent

the afternoon hazing passing rafters with garden hoses and water

balloons, which led to rule No. 2: Don't trust anyone.

That nice old man with his granddaughter telling you

that the deepest and best part of the riffle to run is on river left,

might just spray you in the face when you get close.

My dad, Jack Spencer, who probably won the award for

farthest distance traveled for the race, as he happened to be in

Del Norte visiting during a road trip that started in South Florida,

didn't follow this rule.

He paddled toward the water-cannon-equipped Enterprise

yelling "surrender" and hoping to chat with space travelers. I told him

he was being foolish, after personally having some wet wars with the

Enterprise that day.

"Gastineau!" I yelled. "You honor that surrender!"

But this obviously wasn't the Enterprise of the

diplomatic captain Jean-Luc Piccard, and my dad was quickly doused by

Spock or one of his cohorts.

Earlier, it was my father who couldn't be trusted.

After losing Dad around a couple river bends, I pondered aloud: "I

wonder where my dad is?"

Right at that moment, we heard: "Ambush!" And got sprayed in the face by Pop's water gun as he hid behind a rock.

My dad also helped teach me rule No. 3: Respect the river.

Amid the costumes and carnival-type atmosphere, it's

easy to get careless. Dad got tossed from his inflatable kayak on the

penultimate drop, giving his leg a rock-induced bruise of honor and

losing him a pair of glasses. But he fully redeemed himself with a clean

line down the biggest rapid of the run.

At the finish line parking lot, some rafters saw Dad's license plates and hollered: "Hey, Florida! What are you doing here?"

He responded that he was just there to have a good

time, which of course is the obvious, unspoken and most important rule

of the Gasquet Raft Race: Have fun.

It's never too early to start planning for the next

Gasquet Raft Race, and Jina Bowen still has tubes for sale. Call Jina at


Reach Adam Spencer at

Raft race winners

andbull; Best Raft: "Starship Enterprise" (Gastineau)

andbull; Best Costume: "Super Fairies" (Vaughn)

Fastest time:

andbull; Kayak, ages 12andndash;35, Isaac Blundell; ages 36-up, Scott Bowman

andbull; Oar-Driven Raft: ages 12andndash;16, Eric Wilson; ages 17andndash;40, Zara Gastineau; ages 41andndash;up, Sheila Vaughn

andbull; Hand-Paddled Raft, ages 12andndash;16, Ariana Castro; ages 17andndash;40, Adam from Bayside; ages 41-up, Adair Benoit