The scent of insect repellent and sunscreen was hard to miss Saturday at the access point by Horace Gasquet Bridge as participants registered for this years Gasquet Raft Race.
From 10 a.m. until noon and beyond, a long line of boats was carried down the precarious bank to the Smith River. By the time the first race was to begin, the open section of the river was covered in a colorful array of boats, swimmers and skin. Squirt cannons blasted streams of water high into the air over the sun-baked rafters as they waited for the start.
While this year’s race featured fewer decorated boats and costumes than previous years, the overall numbers were certainly up. At final tally, 304 people registered for the race, which was divided into eight categories, ranging from inner tubes to oar-driven rafts.
Organizer Shara Soderlund said it’s likely the most the event has ever hosted.
For each category, a small cannon blast marked the start of each race.
By the mid-point, visible from U.S. 199, boats had spread out considerably, as they navigated around trees and boulders.
Down at the “laundry chute,” off U.S. 199, about one in four boats capsized, sending boaters, oars and packs into the drink. Some avoided the rapids area altogether, carrying kayaks and stand up paddleboards over the rocks.
At the finish line, winners were tallied by numbers written on their skin in permanent marker. Most boaters carried their boats back out an uphill trail to the highway.
Soderlund said Monday she felt the event went very well overall, from the weather to the participation.
At the Gasquet Firehouse and American Legion building, crowds enjoyed beef and pork entrees and live music by the Frankie Hernandez Band, of Ashland, Oregon.
“It’s all a great thing,” Soderlund said. “Gasquet is such a cool little community but this also brings in a lot of visitors from outside the area. It’s all for a good cause and I’m just happy to be a part of it.”
She said proceeds raised by the event are used by the American Legion Post 548 to help local veterans.
Kayaks ages 12-35: Eric Turner
Kayaks 36 & up: Mike Smith
Oar Driven Rafts 12-16: Ricardo De Solenni
Oar Driven Rafts 17-40: James Wood
Oar Driven Rafts 41 & up: Rusty Hurd
Hand Paddled 12-16: Jed Kirsch
Hand Paddled 17-40: Kelsey Reason
Hand Paddled 41 & up: Travis Springer
Best Costumes: The River Rats
Best Decorated Raft: Good Clean Fun