From June to September, the Chesapeake Bay’s fleet of log canoes stage a weekly water ballet as the delicate flotilla of century-old sailboats battle for bragging rights. The series of regattas take place up and down the Eastern Shore on the Miles, Tred Avon, Chester and Choptank rivers.
These races are characterized by long runs up and down the river with hair-raising mark roundings that often result in several boats unceremoniously dumping their crews in the water, there to await rescue by one of several tenders that ply the racecourse, tow ropes at the ready.
2023 Log Canoe schedule
- Jun 24-25: MRYC Centennial Series
- Jul 8-9: CRYCC/CRYC Series
- Jul 15-16: RHYC Series
- Jul 29-30: MRYC Gov. Cup Series
- Jul 29: Boardman’s Challenge – MRYC
- Aug 12-13: TAYC/CBYC Oxford Regatta
- Aug 19-20: CYC Hicks Trophy Series
- Aug 26-27: TAYC Heritage Regatta
- Sep 9-10: MRYC Labor Day Series
- Sep 16: MRYC Higgins/Commodore Cups
- Sep 17: CBMM Bartlett Cup
“Once she goes over,” Island Blossom’s long-time skipper Corbin Penwell cautions, “it’s all over for the racing. Pretty tough to get these boats back up and sailing. We save the beer for the ride home and live to race another day.”
Today, there are fewer than 24 log canoes racing on the Bay. Originally, the boats were simple workboats, constructed of three or five logs fitted together to form the hull. The canoes range from 23 to 34 feet in length and carry 500- to over-1,200 square feet of sail.
Moveable ballast in the form of hefty crewmen who scramble up and down 12- to 15-foot-long hiking boards keep the boats upright…most of the time. When the skippers lose the wind or a puff comes up unexpectedly, the boats do a slow-motion roll that is almost impossible to stop when the boats reach a certain tipping point.
Viewing options are limited but worthwhile.
The Chesapeake Bay Museum’s restored buy boat, the Winnie Estelle, was a favorite viewing platform for racing on the Miles River for many years. This year, however, she is laid up waiting for a refit which will last through the summer. In its place, the museum is giving spectators the option to charter one of the museum’s classic boats for $375 for a two-hour cruise holding six passengers. CBMM members will receive a 20 percent discount. Cruises are slated for June 24 and 25, July 29 and 30, and Sept. 9, 10, 16 and 17. Slots are filling up quickly, says Membership Services Coordinator Debbie Ruzicka. To reserve a boat, go to: bit.ly/LogCanoeCruises2023.
Patriot Cruises general manager Robin Marrah says guests on their 145-passenger tour boat may get a glimpse of the log canoes on race day, but their narrated cruises don’t specifically follow the racing on the river.
For better viewing, check out the Selina II. Captain Iris Robertson’s 41-foot catboat offers a number of viewing options for log canoe racing on the Miles River. Guests can either book a regularly scheduled cruise for around $125 or charter the entire boat for $550 for a personalized experience you won’t soon forget. Captain Iris recommends guests check racing schedules carefully and contact her directly to secure a spot on this classic boat before it sells out. “You’ll get a real feel for the racing from our decks,” she says. “We follow the fleet just outside the boundary lines. It’s quite a thrill to be this close to the action.”
Additional opportunities for viewing may be available by contacting the sponsoring yacht clubs to see if members will be taking guests aboard for the races.
Some venues may offer on-shore viewing opportunities depending on the location of the racecourse. Another good resource is the Log Canoe Sailors Facebook page.