The much anticipated, first-of-its-kind Bay Paddle team relay got underway Friday morning in Havre de Grace as paddlers set off from Concord Point Park, through thick underwater grasses, and out towards the open Bay.
In all, competing teams will spend eight days traversing the Chesapeake from top to bottom. Teammates will take turns completing daily legs of the race, then spend each night ashore. A few paddlers came into the race with the goal of traveling the entire length of the Bay solo, but the only person who has achieved that so far is Chris Hopkinson, the original Bay Paddler, who completed the feat last summer. Hopkinson is leading this year’s event in hopes of sharing his impactful experience with the paddling community.
The Bay Paddle is more than a personal journey for paddlers, though: it raises funds and awareness for the Bay’s oysters (through Oyster Recovery Partnership) and the campaign to designate the Chesapeake Bay as a National Recreation Area (through Chesapeake Conservancy).
As of Wednesday, the paddlers were officially crossing from Maryland into Virginia waters, hugging the Eastern Shore. While some participants are seasoned endurance paddlers, others are water enthusiasts who have never attempted something on this scale. Among them is a team of 34 teachers, all hailing from the area of Annapolis known as the Broadneck peninsula (between the Magothy and Severn rivers).
The Broadneck Peninsula Paddlers consist of educators from Arnold, Belvedere, Cape St. Claire, and Windsor Farm elementary schools and Severn River Middle and Broadneck High School. The Bay Paddle is underway just as the teachers are readying their classrooms for the first day of school—a challenge in itself.
Bay Bulletin caught up with team organizer Stacy Roth to learn more about their ambitious plans.
BB: Tell us about your team. What’s the range in paddling experience?
SR: We have a wide range. Most of us have been on the water in some capacity. I would say we only have three or four experts, with the rest of us being recreational enthusiasts. No doubt everyone is stepping out of their comfort zone.
BB: How do you think being a team of teachers helps give you an advantage?
SR: I would say our greatest strengths are being resourceful, flexible, and determined to make it work, no matter what. We are used to putting a lot of our personal time and energy into things we believe to be meaningful and worthwhile for our students and school communities, and being prepared to adapt at a moments notice. Detailed planning around countless factors and obstacles is a strength of ours.
BB: Have you found ways to get your students involved?
SR: We are planning educational programming in each of our schools around the Bay Paddle. We believe we can connect with our students in four ways:
- Mental Preparedness and wellness
- Physical Preparedness and preparing for the elements
- Environmental Literacy and stewardship
- Community partnerships and service
BB: Why is it important to this group to support the causes Bay Paddle raises funds for: oyster restoration and a National Recreation Area?
SR: Because this is how we save the Bay. Everyone needs to do their part. As teachers we can help by fundraising, raising awareness, and educating our school communities.
When they return from their epic achievement, the team will host a Meet the Paddlers Restaurant Night on Monday, Sept. 13 at the Point Crab House and Grill in Arnold, Md. The team will tell about their adventure and kick off the community and school programming they’re planning following the Bay Paddle, sharing information about Oyster Recovery Partnership and Chesapeake Conservancy, and giving away prizes. A portion of the restaurant’s sales will go to the team fundraiser.
You can follow the team’s progress at Broadneck Peninsula Paddlers on Facebook, or @baypaddleteachers on Instagram. Look for updates on the entire Bay Paddle on the BayPaddle Facebook page.
–Meg Walburn Viviano