Dragon boats are born from legend. The legend is of Chinese poet, Qu Yuan, who after being banished from his country and hearing his homeland was invaded, threw himself in a river and drowned. It is said the River Dragon shared his sorrow and flew to a quiet place with him. Over two thousand years have passed since then, but the legend of Qu Yuan lives on today with the help of Dragon Boat festivals held around the world in his honor. One of the highlights of these festivals are the Dragon Boat races. A dragon boat is a slender watercraft about 40 feet long and designed to be paddled by a team of 20 people sitting side by side. A dragon figurehead adorns the bow of the boat. Also in the bow sits a drummer, who beats an even tempo to help keep the paddlers in unison. In the stern of the boat sits a steer person, who controls the direction of the craft with a 9-foot oar, but also gives various commands to the crew. The drummer and steer person are in charge in this sport. At a festival, multiple dragon boats compete in heats to determine a winner. Fifty thousand people participate in this sport worldwide and all ages, genders and ability levels are welcome. All you need for the sport is a paddle, a lifejacket, stamina and the ability to work in a team. No special skills are required. Dragonheart Vermont The sport has also become a way for cancer survivors and those battling the disease to band together to raise public awareness. There are over 50 teams comprised of breast cancer survivors throughout the United States and Canada. Dragonheart Vermont is one such organization. Host Marianne Eaton joins the Dragonheart Vermont team as they take part in the annual Pawtucket Rhode Island Dragon Boat competition.
When you first see an Adirondack guideboat, your eyes might trick you into thinking it's a big, wide canoe with extra-long paddles. While it is a double-ended rowing boat, the similarities end there. Adirondack guideboats were the creation of 19th-century guides in the Adirondack lake region who needed a watercraft that could hold passengers, all their camping and hunting gear, a dog and maybe the bounties of their hunting and fishing endeavors. Because the water was not always easily accessible back then, the boat had to be light enough to portage from lake to lake, meaning the guide had to be able to carry the craft on his back, sometimes for long distances. The boats had to not only be light, they had to be adaptable to changing conditions in the wild including waves, wind and rough landing areas. Standard rowboats were not suited to this travel task and the Adirondack guideboat was born, being refined over many years by the guides themselves, which produced a watercraft of remarkable stability, maneuverability and light weight. These boats became the choice of guides throughout the Adirondack lake region. By the latter part of the 19th century, when visitors from cities such as Boston and New York were drawn from the Adirondacks to the Catskills, these North Country watercraft were no longer in high demand. But thanks to its durable design, which makes it easy to row and big enough to carry lots of gear, the guideboats remained a favorite with outdoor enthusiasts, often being passed down through generations. Today, early guideboats are sought-after museum pieces and a whole new generation has discovered the advantages of these graceful craft. Steve Kaulback can be credited with assisting the return of interest in Adirondack guideboats. Coming from a fine arts background, he became interested in the aesthetics of the boat. "And then I got in one for the first time," he says, "and [I] realized that the adage 'form follows function' is just so true ... not only was it a beautiful boat, but it was one of the finest performing boats I had ever been in." His interest led him to create Adirondack Guideboat Inc. in Charlotte, Vermont. Steve not only builds both wooden and fiberglass Adirondack guideboats but also offers a kit to anyone interested in building their own cedar model. In this segment, host Marianne Eaton takes to the water in an Adirondack, and joins Steve Kaulback in the shop at Adirondack Guideboat to lend a hand in building one of these amazing, historical boats.
Host Marianne Eaton joins the Dragonheart Vermont team as they take part in the annual Pawtucket Rhode Island Dragon Boat, we then head out with a Nature Conservancy volunteer to attempt to find and videotape the elusive five-lined skink in its Vermont habitat, and lastly host Lawrence Pyne joins Bill Engelmann of Northeast Kingdom Guide Service for a day of bass fishing on Lake Memphremagog.