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NARRAGANSETT-This July three daring canoeists will start their journey in becoming the first people to canoe across Rhode Island.
Their adventure will start in North Smithfield, and after traveling a total of 101 miles through 17 cities over eight days, they will land in Westerly. This crazy idea came to local canoeist and supervisor at the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management, Chuck Horbert, 46, of North Scituate. He then decided he needed to find some traveling companions adventurous enough to come along.
âThe idea to do this struck me one day as I was paddling with a group about four years ago on the Blackstone River, and I facetiously asked someone on the shore how far we had to go to get to Westerly,â said Horbert. âI then started to wonder if it was even possible or feasible, and after review of a lot of maps and aerial photos, I determined it was, and wanted to take on the challenge.â
Canoeing along Horbert will be Jim Cole, 67, of Charlestown and Bill Luther, 62, of Seekonk, Mass., both experienced canoeists. The trio met through their participation in the Rhode Island Canoe & Kayak Association where they have all served as President at one time or another. Â Cole is an American Canoe Association certified canoe instructor, and author of a paddling guidebook, âPaddling Connecticut and Rhode Islandâ, and Luther has over 30 years of canoeing experience, making the two perfectly suited for the ambitious journey.
Recently, the three men have canoed multiple trips together, further preparing them for what is to come with this next big adventure. Horbert has completed trips that have taken as many as 10 days and over 100 miles, however this one is different.
âThis trip will be a little different primarily since Â it will happen in a basically urban/suburban environment where not many people would even consider such a trip is even possible,â said Horbert.
Horbert and Cole attempted this trip once before last year, but Tropical Storm Andrea quickly ended it on the day they were planning to leave. This year, they have made both physical and mental preparations to assure a successful trip. However Horbert admits the unknown aspects of what could happen during this type of trip is one of his biggest concerns.
â Any time a canoe trip of this nature is undertaken, many things could happen that may affect the trip,â explained Horbert. âOther things like trees across the river could present a danger, but those types of things will normally only present a delay since we will be prepared for them.â
Aside from the mental and physical preparations they are making, there are the supplies that will make the trip comfortable and enjoyable.
âA lot of beer,â joked Horbert. âAll kidding aside, aside from the bare necessities of tents, sleeping bags, clothing and food, we plan to take advantage of the extra room a canoe provides, as compared to a kayak.â
Additional supplies include but are not limited to comfortable chairs, coolers, safety equipment, cell phones, tarps and a water filter to replenish their water supply along the way. However, these supplies wonât prevent the possible obstacles caused by nature, including the upstream segments along the Pawtuxet River, and the 10 mile trip on foot where they will have to carry their canoes.
âI have no real idea how difficult it may be to paddle upstream up the Pawtuxet River, at least on the main stem,â said Horbert. âWe will just have to see.â
Along with these considerations, the route has to be specifically identified and coordinated, which Horbert says has been the hardest part about preparing.
âIâve had to identify all of the portage routes around dams and over watershed divides and make sure they are feasible,â said Horbert. âAlso Iâve had to identify potential campsites and obtain landowner permission to camp.â
During his journey, Horbert also hopes he will raise some awareness about issues with river access, as he plans to make some stops along the way to identify advocacy groups and organizations to encourage the use of water trails. As a board member of Rhode Island Blueways Alliance he intends to bring attention to the various known and unknown paddling routes in Rhode Island. Â
â I wish to advocate for the benefits of communities reconnecting with the rivers that flow through them, highlight the good work that watershed groups do in protecting water quality and promote the idea that there is healthy adventure awaiting anyone, even here in a very developed state,â said Horbert.
The three passionate canoeists have worked hard in preparing for this first time trip that will also advocate something they have all been involved with for years. If everything goes as planned, Horbert, Cole and Luther will arrive in Westerly on July 13 feeling very accomplished. Â