The Parish Paddlers

3 mins read


On June 22, the Beaufort Waterfront is going to be packed with participants and observers as the latest Dragon Boat Race takes place. This is the seventh year the races have taken place here. It is one of those popular fundraisers where local citizens raise money to assist cancer patients who live, work or receive treatment for cancer treatments. 

My church was recruiting people for its group, The Parish Paddlers, so I decided to investigate it. 

When I first called them, I was picturing these young athletic college men and women who would see me and cringe. 

But Sally Miller who responded to my phone call assured me that I would not be the oldest. As a matter of fact there were people in their 80s on the team.

So, I went down one Saturday morning to watch. 

First, anyone who can climb in a paddle boat and pick up a paddle can and should do it. It’s easy and it is fun. There is also a collective desire for all these paddlers to be there to support the cause. That common interest binds this team immediately. 

The boats can have up to 22 people, with 20 paddlers facing toward the bow, one drummer (or caller) who sits at the front of the boat and faces the paddlers, and finally, the steer person at the rear of the boat. 

I thought it would be fun to be the drummer, but someone had already taken that place. Talk about a great job. Ride along while everyone else does the work and all you do is call out commands. I am very good at telling people what to do

Besides, there are a slew of fun “Dragon Boat orders” the caller must know. Like “Hitting the catch” “Hold the boat hard,” “Paddles in the boat” and “Prepare to back down.” 

I was practicing in my office when my husband came into my office.

“What are you doing?” he said.

“I’m practicing being a Drummer on a Dragon Boat for The Parish Paddlers. I was told there is one assigned already, but I’m thinking they might need a backup, so I’m practicing just in case.”

That is when he reminded me that we have another family obligation that could not be ignored, and I could not play on the Dragon Boat.

I called Sally with the bad news, but she assured me that I could be on the team next year. 

That is when I told her that I was practicing for the Drummer position and explained how well I can bark out commands and call out “Time it up!” to get all the paddlers in sync. 

She only laughed and said pleasantly, “We’ll see you next year, Lee.”

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