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Texas Water Safari 2007

One of the things a pastor rarely gets to do is to participate in outside activities that occur over the weekend. But a privilege of the sabbatical is doing just that. In previous years I have been able to ‘follow’ the Texas Water Safari only on Saturday, the first day of the race. After that I had to come home to preach. But this year I got to follow the whole race from it’s beginning in San Marcos to the finish 260 miles later in Seadrift, TX. This year was an especially appropriate time for me to have this opportunity, because for the first time two of my daughters were paddling. Abbie paddled with Tim in a boat called ‘Turtle Hunting’ and Hannah paddled with Sarah Walliser and Holly Nelson Orr in a boat called ‘Texas Sweethearts’ or just ‘the girls’.

Here are some pictures and descriptions from the race, June 9th to the 12th, 2007.

Preparing the Boats 

The day before the race is spent preparing the boats, the provisions and the paddlers. Here Stephen Rask goes through the supplies that are required on each boat with one of the Safari officials, while others, including Hannah, look on and make other preparations.

DeGray Clan 

The DeGray clan and close associates just before the beginning of the race.

Tree Limb

Sometimes it seems that those who follow the race face as many dangers as those who paddle. This tree limb (that’s just a limb, not a whole tree) fell for no apparent reason at 1:13 a.m. on Friday morning, and landed within two feet of a tent where two people from the Trinity young adults group were (to that point) peacefully sleeping.

Abbie & Tim's support team 

Each boat is supported by a team. All food, equipment and provisions have to be aboard the boat when the race starts, but the team can supply water, ice and information as they meet the boats every twenty miles or so. Here Bethany waits with the support team for Abbie and Tim’s boat. Abby Kittle was team captain, Ruth was assistant team captain, and Jonathan Kittle drove the support team through all hours of the day and night.

Abbie and Tim

Abbie and Tim looking good in ‘Turtle Hunting’ early in the race. Actually they looked good throughout the race. The water was high, and all the boats set a fast pace, but Abbie and Tim held their own throughout. They finished in 39 hours and 48 minutues, seventh overall and second in their class and only 16 minutes slower than Peter and Kathy Derrick’s mixed record (which, unfortunately, was broken by the first boat in their class).

Holly, Hannah and Sarah 

Holly, Hannah and Sarah at the same point in the race. ‘The girls’, as they were known, looked strong throughout the race and had a great time. They were the only all-female team in the race, and thus took first place in that category, but they also beat the previous record for fastest women’s team by over an hour. They finished in 44 hours and 51 minutes.

Approaching Palmetto Bridge 

Peter and Philip Rask approaching the bridge at Palmetto State Park. The picture also shows the setting of one of the scarier moments we had while following the race. On the gravel up-river and to the left are the support teams for Peter and Philip (Doug Rask, captain) and for Holly, Sarah and Hannah (Holly’s mom, Janet Nelson, captain) and a number of others who were following these paddlers. After the boats passed a good sized group decided that instead of scrambling up the poison ivy infested bank, they would walk down the left side of the river (left side of the picture). The lead contingent in this group included Bethany and Michael DeGray, Mikayla Norman and Janet Nelson, closely followed by Janet’s son-in-law, Holly’s husband, Bill Orr.

As the group approached the bridge they moved just a little too far to their right, into the turbulence you can see in the picture. First Janet and then the other three (but not Bill) were swept into the bridge, which is really more of a ford than a bridge. It has spaces at the top for water to pass through and over, and tunnels or openings for water to pass through. Since the water was high, it was about six inches above the bridge but also flowing very forcefully through the bridge. It was into this undercurrent that the people were drawn. Bill, seeing what was happening, braced himself and began to help Mrs. Nelson. Bethany had hold of both Michael and Mikayla, but all three were being drawn under. She first gave Michael’s hand to me (I had been standing on the bridge taking pictures) and then lunged to try to help Mikayla, at the same time losing any hold of her own. Between her and Bill they managed to get Mikayla into the hands of Jim Walliser, who was on the bridge, and he pulled her out. Bethany then slid under, almost completely under the bridge, but Bill grabbed her hand and pulled her back, and someone (unknown) on the bridge grabbed her.

In the end there were no injuries more serious than bruises and scrapes, but it was a scary moment and we thanked God for his provisions that made it no worse than it was.

Stephen Rask 

Despite the incident on the bridge, it was still a good place to take pictures. Here Stephen Rask, paddling solo, approaches the standing wave at the front of the bridge.

Holly Hannah and Sarah 

Holly, Hannah, and Sarah at the same spot.

Michael and Fish 

When we reached the finish line at Seadrift, Michael continued to pursue his favorite part of the Safari, fishing. According to his report he caught ten fish, including the catfish shown. He also caught a small snapper which he cleaned (actually Jonathan Rask cleaned it) and brought home on ice. He had the tiny fillets for lunch with mild enthusiasm.

Abbie Speaking

When most (but by no means all) of the boats have come in, an awards ceremony is held at Seadrift. Here Abbie and Tim have received their plaque for their seventh place finish. Abbie said that given such a good time and fast time for her first safari, she might just quit while she was ahead. We’ll see.

Holly, Hannah, Sarah and Team 

The girl’s took home a boat load of trophies, including the cup for first place women’s team. With Holly are her mom (and team captain) Janet Nelson and her husband Bill Orr.

There isn’t space or pictures enough to tell all the stories from even one Safari. But all the Trinity-related paddlers did well:

Place 6, boat 6, Tommy Yonley, 38:04 – Sunday 23:04

Place 7, boat 105, Abbie and Tim, 39:48 – Monday 00:48

Place 12, boat 175, Jonathan Yonley, 42:30 – Monday 03:30

Place 14, boat 17, Jonathan and Rebecca Zeek, 44:23 – Monday 04:23

Place 16, boat 221, Stephen Rask, 44:49 – Monday 05:49

Place 17, boat 259, Hannah, Sarah and Holly, 44:51 – Monday 05:51

Place 20, boat 109, Peter and Philip Rask, 47:06 – Monday 08:06

Place 23, boat 110, Max Feaster and Stephanie McFerren, 47:33 – Monday 08:33

Place 59, boat 84, Jordan Mills, 68:04:00 – Tuesday 05:04

(apologies to anyone we missed)