Tugs still chugging nearly 3 decades later|
By Brian Kelly, Sault Star, Monday, July 6, 2009.
His tugboat is slow, but Don Delayer keeps moving at a pretty good clip.
The only surviving captain of the first Great Tugboat Race in 1982 fortified himself for Saturday's 28th annual race with a stack of pancakes on board a barge before exchanging a series of quips, and greetings, with other race participants.
"I've got my cheatin' clothes on," said Delayer to one participant as he made his way to his tug, Boomalong, after breakfast.
The annual race along the St. Mary's River began nearly 30 years ago when Al Bourgond, Howard Avery and Delayer decided to settle a dispute about whose tugboat was the fastest with a race at Gros Cap.
"Everybody was arguing about who was the fastest," said Delayer, 82.
"(A race) is one way to settle it. Howard said, 'Come on, put 'em all together and see what they can do.'"
Delayer credits Avery, a local entrepreneur who died in 2005 at age 78, for launching what has become a long-time fundraiser that has raised more than $240,000 -- with an estimated $20,000 to $25,000 coming from this year's race -- to help children with physical disabilities in the Twin Saults.
"I think it's terrific," Delayer said of the dollars raised.
"There's a lot of kids a lot healthier and happier by what's happened here."
That captains of slow-moving tugboats continue to square off against one another in good-natured competition each year is a pleasant surprise for Delayer.
He expected the race would have ended long before 2009.
"I thought maybe it would fade away because lots of times when (you) get a deal like that going, the interest eventually fades and fades," said Delayer.
"You got to have young people coming up. There's lots of them that are willing to get in there and work like this guy here (current Boomalong co-captain Neil Robertson's son, Jamie)."
Saturday's race featured race president Julie Gardiner's daughter behind the wheel of Ricketts Harbour and her son captaining Queen of Hearts. Avery's son, Jeff, guided the 67-year-old Regan.
"It's the second generation coming up," said Gardiner.
Delayer has owned the Boomalong since 1973. The 100-horsepower vessel was built in 1944 as a harbour tug for the Canadian navy. It has a top speed of about eight knots, or about 15 kilometres an hour.
"When we aren't going slow, we're stopped," said De-layer.
"You could probably walk as fast . . . (Tugboats) were never meant to be fast. Just to work."
Work was something Delayer tried not to do Saturday. These days, he leaves the captain's duties to Robertson and John Campbell.
But before he sat down on a plastic chair on the tug's rear deck alongside Campbell, Delayer stood behind the wheel to guide the Boomalong out of its berth.
"He always does the tricky spots," said lifelong friend Barb Lapointe. "He has the expertise plus, plus."
Saturday's race marked the first time since 1982 the three original tugs, Boomalong, Renesue and Whitney III, competed by themselves.
"It's really a special race that we're running mostly for Don Delayer's sake," said Gardiner.
"I think it's great. I think it's going to be a lot of fun. It's just so much history. This is where it started."
The slow-poke Boomalong placed first.
Sean Morettin was cheering for the Avery Bay in the 200-to-500 horsepower division.
His brother, Matthew, and stepfather, Ab Senecal, were on board. Morettin also knew the captain, Dan Avery.
This is the third year the Checker Cab custodian has taken in the races. His collapsable chair was strategically placed on the boardwalk outside the Civic Centre to catch the tugs as they raced westward.
"You see everything," said Morettin, who was decked out in an event T-shirt, ball cap and button.
"It's like a tourist attraction. People can come out and have a good time."
The day ended on a sombre note when a volunteer collapsed at Clergue Park. The man is believe to have suffered a cardiac arrest, said captain Terry Dubois of Sault Ste. Marie Fire Services. He died at Sault Area Hospital.
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Gator:Whitney III, Cobra, Ricketts Harbour;
Fish Tugs:Leila Mae, Kelsey T;
0-200 horsepower:Sheila P, Scottish Thistle, Queensville;
200-500 horsepower:J. D. Graham, Regan, Decelles;
500+ horsepower:Wilfred Cohen, Reliance, Isaac Purvis;
Original Three:Boomalong, Whitney III, Renesue;
Grudge match (big tugs): Decelles, J. D. Graham, Avery Bay;
Grudge match (small tugs): Sheila P, Queensville, Scottish Thistle;
Best-dress tug:Whitney III.