OMG!! The Blackburn Challenge is this Saturday!

Click here for new 2017 map.

A Twenty plus mile open water race around Cape Ann sponsored by the Cape Ann Rowing Club using seaworthy oar or paddle powered craft. Saturday, July 22, 2017.

I’ve added several Easter Eggs to the map. Find out what Cisco, the lovable 397 pound Great White Shark thinks of the race.

Off course!! There be dragons to the east.  Also Cisco.

Blackburn Challenge Rubber Duck Wrap Up

Preliminary results posted on this page. It was a perfect day. Nice high tide in the Annisquam, flat water most of the way around, lovely breeze, choppiest water was the last two miles in Gloucester Harbor.

So Russ Cone and Tom Bohrer go around Cape Ann in a sliding seat double in 2 hours 26 minutes. Are you serious? 9 mph or around 7.8 knots! The harbormaster will give you a ticket in the “No Wake” zone going that fast. How is that possible to do for a hundred yards much less over 20 miles of bumpy water? It is possible because a majority of the contestants in the Blackburn seem to be only made out of leather and sinew and have likely run an Ironman triathlon in the past week. Conversations at the high school before we take off, “I only drink coconut milk and free range basil the day before so my potassium levels are high and I don’t get twitchy.” Well shit I wish someone had told me that before I had three martinis and pork ribs the night before because I sure got twitchy out there.

For the rest, you should really click on the Blackburn Challenge 2016 Results. Each posted time is a story. The SUP stand up paddles mostly made it under 5 hours. That is amazing. I always find the most amazing are the dories and work boats posting faster times than me. Rubber Duck is in a 30 pound kayak and they are in a quarter ton or much more boat. You could pile ten lobster traps in the stern and they might add a few seconds to their time.

So how did the Rubber Duck do? I finished. 5:22:07. My goal is to break 5 hours but I blew a seal at Lanes Cove. Maybe three seals. They jumped in my boat and wanted to party. No wait, wrong type of seal. I whip down the Annisquam and actually still see the leaders of SK kayaks at the river mouth. Which means I am going too fast and not pacing myself. And sure enough one elbow and one leg get a case of the twitchies and I have to take my feet off the pegs and straight arm paddle for 30 minutes while I dream of coconut milk. Sandy Bay is a stretched out nightmare that never ends and by Milk Island I am in survival mode. Just finish. By Good Harbor Beach I want to paddle in and throw myself onto the shore but I would scare the kids and the piping Plovers would run away. Being a local I know exactly where Brace Rock is and how long the Dogbar Breakwater is (over two thousand gruesome feet!) and Gloucester Harbor measures exactly two miles and every whale watch boat wants to kill me. I swear one missed me then backed up to try to finish me off, OK the mind goes after 5 hours of paddling.

Greasy pole, time is recorded, flip boat to lay in water for ten minutes then on up to pour two pints of cold Ipswich Summer Ale down my throat. That wasn’t so bad. Let’s do it again!

Lessons learned: Everyone else has a winged paddle in my group. They giggle at my Werner Cypress paddle. Who knew? Not me. Getting one of those. Coconut milk and basil. Yup, potassium next year I’ll have a case, no martinis for 24 hours. 2017 I break 5 hours. Nothing damaged, feel great, time for a nap, this typing is making my poor pruney fingers tired.

Rubber Duck: "You can't paddle any faster?" Pikachu: "Will there be any beer left?"
Rubber Duck: “You can’t paddle any faster?” Pikachu: “Will there be any beer left?”

And last but not least, The Cape Ann Rowing Club pulls off another flawless race. An all volunteer army gets 300 contestants into the water with humor, keeps an eye on them for 20 miles with the safety boats all the way to the finish line and beyond including picking up the errant pulled pork plate on Pavilion Beach.

GloucesterCast 191 With Ken Riehl, Kerry McKenna, Donna Ardizzoni, Paul Morrison, Karen Pischke, Gina Lampassi, Cat Ryan, Kim Smith and Joey Ciaramitaro Taped 7/10/16

GloucesterCastSquareGloucesterCast 191 With Ken Riehl, Kerry McKenna, Donna Ardizzoni, Paul Morrison, Karen Pischke, Gina Lampassi, Cat Ryan, Kim Smith and Joey Ciaramitaro Taped 7/10/16




Topics Include:

Props To Chief Campanello and The GPD In Light of Whats Going On Right Now

Bought my daughter Eloise a Fishing rod at Three Lanterns. Got my fishing permit online, it was a snap- Here’s where you apply-

New ART@the IceHouse Gallery offerings – original works by artists Peter Vincent & Capt. Phil Cusamano

Ken Reihl Kerry McKenna Events Cape Ann Chamber Auction This Thursday, Block Party This Saturday, Festival By The Sea July 30th, August 6th Blues Festival, August  20th Is Waterfront Festival and The Second Block Party Info-

Donna Magnolia Art Show and Sale The 15th, 16th and 17th

Shout Out To Premier Imprints For Puzzles

Thanks To Everyone That Comes Out For The One Hour at A Time Gang

Paul Morrison- Pokemon Go and Blackburn Challenge This Coming Weekend

Gina Lampassi looking for volunteers

Karen Pischke Reid’s Ride Update

Cat Ryan Cape Ann Reads-

Kim Smith – The Last Schwartz Opens On Wednesday At Gloucester Stage

Cape Ann Museum Design/ Build Lecture

Correction from Kim- “Correction: Our Lady of Good Voyage was designed by Halfdan Hanson”

Good Morning Gloucester Podcast 191 copyright Kim Smith

Blackburn Challenge July 16, 2016 is 38 Days away


OK, so the Blackburn Challenge has a new twist this year. After you register you get an electronic bib number mailed to you connected to RaceJoy. (Click for info) This software will track everyone in the race. Not sure exactly what “spectators” will see but likely you will be able to follow someone in real time around the course. You could follow Rubber Duck or even better, follow someone who is speedy.

We have 38 days to figure it out. Rubber Duck will post a test run on Facebook or here. Anyone out there who has experience with RaceJoy please speak up in comments. It would be cool to see all the contestants race around Cape Ann but that is a lot of dots. Ask your friends who race in triathlons. I bet they have used it.

Unofficial 34 DNF (Did Not Finish) Blackburn Challenge

Unofficially 34 DNF (Did Not Finish) Blackburn Challenge and some that did finish needed a little help. Jimmy T threw a double outrigger a line before they were kindling and hamburger on the barnacle coated granite of Halibut Point. The next point was just as messy.

Here a white Epic Surfski flips right at my feet at Andrews Point. My little iPhone 6 does not really capture the drama as the dude in the red sea kayak hears the splash and turns around. (1-2) By 5 he has pulled up even, steadies the Epic as Epic paddler thanks him for stopping and hops back up into the seat. In 8-9 fellow travelers stop by to see if they can offer assistance but red kayak has it well in hand.

Meanwhile they drift from about 60 yards out to about 20 yards which is getting very close to the surf zone. Blowing hard straight in with decent swells. I was getting ready to greet them as their boats turned into splinters on the granite. Just when it seemed like they took just a little too much time the Epic takes off. (11-13)

Red Sea Kayak back pedals a touch (14) to turn around then sweeps in close before heading off (15) to surf the waves across Sandy Bay. The wind and surf were roaring but he was so close that when I called out “nice job red kayak” he tipped his hat and was gone.

Follow along 1 down to 6 then 7 down to 13.
Follow along 1 down to 6 then 7 down to 13.

Blackburn Challenge – Father Son Team Boat Number 53

Father and Son team in the Blackburn Challenge (Boat #53) from Baltimore Maryland, enjoy an afternoon sail on the Thomas E. Lannon.  The son gets an opportunity to sail the schooner into the harbor.


Blackburn Challenge this Saturday!

340 or so athletes will be paddling or rowing all sorts of high and low tech watercraft all the way around Cape Ann this Saturday. Click here for specifics at Cape Ann Rowing Club website.

Click on the new updated GMG map of the race to find a good location for viewing the race. Hint: Go to Cape Ann, face water, watch racers go by left to right.
Click on the new updated GMG map of the race to find a good location for viewing the race. Hint: Go to Cape Ann on Saturday, face water, watch racers go by left to right.

If you are on shore:

Anywhere on Cape Ann facing the water is a good view of the race. Obviously a point sticking out will be a better view as the racers cut the corner. Good Harbor Beach on the other hand is not so good as they will just be dots on the horizon. 8AM staggered start and the Annisquam River is good, they will be starting to exit the river by 9AM. Then from there until 2-3PM the fastest boaters will be circling the Cape entering Gloucester Harbor and on to the Greasy Pole finish. But don’t forget to cheer on the slower boats, the SUP boards, the dories, and everyone else who just want to finish the challenge in under six hours.

If you are watching from a boat:

Again, anywhere along the shore of Cape Ann. Please be aware there are many serious racers in high performance craft in this race. That means some are in razor thin craft and your wake can easily flip their boat. Steer clear, view from a distance, and keep the speed down when near these fragile craft.

Click the map, 33 tidbits of new information sprinkled within, and don’t be like Rubber Duck and miss the race entirely. She is paddling the race on Friday morning the day before! Such an airhead.

Pre-Blackburn Challenge Outrigger Canoe Video From Scott Ide

Hi Joey,
Yesterday, my wife, Mary Kay, Cindy Perry, Scott Tyrrell and I paddled an outrigger canoe from Salem, MA to Corliss Landing on the Annisquam to get a 15+ mile practice in before next week’s Blackburn Challenge.  We made this a one-way journey from where our club Boston Outrigger Racing Association keeps our canoes in Salem so that we can have the boat near Blackburn Challenge’s race start.  Here’s a short video clip of the adventurous sea conditions somewhere past Kettle Island.

Blackburn Challenge Race Around Cape Ann July 25, 2015

A week from Saturday the gun goes off for the race around Cape Ann. Still time to sign up before the July 20 deadline. Click here for race info at awesome Cape Rowing Club that sponsors the race.

Start at the high school, gun goes off north of the railroad bridge, paddle down the river and then start taking right turns until you go all the way around and into Gloucester Harbor to the Greasy Pole Finish line. Simple.
Start at the high school, gun goes off north of the railroad bridge, paddle down the river and then start taking right turns until you go all the way around and into Gloucester Harbor to the Greasy Pole Finish line. Simple. (Click the map for a better view and secret messages from Donna and Rick as well as the Milk Island Seagulls.)

Rubber Duck and I have done this race five times and it is great fun, uh, a wonderful test of endurance, uh, an accomplishment for an old fat dude who sits in front of a computer too much of the year! It is a staggered start so a standard sea kayak gets to go before all the high performance vehicles paddled by sinew and muscle. It is entertaining to watch them all fly by on wakes you could water ski behind.

Over 300 of these crazy people have signed up. They are probably all doing an Iron Man Challenge this weekend followed by a double marathon the day before the Blackburn. When you talk them they seem like such normal people. Jimmy Tarantino types.
Over 300 of these crazy people have signed up already. They are probably all doing an Iron Man Challenge this weekend followed by a double marathon the day before the Blackburn. When you talk to them they seem like such normal people. Jimmy Tarantino types except he does the whole race in a Grand Banks Dory!! Jimmy T, why don’t you stop by Joey’s dock and stick ten wooden lobster traps in your dory and make it a real challenge?

So I was thinking of changing it up a bit for the Rubber Duck. The day before (Friday July 24) high tide is at 5:41 AM. So if I did the paddle from the tennis courts at the high school at 6AM I get a nice tide, the cool morning for most of the paddle, and no crowds mowing me over. Might even be all the way around before that dreaded southwest wind starts piling up in your face.

Anyone else want to go for a paddle on Friday? Leave a comment. I have two spare kayaks. We won’t try to break any speed record. Maybe even stop for lunch on Straitsmouth Island or Thacher Island. And if the Good Harbor Beach looks like a good finish line then why not pull in there instead of those last grueling miles in the Harbor?

Yo Adam Bolonsky! Ed Collard! You’ve both gone all the way around. Anybody else? On Saturday we could hang on Pavilion Beach, “Oh yeah, did that yesterday mon.” (That’s a Jamaican accent, I will pack bear can lettuce and tomato sandwiches. If you say that with an accent you will get it.)

133 Days Until The Blackburn Challenge

Joey’s Christmas present was the deluxe GMG baseball cap. When he gave it to me he said, “I want to see you wear it in this year’s Blackburn Challenge.”

Joey. Mister Motivator. I did that paddle five times around Cape Ann and last year I took it off. So I was thinking instead of the GMG baseball cap I would wear a buttermilk pancake instead.

What are you looking at?
What are you looking at?

But I changed my mind. Why putter around the Cape in a motor boat when you can do it with a paddle? As of last week I am sixty years old. I already checked and there are no age brackets in the Blackburn. Not that I would have come close to even sniffing a ribbon since most of the leather and sinew paddlers in my kayak class are older than me and the last I see of them is around the Annisquam Lighthouse.

So it’s on. I have 133 days to fit into my kayak. Saturday July 25, 2015. Here is a map. Here is a timer. Here is a link to the details of the Cape Ann Rowing Club who do an awesome job on the race with food and beer at the greasy pole finish.  And the warmup is the Essex River race on May 16, 2015.

May 16. 64 days away. I’ll do that too or I’ll eat my pancake.

I'll go faster with a new hat.
I’ll go faster with a new hat.

Blackburn Challenge Registration is Open!!!


Click the emblem to register. It is so easy. Do not be put off by the scary registration form. This is the year you do it. Paddle all the way around Cape Ann with 300 other boats. Rubber Duck has done it five years in a row and although there are amusing videos of Paul exiting his kayak the 23 miles was fun. The cold beer and the pulled pork sandwich at the end was awesome.

Since Rubber Duck now has the Blue Duck with a 225HP Suzuki on the transom she may go around the Cape this year a little quicker than the last five. Yes, she may be wimping out this year. Does anyone want to take the real Rubber Duck on their kayak?

Michael Chamness (Wings and WavesT) Blackburn Challenge Photos

Hey Joey.
Gloucester photographer, Michael Chamness (Wings and WavesT) just uploaded
some amazing photos from the Blackburn Challenge. Check these out! If you
like them, please share them with GMG followers.

These are raw, unedited photos showing the ‘true grit’ that goes into this
‘marathon’ rowing/paddling event- 20+ miles circumnavigating Cape Ann. Like
Blackburn himself, these racers are determined to reach their personal goals
with courage, determination, stamina and the support of fellow
rowers/paddles and spectators. What a great local event with participants
from near and far (one paddler flew in from Hawaii!)
The finish line offered a ‘rainbow’ of boats on Pavilion beach as rowers
celebrated after finishing to delicious BBQ from Red Bones of Somerville,
Ipswich Beer, and rockin’ music from Orville Giddings. Despite some dramatic
and threatening lightening flashes streaking against a black sky, the
weather held out so the race could finish with a flare! Looking forward to
next year’s Blackburn Challenge! For photos from Wings and Waves For details about the Blackburn Challenge
log onto-
Thanks Joe!

Blackburn Challenge 1991 From Fred Bodin

This may have been the Seine Boat with hibachi and keg.. Notice there are two extra passengers. The one in the bow is the bartender, and the one in front of the cox is the grill chef. Rowing is always a good time. If you’d like to row, visit Home page: MaritimeGloucester: Oceans of Discovery, Gloucester, MA 

That’s where I rediscovered the joy of  rowing.



Chickity Check It! Trash Paddler’s account of The 2013 Blackburn Challenge

Sunday, July 21, 2013

A Sizzling Blackburn Challenge 2013

The sun had just climbed above the horizon (at left) as I paddled down the Annisquam River to Gloucester High School where rowers and paddlers would register for this year’s Blackburn Challenge.  The event is named for Gloucester fisherman, Howard Blackburn, and it commemorates his desperate mid-winter rowing of a banks dory 60 miles to refuge back in 1883.  Howard Blackburn’s principal adversary was bitter cold temperatures that took a costly toll on his fingers and toes.  Nonetheless, he toughed it out and prevailed.  Participants in yesterday’s event faced the opposite extreme….HEAT!…and plenty of it!!!  The questions going through my pre-event mind were "is it prudent to wear a Personal Floatation Device (PFD) while exerting in this kind of heat?" and "do I have enough drinking water onboard?"  My answers: PFD would be strapped to my deck and 100 ounces of water proved adequate.
As participating boats congregated near the starting line, a bit of a traffic jam occurred when human powered boats of all types were passing under a raised drawbridge (most probably a "don’t do")…

for the rest of the entry click here

2013 GMG Blackburn Challenge Live Blog

Follow Our Boy Paul Morrison on his journey around Cape Ann aboard kayak via his cool Rubber duck tracker (works great on smartphones too)

For The Paul Morrison rubber duck tracker Click Here

Send in any photos from the race and I’ll post them to the live blog.

Look for Mr Rubber Duck and Paul he’ll be wearing a bright orange shirt-

2013-07-15 11.38.40-2

Paul writes-

Park in front of Gloucester High School at 7AM tomorrow and go out back and check out these boats! High Tech SUP paddleboards, tandem canoes, sliding multi rowing boats, fixed multirowing boats, Banks Dory, Workboats, fixed and sliding doubles and singles, outrigger canoes single and double, sea kayaks single and double, fast sea kayaks, high performance kayaks, even Hawaii Five Oh outriggers with everyone yelling hut! hut! hut! 225 boats all told.

Or hang out somewhere on the shoreline or on Pavillion beach after 11AM and watch these boats race to the greasy pole finish line. Whatever you do, do not stay inside on this beautiful weekend clicking on the Rubber Duck Tracker! OK, maybe once, then get in a boat and get out there.

Cape Ann Rowing Club (website) puts on a great circumnavigation of Cape Ann Race every year. This is the 27th running.

7:17AM Update:

Looks like Paul and RD have made their way to the Race Start out behind GHS-



Looks like he’s in starting position just off Dun Fugin.


8:09AM Update:

Aaaaand he’s off!


8:56 Update:

Up The Annisquam they go-


9:42 Update:

Working their way toward the tip if the Cape-


10:33 Update”

Heading Southeast Off Rockport-


12:32 Update-

Approaching Brace Cove


1:57 Update:

He Made It!


Blackburn Challenge 1987: 2013 is tomorrow

Fred Bodin posts:


The Blackburn Challenge, 1987. The cox of the Seine Boat Nina blows the war horn for power strokes. This heavy boat is filled with one ton of pure muscle and brawn. Notice the bow wake, and the wake off her stern. A very impressive sight – I can still hear that horn. One my striking memories of the Seine Boats racing was one of them plowing through the Atlantic Ocean with a smoking hibachi over the side grilling hot dogs and burgers. Of course there was a keg aboard. Row on!

Fred Bodin photographed the Blackburn Challenge from 1987 to 1992, from the committee boat.