The 90 Miler, as it is known in the Adirondacks, is a three-day boat race held on the second weekend of September. It is open, not just to canoes, but to guideboats and kayaks as well. On day one the Canoe Classic starts in Old Forge, NY and by day three the racers are in Saranac Lake, NY.
I am fortunate to know one of the guideboat racers in the Race, John Homer. John was kind enough to share his experiences with me while racing in the Classic. Here he is at the end of the Race on Day 3. He has just been presented with a pin for completing the race within the allotted time limit.
I asked John how many 90 Milers he had been in and how he got started. His reply, ” I started in 2009 and rowed with Chris Hoyt from Colorado. We had never met or even rowed together before the race and he agreed to let me do the 90 Miler with him. At that time I had just returned from Afghanistan from a redeployment. I wish I could have done more races since then but with the Military and moving around as well with all my deployments totaling 38 months since 2007, I have only been able to participate in five 90 Milers.”
John went on to add, “As for partners, I have done a few races with relatives, but as I got to know other guideboat racers we would offer each other’s boat as a team for the following year. Ed Vankuren and I raced solo before and got to know each other that way and decided to to row together the following year. Here they are together before the race.
John was awarded the Robert L. Evans Memorial Adirondack Canoe Classic 90 Miler home-built boat award in 2015 for a guideboat he built. Here are a couple of photos of the boat he built, a beauty!
John’s racing boat is 17′ 6″ long and was purchased from a fella in Saranac Lake. The boat belonged to his father who bought it from a neighbor. John adds, “I do believe the old timers made the boats around 16′ long because that was the best length for portaging and speed as well as carrying supplies and sports for hunting and fishing.”
John also makes very handsome paddles. Here is one he made especially for guideboat racing. He calls it the 90 Miler.
I asked John if he ever switched positions with his partner during a race. Here is an old photo of that rather tricky maneuver. It may be of the famed guideboat racer Howard Seaman and his son.
John replied, ” We do change position sometimes but mostly row to each portage and switch then. This can be a tough way to do it because of the distances between the portages which can be easily 10 miles at times.”
Next time we will talk more about the route of the race and John’s experiences rowing it.