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River racers focus on fun, learning

July 27, 2003|by LAURA ERNDE

laurae@herald-mail.com

Like all good Boy Scouts, this particular band from Brunswick was prepared for anything Saturday - even a pirate ship dubbed "Captain Morgan's Drunken Booze Cruise."

At last year's Great Brunswick River Race, which features a race between homemade watercraft, college students on the Captain Morgan threw water balloons at the scouts from Troop 277 to try to sabotage their second-place win.

Not to be outdone, the scouts this year outfitted their makeshift boat with a water balloon launcher.

The six-scout team used the same contraption they did last year, made from blue plastic barrels held together with some wood. This year they added the balloon launcher for defense and a large piece of Styrofoam for better floatation.

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Assembled, it included a flagpole with a flag flying the troop's insignia. The boys wore red, white and blue bandannas on their heads.

Scout Chris Eyler, 13, was eyeing up the vessel before the race.

"Six on that thing is kind of bad. It's kind of small," he said.

Boat captain Donald Zumbach, 14, assured him it would work fine.

"It's fun, actually, every year to be able to build it and race it," Zumbach said.

Although the pirate ship from last year was nowhere to be found, there would be other foes to contend with.

"We've got a surprise for our enemies," one young competitor said as he screwed shower heads onto his boat, powered by a bicycle wheel outfitted with paddles. The shower heads were plugged into a system of pipes that led to a large blue water tank on the back of the makeshift boat.

Other entries included kayak-shaped pieces of blue Styrofoam held together with duct tape and wood. A plastic bucket seat served as the captain's chair.

Rob Stull, a kayak instructor with River and Trail Outfitters of Knoxville, Md., equipped the less-prepared boaters with kayaks.

"I don't know if our insurance company would like it if we took people down the river in one of those things," he said.

Although the outfitters charged a boat rental fee to cover its insurance costs, employees donated their time and effort, he said.

"I think it's a pretty good cause, seeing all these kids out here learning at least a little bit about the Potomac River," he said.

The river has always been a big part of Brunswick, said the town native.

"That's what made the town what it was," he said.

Geri Reynolds, Brunswick's recreation coordinator and one of the organizers, estimated the race has been held for about 15 years.

This year, for the second year, the race was held in conjunction with Potomac River Awareness Day.

Representatives from conservation groups, recreation clubs and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources set up informational displays at the site of the race in the Brunswick Family Campground.

The DNR tested the water quality by collecting water samples in five-gallon buckets and examining what kind of bugs were present. The bigger variety of bugs, the healthier the water, said John Wald, information/outreach officer.

"They found a very good diversity of stuff today," he said.

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