It took a worldwide pandemic and an international border closure to keep Trevor MacLean from competing in the Kenduskeag Stream Canoe Race last year.
With those considerable obstacles out of the way in 2022, the prolific kayaker from Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, got back to his winning ways on Saturday.
MacLean added to his nearly two decades of Kenduskeag domination by claiming his record 16th title during the 55th running of Maine’s most celebrated river race.
MacLean paddled the 16 1/2-mile course from Kenduskeag Village to downtown Bangor in 2 hours, 9 minutes, 1 second to set the fastest pace among more than 600 competitors in 366 canoes and kayaks.
“It was tough last year not being able to come down,” MacLean said. “I was disappointed, but it’s great to be back this year. Not super warm, but still good conditions.”
The second fastest overall time was turned in by 2021 champion Ben Randall of Sabattus, who maneuvered his long kayak to a time of 2:16:19. He also was the runner-up from 2016-19.
“Watching the [stream flow] gauge last night was giving me fits, because I didn’t know if it was going to be high enough that I could bring a better boat or a different boat,” Randall said. “It turned out to be a good level. You could avoid most of the rocks, and nothing was too pushy or threatful.”
Rain during the week provided a needed boost to water levels on the stream, which were running above 1,000 cubic feet per second late Saturday morning. That’s nearly five times more volume than last year’s race, during which racers had to contend with some of the lowest water in its history.
Trading light and sleek for large and powerful, it was a 25 1/2-foot war canoe that posted the third fastest time of the day. The “Kenduskeag Screamah,” which included J.R. Mabee, Ashton Mabee, Brady Burke, Jack Burke, Eve Dana and Justin Wardwell, was clocked in 2:16:23.
Dana, who often competes in Bill Deighan’s war canoe “Firewater,” was pleased with the outing by her adopted team.
“We didn’t tip over, so that’s always like the No. 1 goal — and finish the race and have fun,” she said.
Adequate water and temperatures in the 50s meant comfortable paddling conditions and a good day for spectators. Fans, family members, friends and the traditional “river vultures” who lined the banks of the Kenduskeag dealt only with a few sprinkles and a light breeze.
MacLean received a smattering of applause as he executed his usual optional portage at Six Mile Falls, the annual whitewater trouble spot.
“After the first 10 miles, it’s nice to be able to jump out of the boat and then carry on,” said MacLean, who also used the opportunity to eat a snack.
He managed to stay upright throughout, having tipped over only once in his Kenduskeag Stream race career.
“You’re destined to get wet somewhere,” MacLean said.
Correction: A previous version of this story contained the incorrect times for the top two places.