I’ve lived near the Delaware River my whole life. For me the River is a way to get together with friends and enjoy the outdoors, whether it’s swinging from a rope swing, paddling a multi-day canoe trip, or participating in this crazy race we call Pewterman.
Last year was our 20th annual Pewterman race, technically a triathlon that involves running, canoeing and drinking. The idea was hatched at the bar at Porters’ Pub and the name is a reference to the many pewter mugs hanging from the ceiling there. The drinking part isn’t what you might think, more of a way to force a staggered start than get anyone intoxicated, but more on that later.
Teams must be coed and we begin in a friend’s backyard on College Hill in Easton. Typically, we have about 10 teams but some years have been as small as 4 or as large as 16. The starting line is a mixture of tense anxiousness and friendly trash talk, all the while eyeing the coveted Pewterman Trophy that the winner gets to keep until next year’s race. At the sound of the starting gun each team has to chug a 25oz bottle of Chimay . This can be the hardest part of the race. For those who don’t know, Chimay is extremely carbonated Belgian ale, and trying to polish it off quickly is no easy task! After much slurping and burping you present your empty bottle to the line judge and you’re off!
From here you carry your canoe about a quarter mile down the hill across highway 611, through the woods and into the river. Every year a few people end up falling in the river in their hasty attempt to launch. It’s all very serious but at times like that you just have to laugh. One year someone stirred up a bees nest on the way through the woods and everyone was more busy swatting bees and running around than launching their boats. It wasn’t that fun at the moment but it made for some great stories at the picnic later!
The seven mile paddle downstream is a real slog. All out paddle your brains out to the finish. Some years are really close with boats battling neck and neck all the way to the finish. While this is physically the toughest part of the race it’s also the most beautiful and the reason we do it in the first place. Out on the river feels like home to me. The water, wildlife, sunshine and friends have come together to bring me lasting memories over the years.
After you carry your boat up the steep bank to the finish line at the take-out you must drink a very welcome ice cold margarita to cement your standing. Then it’s back home to the starting line for the Pewterman picnic where we catch up with friends, enjoy some delicious food, and pass the trophy on to this year’s winners.
Over the 20 years of Pewterman I imagine hundreds of people have participated, not only racing but judging, taking photos, stopping traffic for us to cross 611 and cheering us on. Every year is different with weather and contestants changing, but the community, fun and excitement are always the same. For that I’m happy and grateful to live on the mighty Delaware.