|THE GRUMMAN CANOE trophy
went to Lee Vansickle (middle)
and Don Montier (left), who won
the standard crusing canoe
division of the Texas Water
Safari. Presenting the award is
Miss Texas Water Safari, Miss
Marilyn Evans. Montier and
Vansickle, along with Charles
Hall and Robert Sanders, coach
at Port Lavaca.
San Marcos Record, Thursday,
June 29, 1967.
|MONTIER FAMILY STORIES
Don Montier-Texas Water Safari 1967
Texas Water Safari “The World’s Toughest Canoe Race”
They don’t call the Texas Water Safari The World’s Toughest Canoe Race’ for nothing. In addition to the length, the challenges include white water rapids, multiple portages, and the relentless, soul-sapping Texas
heat. Competitors have four days and four hours to paddle from San Marcos, in the center of the state, to the shy little town of Seadrift on the Gulf Coast. There is no prize money for the winners; just Texas-size
bragging rights for the finishers.
Larry Rice, in July 2009 Canoe & Kayak Magazine
The Texas Water Safari is actually comprised of several events including an information seminar, two short races (one of which can be considered as a preliminary race) and of course, the Safari itself – the 260
mile race to Seadrift from the headwaters of the San Marcos River. The Safari itself, billed as the "World's Toughest Boat Race", is an annual race via the San Marcos and Guadalupe rivers, from Aquarena Springs
in the college town of San Marcos, to the shrimping village of Seadrift on the Texas coastline, a total distance of 260 miles. The first official race was held in 1963, and is run annually on the second Saturday of
Legend has it that in 1962, Frank Brown and Bill "Big Willie" George decided to take their V-bottom boat, without a motor, from San Marcos to Corpus Christi. They accomplished their mission in about thirty days
and decided that other people should have the opportunity to experience the same journey. So, in 1963 they set up the first Texas Water Safari.
Today the Safari is a long, tough, non-stop marathon canoe-racing adventure, traversing 260 miles of challenging rivers and bay. Many participants enter the race with no intention of winning, but with the goal of
joining the elite group of finishers and earning the coveted Texas Water Safari finisher's patch.
The primary requirement is a boat powered only by human muscle. Racers must take all food and equipment needed with them. Entrants must have all provisions, equipment, and items of repair in their
possession at the start of the race. Nothing may be purchased by, or delivered to, a team during the race except water and/or ice. Each team must have a team captain (18 years old, or older) whose responsibility
it is to follow the team by vehicle (car, truck, or bicycle) to keep track of their location and condition and to give them water and/or ice. During the Safari, teams may not receive any assistance of any kind, except
verbal. Teams must be prepared to travel day and night, nonstop, to be competitive but teams who occasionally stop for sleep have been able to reach mandatory checkpoint cutoff times and cross the finish line
by the 100 hour deadline.
|"There are many different adventures in a person's life. The one that I undertook in 1967 will always be one of the most memorable. In 1967 Lee (Sonny) Vansickle and I
entered the Texas Water Safari. This race is still considered the toughest boat race in the world.
The race started in San Marcos, Texas and ended in Freeport, Texas. Not only did one encounter all the dangers that existed in and along the San Marcos and Guadalupe
Rivers, but then the open bays and Inter-costal Barge Canals had their own dangers.
Because the rivers were extremely low that year, small canals and over-hanging vegetation presented many more obstacles to a canoeist. Plus the fact, many more
portages around dams, log jams, narrow water flow areas and rock formations had to be avoided.
On the bay, the prevailing wind made any chance of navigation very difficult. At one point, we were transported to a protected bay so we could enter the waterway toward
the Inter-costal Canal.
Today, the race ends in Seadrift, Texas. This eliminates the open water travel that the first races had to encounter. (Corpus Christi, Freeport, Port Lavaca) Travel on the
rivers were non-stop. Bay travel was restricted to daylight hours by the Coast Guard.
There will always be memories of the hours that you were dead tired. The hallucinations of the people you saw on the banks that didn't exist. The objects floating in the
water that took on different characteristics, and the canoe being lifted and rolled by gars, alligators, and any other objects just below the
surface (especially scary at night).
Today, at the age of 78 years, I will not take anything for the adventure. Only six canoes finished (forty plus entered). Not only did we survive, but we finished first in the
standard cruising canoe division. Because the race does not go to Freeport, Texas any longer, two men (coaches from Port Lavaca, Texas) finished first in the World's
Toughest Canoe Race!
My thanks to the organizers, sponsors, Coast Guard, donors and etc. that made my adventure a truly great one."
by Don Montier
DOWN TO THE SEA
by Tom Buckner
In the world's
toughest canoe race,
strain day and night
to paddle down 419
miles of river and
through 50 miles of
open sea. Don sitting
standing by canoe
on the right.
oars, and sail may be
used, so canoes are