BANGOR, Maine — For Trevor MacLean, it’s always worth the round-trip — all 750-plus miles of it — from Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, to Bangor.
That excursion to the Queen City for a 16.5-mile paddle down Kenduskeag Stream has been an annual rite of passage for MacLean, and on this particular day, the veteran kayaker made history in Maine’s premier paddling event Saturday.
MacLean paddled to his 13th Kenduskeag Stream Canoe Race victory, the most wins in the 51-history of the paddle from Kenduskeag Village to downtown Bangor, on a sun-splashed day that featured challenging but fast water conditions.
“It was great,” MacLean said. “The conditions were really good. Lots of water.”
MacLean was the lone racer to break the two-hour mark, piloting his kayak down the stream in 1 hour, 58 minutes, 11 seconds.
“It’s nice to be able to put down a fast time,” said MacLean, whose victory breaks the previous record of 12 held by fellow Canadian Robert Lang of New Brunswick.
MacLean has run 15 Kenduskeag Stream races, but don’t expect him to stop coming anytime soon.
“It’s a bit of a rite of spring, almost,” MacLean said. “I always enjoy coming down.”
Ben Randall of Sabattus, who won the Souadabscook Race in Hampden last weekend, posted the second quickest time of the day in 2:02:37. He also was piloting a solo kayak.
The 912 paddlers who piloted 489 boats down the stream Saturday were greeted with one of the best days of the early spring, with temperatures that climbed into the 60s with bright sunshine and very little wind.
The challenging Kenduskeag also was flowing with ideal water conditions, and the “river vultures” were out in full force at popular viewing spots, such as Six Mile Falls and along Valley Avenue and Harlow Street.
“The water is perfect for this type of race,” said race director Debbie Gendreau, who is also assistant director of the Bangor Parks and Recreation department.
“You really can’t ask for anything more perfect,” she said.
MacLean cleanly navigated his way through the challenging rapids.
“I haven’t capsized or flipped over any time that I’ve gone down,” he said. “I made it down clean and just kept moving forward.”
While a lot of paddlers enjoy the challenge of navigating Six Mile Falls, MacLean saw it as an opportunity to ensure his boat stay dry for the stretch run to downtown Bangor.
“I usually portage [at] Six Mile Falls because we’re over halfway, and it’s a good chance to get out of the boat and empty it out,” he explained. “It’s a risk I don’t normally take.”
Six Mile Falls is a risk-reward portion of the race, and while some canoes fell victim to the rapids, a lot of paddlers managed to navigate their way through.
The hundreds of spectators who lined the banks of Six Mile Falls and a nearby bridge carrying Route 15 over the stream had plenty to smile about.
Gendreau said approximately 899 people were signed up for the race before Saturday morning, which means 13 more paddlers registered on race morning.
Officials were impressed with the turnout for the race, which celebrated its 50th anniversary last year.
“I was thinking that maybe this year [participation] would be a little lower,” with last year being the 50th race, Gendreau said. “It’s not. It’s just about the same.”
Race officials also presented a Legends of Paddling award for the second time in as many years.
That award, won last spring by Zip Kellogg and named after race founders Lew Gilman and Ed “Sonny” Colburn, was taken home by longtime race participant Fern Stearns.
The fastest canoe of the day was the four-person, open-class boat skippered by Chris Francis, Rod McLain, Mark Ranco and Sue Scotomah.
That quartet posted the third-fastest time of the day at 2:04:15.
The next fastest clocking (2:07:46) was put up by the open class canoe team of Ashton Mabee, Nolan Mabee, J.D. Goulet, Dan Littlefield, Gregg Dorr and J.R. Mabee.
Kayaker Ray Wirth of Belfast finished fifth, crossing the line in 2:08:31.
Other divisional winners included: Clara Short and Thomas Short in the C-1 Long class; Angus Deighan and Abby Verrier, C-2 Long; Clayton Cole and Paul Cole, C-2M Canoe Expert; Tim Brooks and Rachel Brooks, C-2S Canoe Expert; Ellen Hall and Robert Martin, C-2 Mixed Canoe Expert; Brian Foley, K-1 Short; Kellen Doyle and Cole May, C-2 high school; and Tim LeBlanc and Gabe Wiseman, C-2 collegiate.