Bayview resident Tom Morgan works on the boat. Tom Lemly, right, joined the crew this year.
Bayview resident Tom Morgan works on the boat. Tom Lemly, right, joined the crew this year.
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Bayview Retirement Community resident Al Raymond’s involvement in the Lucerne Seafair Milk Carton Derby happened by accident.

“What happened was we have this fundraiser called the Savoy in September,” he said.

An avid sailor, Raymond donated a two-hour trip on Lake Union as a lottery item for the 2017 fundraiser, which benefits the Bayview Manor Foundation.

While out with another resident and then-Bayview CEO Mary Cordts, they stopped at the Center for Wooden Boats. Cordts bought him a book about making toy boats out of soda cans to read to youth at the Bayview Intergenerational Children’s Center. Raymond remembered how he used to race them down rain gutters as a boy. He went to Bayview’s program committee with the idea of a rain gutter regatta.

Following the success of that endeavor, program committee chair Mary Body suggested he form a team and enter the Lucerne Seafair Milk Carton Derby, an annual race across Green Lake using watercraft buoyed by empty milk cartons.

“So, I convened my raingutter committee, and they all thought they were the milk carton committee,” Raymond said.

Bayview was in the middle of a $57 million reinvestment project, and preparing for the derby was a good distraction from the construction going on around the retirement community.

“We met almost every week for nine months,” he said.

They put up posters asking for milk carton donations, and received support from residents, as well as parents from the childcare center. It was all hands on deck.

“We were the first retirement community in 46 years to enter the milk carton derby,” Raymond said.

One team member ended up with a bad cramp before the race, falling back in the milk carton boat and knocking over a pedal they’d hoped to use to help propel through the water. They went back and recruited 96-year-old Flo Lentz to take his place.

“She ended up on the boat,” Raymond said. “Now, because of Flo, who’s now 97, our average age was 86. We got there in time for the start, and for one magic second we were ahead.”

The Bayview Boat Crew finished last.

“We finished,” Raymond said. “That was the whole point of the thing — to finish.”

While they didn’t have much luck during their first outing, the time Raymond and Body spent organizing the team paid off for them.

They’re now married.

“All this excitement led to something; it wasn’t all bad,” said Will Newsom, who was part of the first Bayview Boat Crew, referring to the resulting nuptials.

This year the Bayview Boat Crew accepted help from Lucerne, which is providing all competitors with up to 300 milk cartons to keep their vessels afloat — one carton for every four pounds. The average age is now 83.

“I’m available as a consultant, but I’ve deliberately not wanted to get in the way,” Raymond said.

Retired physics professor Bob Mitchell built the boat himself last year, and this year he came up with the designs. Tom Morgan is leading the boat’s construction. He made furniture as a hobby for 30 years. The chicken wire used to hold the milk cartons in place gave the retired doctor a little trouble.

“These things are sharp as hell,” he said.

Morgan asked Newsom to be a backup rower this year.

“I’m there just because I don’t have any better sense,” Newsom said.

The new kid on the block is Tom Lemly, a retired attorney who moved to Bayview last October.

 

“Hearing people talking about the derby and the experience last year, it sounded like a great community building experience and getting to know people,” he said.

Lemly said he’s confident Mitchell’s new design is an improvement over last year’s boat.

“Tom Morgan, he’s been putting in the yeoman’s duty in putting together the boat,” Newsom said.

Getting a boat to hold three rowers and stay afloat is important, but so is being physically and mentally prepared for the 300-yard race.

“We have some training available several times a week, and we can continue with that on our own,” Lemly said. “I’m a lifetime runner, so I’m in pretty good physical shape.”

Newsom recalls needing help getting off the boat last year.

“It was a fun time, I guess,” he said. “When I got done, of course, being on that boat for a fair amount of time, it was a little hard to walk.”

Bayview director of fitness Nahleen Salvador has been working with Newsom and the other team members.

“It’s very simple, because it’s kind of coming down to the wire,” she said. “One of the main movements is squats.”

People do squats all the time, she said, whether sitting, standing up, or walking up a flight of stairs. Salvador said she also uses gym equipment at Bayview to mimic paddling movements.

“It’s endurance training; that’s really what it is,” Newsom said. “It’s not hard. It seems like a long time, but in reality the race only lasts about a half an hour.”

Being the only retirement community to compete in the Lucerne Seafair Milk Carton Derby, the Bayview Boat Crew is going up against much younger teams, Lemly said.

“We want to hold the Bayview standards high,” he said, “and we’re certainly eager to see if any other retirement communities can come up with something.”

The 47th annual Milk Carton Derby starts at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, July 13, at Green Lake.