First annual St. George River Tubing Event

Floating down a river, life is but a dream

‘The tide kicks up just around the bend!’
Mon, 07/14/2014 - 2:00pm

I thought I was coming to the party with a big two-person flotation device with a built-in cooler. But, when I got to Warren’s boat landing this past Saturday for a loosely organized rafting/tubing party down the St. George River, Roy Schneider’s famous line in Jaws came to mind, “You’re gonna need a bigger boat.”

The public event was put out on Facebook to more than 1,400 people in the Midcoast with more than 273 people planning to come. In the end, it was estimated about 150-170 people actually participated; but what a hilarious sight on the river it made.

This was a floating community block party. Some folks opted for the simple inner tube, jerry-rigged with a floating cooler roped behind them. Some took kayaks, rubber rafts, giant industrial pools and more than a few of Sam’s Club’s green monster party rafts with room for eight. A few enterprising guys made a homemade raft floating on barrels a la Tom Sawyer, with a wooden structure and roof, music and a big industrial cooler. Heck, that’s all anyone needs, really.

Members of Thomaston’s Fire Department were on hand the whole day, making sure everyone was safe. If there were some adult beverages in the cooler, there wasn’t a big stink about it, which made it super cool. But then, this wasn’t a mad free-for-all that Saco River seems to attract. On that note, the rafters were extremely careful not to let trash float in the river. “Pack it in, pack it out” seems to be the Maine way, which is something you can’t fully appreciate unless you’ve been down a trash-strewn river in Baltimore.

The participants ranged in age from older kids (although few and far between because the trip was so long) to people in their 60s. Once we got underway, the beers came out and the boom boxes began playing country songs, Madonna and Three Non Blondes.  One minute, you’d be on your own, the next, up against a flotilla of rafts, saying “Sorry!” But, there was no reason to be sorry for clinging on like a barnacle. Soon, we were floating somewhere else....and bumping into a new crowd of people.

A lot of people didn’t think to bring paddles (and were envious of the ones who did.) There was a lot of “Next year, I’m going to bring a paddle” conversations overheard. In between, people just laughed and talked with their floating neighbors, ate their snacks, drank some beers, and watched the day just slowly slip by against the pristine and undeveloped banks of The St. George River.  When we seemed mired in a non-moving area, we took turns saying “Here, hold my beer” and swimming, pulling the floaty behind us. Others developed systems by using their Tevas as paddles or coaxing kayakers to tow them along.

By about hour four, when it was predicted we’d all be close to the Thomaston Landing, most of us were nowhere near the end of the 6.2 mile journey.

“The tide kicks up just around the bend!” said the guys in the Thomaston fire department as they zipped on by with their outboard motor.

Just around the bend seemed like a laughable concept. Between head winds and the tide pushing back, many folks took about six and a half hours to get to the final boat ramp where T

the Slipway was packed with spectators. But, what an ideal summer day in Maine, followed by a nice cold Dark and Stormy at The Slipway.

Here’s what I learned on the inaugural river trip and what my recommendations would be for next year.

  1. Bring a paddle. Scratch that. Bring two.
  2. Bring enough water, sunscreen, and food to last approximately six hours.
  3. Bring river shoes. And a change of clothes in your car waiting at the end.
  4. Don’t bring your phone or camera unless it is in a waterproof bag (not a Zip-Loc) and secure it to your raft.
  5. Bring a separate floating cooler with ice in it for adult beverages. Don’t put the ice in your floaty’s cooler; the river temperature will melt it within a few hours. Use your floaty cooler for all of the essential items you’ll need. See above.
  6. Enjoy the ride, however long it takes. You’ll be thinking of this day in February.

For more photos of the event, visit our gallery, River Tubing on the St. George River.

All photos unless otherwise noted courtesy Tim Sullivan Photography/

Kay Stephens can be reached at