|Barbara Lawlor • Gilpin County|
Admiral Bill Bergen saluted the spectators on the shore of Thorn Lake, squinted into the sun and took his place at the helm of the USS Gilpin County, a formidable aircraft carrier. Although the boat had no engine and its deck precluded paddling, the admiral and his watercraft moved at a respectable speed behind the Homeland Security canoe. The carrier was pulled by a ‘tugboat’ powered by human legs.
It was a proud moment on Saturday, Sept. 1, as the Thorn Lake Property Owners’ Association held its second semi-annual fall regatta party, and when Admiral Bergen yelled, “We will have freedom of the lake.”
As the paddle boat moved through the weedy water, one spectator commented, “If we used that form of propulsion for all watercraft, think how much money we would save.” The paddlers just grunted.
The Homeland Security canoe was manned by Coast Guard representatives Jan and Dick Minium and the paddle boat was powered by Lance and Susan Johnson, but not all the boats were of a peaceful mind. Laurie Harrington sat in a kayak that had been chicken-wired and foamed to form the menacing body of an alligator. The beast’s jaws contained the body of a man in shredded clothing and missing a shoe, along with a sign that said “No Fishing.” Violation consequences were obvious.
Bergen, the admiral, said his garb was a real Navy uniform in honor of a neighbor who had flown 87 combat missions while in Viet Nam. In the inaugural regatta, Bergen had transformed a canoe into a tall ship with three masts that actually caught the wind and moved. This year, Bergen’s aircraft carrier boasted moving radar, lights that worked and fighter planes that were actually launched over the water. From the middle of the lake, Bergen shouted, “This thing is so stable, I can hardly rock it.” It took him three months to build the ship.
The boats floated over the lake as the shore people came up with witty, but friendly, comments, such as, “There’s a muskrat following you.”
Bergen said he tried to donate his creation to a Naval museum in Florida but he wasn’t sure how he would get it down there. Gilpin County refused to take the boat, which miffed Bergen, who said, “If they can keep a submarine, why can’t they take the carrier?”
He also said a Boulder County radio control airplane club showed up at the lake to do a take off from the deck of the USS Gilpin County. The launch was perfect, but landing on the deck proved unsuccessful and the RC airplane had to be retrieved from the water.
All in all, the second annual regatta was deemed frightfully fun and everyone joined in a community barbecue after the aquatic display of imagination.