Maple Ridge paddlers part of 'Ex-Sighted' team

The Floating Berries dragon boat crew took part in the Cranberry Festival in Fort Langley on Oct. 8. - Troy Landreville/TIMES
The Floating Berries dragon boat crew took part in the Cranberry Festival in Fort Langley on Oct. 8.
— image credit: Troy Landreville/TIMES

Maple Ridge’s Yvonne Stewart, and Kate Hume are “Ex-Sighted” to get out on the water and paddle in unison with their team.

Some members of the Fort Langley Canoe Club dragon boat crew made up of visually impaired and blind paddlers, collectively known as Ex-Sighted, weathered heavy rain on a cool Oct. 8, during the Cranberry Festival.

For the festival, they formed a team called the Floating Berries  and were made up of four blind, one visually impaired, and five sighted paddlers.

The Floating Berries finished fifth out of six crews on a course set up in Fort Langley’s Bedford Channel.

Stewart, and Hume were part of the team.

Stewart explained that, “I’m not mobile.”

“Sort of the same thing,” added her teammate, Surrey resident Linda Weber. “I can’t read print, but I can see light.”

Weber noted that she and Stewart are both blind, and have working guide dogs.

“Interestingly, out of the six blind/visually impaired paddlers on Ex-Sighted, four of us have working guide dogs,” Weber noted.

Meanwhile, Kate is sighted.

Stewart’s partner, Bill Hume, also sighted, is Kate’s brother and is the steersperson for Ex-Sighted.

“This is his first year learning to steer,” Weber said.

Stewart said getting in and out of the boat is the biggest challenge, as well as navigating “washrooms and around tents and other people.”

“In the boat, there’s nothing,” she noted. “We don’t need any accommodations, we don’t need a head start.”

It’s all about instinct, said Weber: “We just feel the boat movement and we keep in time with the whole boat.”

Away from the water, the paddlers are “good friends as well as teammates,” Weber said. “We love paddling.”

This was the inaugural year for Ex-Sighted at the Fort Langley Canoe Club.

The team is a program of BC Blind Sports & Recreation Association and includes four blind and two visually impaired paddlers.

Ex-Sighted paddled from March until August, with once a week practices and two festivals, in Harrison and Steveston.

During the festival, the Floating Berries team relied on steersperson, Harvey Doucet.

“I help count,” he said. “Keeps everybody in time.”

Stewart said regardless of how the crew finished at Cranberry Festival, and despite the rain, it was a good day.

“We have an awesome potluck going on, and we’re dry so I think we did pretty good,” she said.

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