Sherri Otterson of Noway, front left, and Linda Bond, front right, lead a crew of 20 paddlers and one steerer July 19 through the culvert under Crockett Ridge Road in Norway. Otterson started the Maine Dragon Boat Club and purchased the 41-foot dragon boat that arrived Wednesday at Lake Pennesseewassee Park in Norway from Montreal. “It’s the only one in Maine that I know of,” Otterson said.  Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

NORWAY — Dragon boating is Norway’s latest foray into outdoor community pursuits, and there are free seats in the boat for anyone who wants to try it out this fall.

Open practice sessions will be held Tuesdays and Thursdays from 4:45-6 p.m., and on Sundays from 4-6 p.m.

The Maine Dragon Boat Club asks that larger family and community groups call club president Sherri Otterson at 207-890-7367 to schedule their own custom sessions.

“We’ve had about 100 participants so far,” Otterson said. “Some people are already becoming regulars, others have come just once or twice to try it out. We’ve also had paddlers who have been on teams from other regions.

Dragon boat paddling is set by the beat of a drummer who uses it to communicate instructions from the stern person. Here, young Hawk Hungerford practices before going out on his first dragon boat ride on Lake Pennesseewassee on August 27. Supplied photo

“During some paddle times the boat has been full, and others we’ve had a half-dozen or so with us. We aren’t requiring reservations, but if you think your family might fill up the boat it’s best to book a group session.”

Otterson said the club has hosted one Norway family on an outing as part of their summer family reunion. The Chinese and American Friendship Club of Maine, an early supporter of her efforts to introduce the sport to Maine, was one of the first groups to test the waters in the boat. She is also working with organizers at the Cancer Resource Center of Western Maine in Norway on a group excursion for survivors of breast cancer.


It was through Otterson’s work with CRCofWM as a volunteer that she learned about dragon boating as a beneficial activity for breast cancer recovery and became determine to bring it to Oxford Hills.

Paddling sessions include a brief warmup/stretch and a basic introduction to the mechanics of operating the vessel with up to 20 others. Steve Bond, who is an avid paddler and coach of the sport, provides instruction and also acts as steer person on the boat.

Several of the 99 who have ventured out on Lake Pennesseewassee in the boat are already talking about organizing teams, both recreational and competitive. Currently, Norway is the only community in Maine that has a dragon boat club. But the sport is growing in other states, including New England, and is well established across Canada.

As with any outdoor event, scheduled practices are dependent on weather. Despite this summer’s overabundance of rain, Otterson has only canceled one outing so far.

“If there is light rain we still paddle,” she said. “And of course people need to dress for the weather, especially as temperatures cool off this fall.”

Chichun Tsou is the oldest person, so far, who has paddled in the Maine Dragon Boat Club’s boat at Lake Pennessewassee. Tsou is a member of the Chinese and American Friendship Club of Maine. Supplied photo

Thunderstorms are the biggest threat, but wind is also a consideration. During early days, with participants as well as coaches still in inaugural mode, the dragon boat has only ventured under the Crockett Ridge Road causeway to more open water only once. Paddlers are becoming a common sight in the cove around its headquarters at Lakeside Norway.


Otterson said when it emerged from the culvert leading to the wider areas of the lake it caused quite a stir for boaters seeing it in action for the first time.

With MDBC’s soft launch getting such an enthusiastic reception Otterson is anxious to take the club to the next level and make it an Oxford Hills destination.

“A lot of people coming to try it out” for the first time are also experiencing Norway’s welcoming village, she said. “They are seeing all the things underway at Lakeside Norway, eat in our restaurants and shop downtown.

“With 2024, which will be our first full season, being The Year of the Dragon on the Chinese calendar, we have so many opportunities for dragon boating to make a real splash in Maine.”

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