Row, Row, Row Your Boat … the Blackburn Challenge is Saturday, July 25th.

blackburn challenge

Row, Row, Row Your Boat …  The Blackburn Challenge is Saturday, July 25th. 

A Marathon for Rowers and Paddlers – the Blackburn Challenge, a ‘marathon’ for rowers is named after famed adventurer Howard Blackburn who demonstrated courage, endurance and perseverance against the odds. Originally from Nova Scotia, Howard Blackburn was fishing out of Gloucester for halibut from the schooner Grace L. Fears. A winter storm came up suddenly, stranding Blackburn and another fisherman in their dory. Blackburn lost his heavy fisherman’s mittens overboard. Knowing that his hands would freeze, he held them in a curved position that would allow him to slip his frozen hands back over the oars. Five days later-days virtually without food, water or sleep, Blackburn had rowed back to shore. His dorymate died en route. Blackburn lost all of his fingers, thumbs, and toe due to frostbite.


The Blackburn Challenge is a 20+ mile open water circumnavigation of Cape Ann. For experienced boaters with a boat that can be paddled or rowed. Not for the faint of heart or ‘day boaters!’ The waters around Cape Ann can be very rough, with strong winds, strong currents and high waves. 

Registration Ends at Midnight Tonight!  

To Register –

Caution – This event is for paddlers/rowers with solid experience in difficult ocean conditions.

Things to Consider Before You Enter –

  • You must be able to complete the course within 6 hours.
  • Take into account your personal health and conditioning.
  • Take appropriate food and fluids for the race.
  • Wear a pfd (personal flotation device.)
  • Know the course; tides, currents, wind, weather all need to be factored in
  • Train for the event; practice and prepare as you would for any marathon or endurance race.
  • Study a chart of Cape Ann and familiarize yourself with rocks, tides, currents, wind, and weather.
  • Follow boat safety and navigation rules!

US Coast Guard Boat Safety Tips –

What Boats Can Enter – The Blackburn Challenge is open to seaworthy oar or paddle powered craft.

The difference between paddling and rowing? Rowing requires oars to have a mechanical connection with the boat, while paddles are hand-held and have no mechanical connection.

Boats you might see in the water that day – paddle boards, dories, rowing skulls, outriggers, kayaks and surf skis. Some powered by a single person, others by teams.

Circumnavigating Cape Ann. – Rowers launch at Gloucester High School, head down the Annisquam River to Ipswich Bay and clockwise around Cape Ann past Rockport, with the race ending at Pavillion Beach, near Gloucester’s infamous Greasy Pole.

Blackburn Challenge GoogleEarth_Image

Blackburn Challenge

To see more about the course  –

For a nautical chart of the course –

Wear You Can Watch the Race/Vantage Points Along the Route –

  • Corliss Landing (Gloucester)
  • Light House Beach (Gloucester; Private beach for Annisquam residents and guests.)
  • Halibut State Park (Rockport)
  • Andrew’s Point (Rockport)
  • Emerson Point (Rockport)
  • Eastern Point (Gloucester)

YouTube Video from GMG’s own Marty Luster – Blackburn Challenge 2014 

Photos From 2013 Blackburn Challenge  –

 Those interested in volunteering for this epic race – Contact Cape Ann Rowing Club President, Suzanne Sweeney-

Note – The Cape Ann Rowing Club is a 100% volunteer non-profit organization. Excess registration funds to deserving non-profit organizations.

For more on the story about the legend behind Blackburn Challenge You can also read about the life and adventures of Howard Blackburn in The Extraordinary Adventures of Howard Blackburn; Hero Fisherman of Gloucester, by Joseph E. Garland.

Lone Voyager

Please, Boat Safely! Motor Boats, Please Beware of Paddlers and Rowers During the Race.

See you at the Blackburn!  ~ Karen Pischke BSN, RN

Karen Pischke B.S.N., R.N. Owner/Founder of Dreamtime Wellness™  Promoting Optimal Wellness for Body, Mind & Spirit Find us on Facebook –

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