Debby Swinford, head coach for the Olympic Peninsula Rowing Association. (Jesse Major/Peninsula Daily News)

Debby Swinford, head coach for the Olympic Peninsula Rowing Association. (Jesse Major/Peninsula Daily News)

Rowing group asks for help in moving, repairing boathouse

PORT ANGELES — The Olympic Peninsula Rowing Association is preparing to move its boathouse — which is supported on damaged pilings — closer to the base of Ediz Hook and is asking the community for help.

The move and repairs to the building are going to be expensive, about $100,000, and OPRA is asking the community for financial support as it gets ready for the move.

OPRA is hosting an fundraiser on Saturday, the Save Our Boathouse Erg-A-Thon. It is from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Naval Lodge Elks Building, 131 E. First St.

Rowers are asking the public to sponsor them as they row 10,000 meters or more.

Debby Swinford, OPRA’s head coach, said the nonprofit has received donations already and is dipping into its operating budget to make the move happen, but it needs help to do everything that needs done. She said members are also pulling funds out of their own pockets to make the move possible.

“Honestly, what has happened, is they’re going ahead and moving it,” she said. “It’s tough for the club. It’s hard on families.”

The move itself will cost $10,000. She said some costs have already been covered by donations, but it will cost about $20,000 to build a foundation for the building.

Swinford said the building was damaged during a storm in October 2016. While the storm was not nearly as historic meteorologists had predicted, it did jam logs under the building, damaging the pilings.

“This is about the only place it hit in about all of Port Angeles,” she said. “Logs got underneath the boathouse and wreaked havoc.”

She said the city worked with OPRA to find a new location for the boathouse on land closer to the base of the Hook.

She said money raised beyond what is needed for the move will go toward much-needed repairs to the roof. She described the holes in the roof as “natural skylights.”

The boat racks also need to be redone, she said, adding that the current setup is not as safe as it could be.

Rowing Association members also hope to replace boats when the money is available. The boats being used now are 50 to 60 years old, she said.

“Over a 2,000-meter course, when you’re winning and losing by seconds, these can add quite a few seconds,” she said. “They are museum pieces actually.”

Each of the projects will be done as OPRA can afford it, she said.

“Unless we find some really nice person, that’s how we’ll do it,” she said. “In the process, we’ll continue to grow as a team.”

The team, which has been around for about 10 years, has grown exponentially in the past few years, she said. In the past three years the group has grown from about a dozen people to 30 competitive youth and 20 adults.

One of the boats qualified for the U.S. Rowing Youth National Championships in 2017, she said.

While many who participate are competitive, many also row recreationally, she said.

Swinford said OPRA’s financial difficulties are something the rowers are all well aware of. One rower, she said, cited the financial struggles as an example of overcoming adversity in his application letter to Stanford University.

“It’s a good lesson overall,” she said. “But it’s been an uphill battle.”

OPRA is a 501(c)(3) organization and donations are tax deductible. To donate or for more information, visit parowing.org.

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Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at [email protected] dailynews.com.

The Olympic Peninsula Rowing Association is preparing to move its boathouse on Ediz Hook after it was damaged during a 2016 storm. (Jesse Major/Peninsula Daily News)

The Olympic Peninsula Rowing Association is preparing to move its boathouse on Ediz Hook after it was damaged during a 2016 storm. (Jesse Major/Peninsula Daily News)

Olympic Peninsula Rowing Association junior rowers practice Tuesday at The Landing mall in Port Angeles. (Jesse Major/Peninsula Daily News)

Olympic Peninsula Rowing Association junior rowers practice Tuesday at The Landing mall in Port Angeles. (Jesse Major/Peninsula Daily News)

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