With a mild December behind us, the crew found themselves paddling in sub-10 degree temperatures in January and February. Burr.
But even though we’ve found ourselves on the water three times a week since January 4th (complete with ladies’ time trials and two fitness assessments), the 2016 season really kicked off last weekend with our annual dragon boat blessing and eye dotting ceremony with the villagers of Tai Tam.
The dotting of the eyes, or “awakening the dragon”, is done every year prior to the main race season. The heads and tails are attached to the boats and, with the help of the villagers, we dress them up for the occasion. For the team, the ceremony starts with a trek to the local temple where we pay our respects and make offerings (like a roast pig!) for good luck. After bowing three times, each of us placed three sticks of incense at the temple to help ward off evil and bless the team (and boats) for the season.
After getting the boats on the water, paper offerings were burned in front of the each dragon’s head. This was followed by the actual ceremony, where Gareth Page, Jeff Winterkorn, and Steve Kent had the honor of using red paint to dot the eyes, forehead, and tongue, while saying “Please awaken this golden dragon” (eyes), “Bless this world with peace and harmony” (forehead), and “Bless the crews with winning spirit” (tongue), effectively waking the dragon from its rest.
The crew then piled into the boats, paddled them out, and rushed the shore (with a race start no less!) towards the temple three times while yelling and drumming as a way to symbolize the dragons bowing to the gods.
Following the ritual (and a full training session), the team shared a meal with the villagers, feasting on the roast pig and an assortment of delicious goodies. We’re so thankful to the local fishermen for everything they do in the area during the year. While their help during the eye dotting ceremony and preparing the pig roast is invaluable, they also help us keep an eye on the boats during bad weather and come out to steer for us during our training sessions. As a crew, we are all so thankful to be a part of such an amazing community of people in Tai Tam.
So between waking the dragons, actively recruiting (have you read “5 Reasons Why You Should Join A Dragon Boat Team” by our ladies captain Vicki Easton yet?), planning our racing strategy, and preparing the team physically and mentally for the upcoming season, the Stormy Dragons have been busy both on and off the water. Hello 2016 indeed!