EUGENE, Ore. — Out of the more than 68,000 ducks racing downstream, only a handful of them make it to the finish line. The rest get caught along the shoreline of the Willamette River.
About 20 minutes after the ducks began their journey down the Willamette River, another group took off downstream. “We put about 16 drift boats and multiple kayaks on the river and our job is to basically pick up all the ducks that get caught in the bushes and in the rocks,” said rotarian Jim McCarthy.
The group is called the navy and has a reason for collecting all the little duckies that weren’t so lucky. “We rent the ducks, so we have to pay, we have to buy any ducks that don’t get returned, so it’s really important that we recover all of the ducks that we can,” said McCarthy.
For McCarthy, being part of the navy has become an annual tradition. “I think the very first year I wasn’t sure what was going on and I just did shore patrol where we pushed the ducks out into the water where they were stuck in the bushes and since then I’ve been doing my boat every year,” said McCarthy.
A tradition not just for him, but also other members of his family. “My granddaughter and my son, my son had a boat and my granddaughter was in the boat with me,” said McCarthy.
Between the kayaks and the boats, most people aren’t new to the navy. “Over the years you really get to know the regulars that come and there were quite a few members from our own club that were surrounding our boat out there,” said McCarthy.
But something new to the group this year was the amount of ducks left behind during the race. “The boat was not full at all, we figured maybe we filled four boxes. There’s been years where I’ve had ducks all the way up to the edge where I could barely maneuver the boat it was so heavy, but this year the ducks just all flowed down the river,” said McCarthy.