Even though we had recently been to Marietta to visit the Ohio River Museum, we found ourselves making the trip back to far southeastern Ohio a couple of weeks later for the Riverfront Roar – power boat racing on the Ohio River. As always I looked for a different route, this time taking ‘The Triple Nickel’, Ohio 555, which provided a lengthy, twisty path through fairly unpopulated areas. Despite some borderline motion sickness for the passenger, we arrived in Marietta intact.
After a brief visit to a small custom car show we headed down to the riverfront where the boats were performing their practice sessions. The boats were referred to as tunnel hull, outboard engine crafts, capable of speeds well over 100 MPH. The day was sunny and warm, with little winds, providing a nice smooth river without any chop that might slow them down.
The races themselves are free to watch, but we opted to go uptown to the pits area where we paid the $10 (for insurance they said) to check them out closer. The racers had come from all over the eastern United States and Canada. The boats are light and small enough to be hauled back and forth with a small tractor.
Once our pit review was complete we headed back down to the riverfront where we stopped in for lunch at the Levee House. Billed as the only remaining original riverfront structure in Marietta, the building was built in 1826 for Dudley Woodbridge, the first merchant of the Northwest Territory, a dealer in dry goods. A classic old building built in the federal style, we enjoyed a nice lunch outside on a patio overlooking the river.
But racing time was near so we moved down to the shore and settled in next to a couple visiting from Knoxville, Tennessee. I wasn’t aware of this as I headed back to the car to get the chairs, but by the time I had returned our new neighbor had his 600mm zoom out to take photos, instantly giving me lens envy, this was cured a week late when I came home with one.
The races themselves took place over a mile long loop from near the confluence of the Muskingum and Ohio Rivers upstream under a bridge before turning around and coming back. We had chosen a perfect spot in the middle of the straights, although the plan for sitting in the shade took a long time to come to fruition.
The first race had closed cockpits, with 5 boats racing. It was quickly apparent that the best boat and driver would jump out to a lead and the rest would trail behind, with little passing. This held true for the open cockpit boats as well, regardless on how many were racing. The best racing was always the first 3 or 4 laps.
We watched races most of the afternoon before heading back to Columbus. All in all it was a nice drive down and back, a good lunch, and some fast boats – can’t ask for much more for a summer Sunday.