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Robert Kennedy’s Hudson River kayak at local museum

Senator competed in 1967 White Water Derby

This kayak was used by Robert F. Kennedy in May 1967 on the Hudson River near North Creek.

This kayak was used by Robert F. Kennedy in May 1967 on the Hudson River near North Creek. Photo courtesy of the Adirondack Museum

At 1830 hrs., Robert Kennedy invited Binger and other guests to cocktails at the Garnet Hill Lodge.

“Martinis galore, dancing. No politics. Lots of heart...we all love each other, and exit happy, tired, exhilarated, in direction of the fleshpots of North Creek.”

That’s how Binger ended his log of the Hudson River Gorge trip.

Underneath his final words in American WHITE WATER is an advertisement for Hauthaway Kayaks, 640 Boston Post Road, Weston, Mass., specializing in touring, slalom and downriver models, as well as kayak accessories. Bart Hauthaway, of Hauthaway Kayaks, designed, built and sold kayaks from his residence in Weston. He also made Adirondack-style pack canoes, according to the Jan./Feb. 2000 issue of Paddler magazine.

In 1967, Hauthaway was the executive secretary of the American Whitewater Affiliation, which published American WHITE WATER. A world-class slalom kayaker, he provided photographs of kayaking competitions to the magazine. In 1972, he coached the U.S. Olympic kayak team.

Hauthaway played a major role in the story of the Kennedy kayak; he constructed it in 1965 for David Binger.

The kayak is 13 feet, 2 inches long, 26 inches at its widest point, and weighs 32 pounds. Hauthaway first used this model in the 1965 world championships, according to Boats and Boating in the Adirondacks, written by Adirondack Museum Curator Hallie Bond. It is significant because it is one of the first all-fiberglass kayaks. Kayak builders had long struggled with ways to connect fiberglass hulls to fiberglass decks, choosing instead to attach cloth decks to the fiberglass hulls.

“Hauthaway solved the problem in the deck of this kayak by fastening it to the hull with pop rivets,” Bond wrote.

Robert Kennedy never used the Hauthaway kayak in the Hudson River White Water Derby. On Sunday, May 7, he raced down the river in a separate boat, from the North Creek train station to Riparius, with William Bickham, of College Park, Pa., according to Mark Frost’s May 2, 1985 article about the 1967 trip in The Chronicle. Ethel Kennedy raced in the Derby with mountaineer James Whittaker and capsized several times along the 7.5-mile trip.

This story was previously published in “New York State’s Mountain Heritage: Adirondack Attic, Volume 3,” by Andy Flynn.

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