Dragonboat paddler retires from farming, joins TideRunners team

Netarts resident Patti Tohl is used to sticking close to home. She and her husband Dean Tohl owned and operated the Chasin-Rainbows Dairy in Tillamook for 38 years, retiring in 2014. And, with 120 head of registered Holsteins and Jersey cows at the Tillamook dairy, trips and vacations were few and far between.
“We had one of the highest producing herds in the state,” she said. “The Holsteins averaged 30,000 pounds of milk a year, and the Jerseys 20,000. We were very busy year around with little time for other interests.”
Since retiring from the farm, Tohl has filled her time with beachcombing, camping, gardening and volunteering. She also has become a dedicated dragonboat paddler as a member of the Nehalem TideRunners team. And it turns out that dragonboating has been her ticket to some exciting trips as well. In July, dragonboating was her reason for a recent trip to Szeged, Hungary. Tohl joined with members of the Portland Wasabi dragonboat club to compete at the Crew Club World Championships in Szeged. The World Championships are held every two years, and Portland Wasabi took four womens’ teams to the competition this year. Tohl was asked by the Portland Wasabi club to fill out the Senior C Team boat, made up of women 60 years and over.
“I had to qualify for the team in a time trial,” Tohl said, “And then practice with them three times per week for several months before the race.”
Tohl attended those practices in Portland in addition to the local team’s practices in Nehalem.
According to Tohl, the Portland Wasabi team did well at the international level. Tohl’s boat won third place in the 200 M race, eighth in the 500 M race, and seventh in the 2000 M race.
“We were the only boat with 18 paddlers,” Tohl said. “All other boats had 20, but we had a couple last minute cancellations.”
This was not Tohl’s first international competition. She went with a team of Nehalem Tiderunners to Ireland in summer 2016. The team hopes to send members to the 2020 Crew Club World Championships in France, and Tohl is looking forward to being a part of that group as well.
Looking back on her life at the farm, Tohl said she misses the animals the most.
“I miss breeding and raising them, watching them calve and then start milking,” she said.
However, Tohl said doesn’t miss the 24/7 work hours, or always worrying about the price of milk and the weather. About dragonboating, she said she enjoys the camaraderie of the team, being with her teammates, the trips to races, and the opportunity to compete.
“I paddled with the OC [Outrigger Canoe] Club in high school,” she said. “When I saw an article in the Headlight-Herald about the dragonboat team a few years ago, I immediately joined up.”
Although the trip to Szeged wasn’t technically a vacation, Tohl did get to tour around the city and then spent a couple days on her own touring Vienna, Austria. Now, she is back at the coast, commuting with teammate Pam Colby of Bay City to Nehalem for the local dragonboat practices. The Nehalem team is busy preparing for another race, another trip for Tohl and her teammates, this time in San Diego at the end of September.