Ducky days on the dam: hydro system helps rubber racers get quacking

HALIFAX, NS - When the Apple Blossom Festival’s 20th annual rubber duck race gets underway on White Rock Canal May 31, Tim Curry will be on his phone.

But the superintendent of Nova Scotia Power’s Eastern Valley Hydro System will be far from distracted. Tim is the fellow who makes sure the thousands of rubber ducks get to the finish line in record time.

As the ducks are dropped into the 12-foot deep canal, Tim will be speaking with Nova Scotia Power’s Control Centre in Ragged Lake making sure the load at the White Rock hydroelectric generating station is increased just the right amount to create a flow strong enough to carry the ducks along.

“It has to happen instantly,” said Tim, who will tell the controller exactly when to let more water through the generator, which speeds up the current and pulls the ducks along to the finish line.

The key is then to slow down the water at just the right moment so the ducks don’t get pulled into the turbine. That would be a ducky disaster! So just as the ducks round the last corner in the race, Tim is again on the phone letting the controller know when to drop back the water flow at the generating station.

If the race was left up to nature, it would take the ducks up to an hour to navigate the course, but thanks to Tim and his team at Nova Scotia Power, the rubber duckies cruise through the course in about 15 minutes.

This is the 20th year for the races, and Tim has been standing on the canal bank for the past 16 of those years ensuring the ducks give their best performance.

“Everybody loves the Apple Blossom Festival, and the duck race is such a fun, family friendly tradition,” Tim said. “I really enjoy playing a role in such a great community event.”

The race is a key fundraiser of the Rotary Clubs of Wolfville and New Minas, which use the money raised by the event to support Big Brothers and Big Sisters of the Annapolis Valley and other projects.