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John Jenkins talks with Rick Covill, from Grantham, while waiting for his bride to arrive on the island, during their "kayaking" wedding day. (Thomas Roy/Union Leader)

Wedding on the Water

Couple paddle to Tilton Island to marry among river friends

TILTON - Nancy Gero donned her beautiful white, lacy wedding dress while her fiancé, John Jenkins, dressed in a sharp tuxedo, stood at the altar with a minister at his side.

Then, Gero stepped carefully into a canoe, and with about 70 boaters escorting her, paddled her way down the Winnipesaukee River to Tilton Island, where she was helped out of her boat for the wedding ceremony, at which she would become Nancy Jenkins.

One of the boaters kidded her about ruining her wedding dress as she climbed from her boat.

"You didn't think I was going to spill in this dress, did you?" she said laughing. "The best man thought I was going to."

The new Mr. and Mrs. Jenkins, both from Raymond, held their wedding Saturday on the island near the downtown area. It was the first time local police could recall anyone paddling to the island for a wedding.

But for the couple, it was a completely natural thing to do.

Jenkins met Nancy about 10 years ago while both were paddling the whitewaters of New Hampshire and Maine rivers.

In fact, both are leaders of two local paddling groups, the New Hampshire Appalachian Mountain Club Paddlers and the Merrimack Valley Paddlers. Both have high-level qualifications as rafting guides.

Both also played roles in protection and preservation efforts for the Winnipesaukee River and other New England waterways they travel.

So for Nancy, 46, and John, 64, the river was the obvious setting to exchange their vows.

"They are river rats, and their fellow boaters are their social circle," said John's new brother-in-law, Doug Malloy of Berkley, Mass.

Richard Clancy of Nashua said the wedding was "fitting."

"I wasn't surprised at all when I heard they were doing this," he said. "I knew it would be a different kind of wedding, but I wasn't surprised."

After the wedding, John Jenkins said he is dedicated to paddling and his community of paddling friends, almost to the point of obsession.

"We knew we'd draw this many people because the paddling community is a gigantic family," he said. "You get close to people because you're always looking out for the next guy's safety in their boats. You make a lot of good friends."


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