Rowing In Company
By Bruce Hector
"You should be nominated for man of the year!" hollered
a passing skipper. I obliged him with a jesting tip of my hat.
I was reclining in the stern of my wooden rowboat, head on a
cushion, feet on the center seat, as my wife, Elaine, pulled
on the oars. All I needed was a cold libation and an umbrella
to make it picture perfect. It was great moment! We laughed
and rowed on.
Elaine rowing as I recline
"Oh, what a nice boat!" we hear, usually
followed by "Did you build it yourself?" as we pass
shore bound on-lookers. This we get daily as we row our homemade
wooden rowboats on the Intra Coastal Waterway on Florida's Gulf
Coast. Seasoned skippers give us a wave as they motor past.
Waterfront millionaires engage you in a quick chat.
Rowing on the Intra Coastal Waterway
Mangroves, birds by the hundred, crabs skittering
sideways along the sand, it's all there. We row along, peering
into the backyards of waterfront homes and picking up the odd
bit of litter. No one objects to a silent rowboat passing by.
We are seen but not heard. Needing only 6 inches of water, we
can ignore the charted channels and slip closer to shore at
Our waterfront home - NOT
Rowboats are a rarity now, especially wooden ones.
And that's a shame. In two years of rowing, I've not yet seen
another rower on the Intra Coastal or in my homeport up north
(except for my wife, Elaine, in "Twisted Seagull",
my second rowboat, a John Welsford Seagull).
Elaine in "Twisted Seagull"
- back up north
Doctors familiar with fixed seat rowing will tell
you that it is the least destructive form of exercise, and gives
an excellent full body workout. Rowing combines strength building
with zero impact aerobics. You begin a "pull" with
your feet and leg muscles, roll rearwards with your back and
finish the movement with your upper arms. In the "Seagull",
we can work different muscle groups by simply turning around
to face the front, then do some "pushing" for a change
Salvage job anyone?
Two rowboats rowing together, that's a parade!
We frequently row in company for exercise and pure enjoyment.
I'll row my faster, narrower "Sport Dory" as my partner
enjoys the greater stability from the wider "Seagull"
Few people today have experienced the pure enjoyment
of rowing in a purpose built rowboat. Such a craft will often
glide 10 to 20 yards between strokes, and even further in a
dead calm. You can row effortlessly along at 2 m.p.h., feasting
your eyes on scenery you'll never see from a gym's rowing machines.
Or, if you like, you can put your back into it and make 3 m.p.h.
for hours. Short pulls to 4 or 5 m.p.h. are possible for us,
but we're not Olympic athletes, we're on a slow boat to fitness!
A pure rowboat cannot be compared to a power boat
with oars. The power boat is a heartbreaking thing to row, as
it literally stops between pulls. A pure rowboat has a curved
bottom, drawing more water in the center than at the bow and
stern. This curve, termed "rocker" in nautical jargon,
is what makes the rowboat want to move through the water.
Waterfront inn and Brewmaster Pub
We've formed a recreational rowing club. We invite
anyone who'd like to try rowing for fun, as well as experienced
oarsmen, to come and join us. Canoes and kayaks are welcome
Mangroves at low tide.
A local bayside restaurant with near perfect facilities
for rowing has agreed to let us use their floating docks, so
entry and exit to the Intra Coastal Waterway is a breeze. There's
free parking and launchings for hand carried craft. The Gulf
Coast Rowing Club meets weekly at the Pub Waterfront Restaurant
and Lounge, 20025 Gulf Blvd. On Indian Rocks Beach (between
St. Petersburg and Clearwater, FL) between 5 and 7 p.m. on Wednesdays.
So portage, trailer, car-top, row, pull or stroke
you way over and join us!