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 will.

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 of pace.

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" design.

A parade!

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 also.

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.

Towing dory

So portage, trailer, car-top, row, pull or stroke you way over and join us!