Oct 31, 2016
ON THE RIVER
The best way to describe the first day on The St. John River, 8 people trying to learn to lace and tie one pair of shoes. The concept is simple, everyone rows in synch, the practical application is overwhelming.
We all practiced the rowing stroke and positions on the rowing machines, the major difference, the rowing machines don't move. They're not fluid. Being on the water is drastically different.
Once in the shell even the slightest movement by one rower tips the boat off balance. Imagine six of us, new rowers. The mind and body have to be relaxed and focused, in synch. The oar is your friend and will do most of the work, oar position and oar height above the water as you exit the water and recover the stroke is key. My issue yesterday, my stroke was way too fast, so I got out of synch.
The shell weights about 220 lbs, we all carried the shell to the dock, placed it gently in the water, checked all the parts, seats, shoes, rowing locks and then boarded the boat all the port seats first, then the stern positions.
We had 2 experienced rowers, seat 1 and 8, the stroke and bow positions.
I basically followed and mirrored the moves of Lawrence who was two seats ahead of me, next to Mary, the coxswain. The shell is equipped with speakers, she gives the commands via a microphone so there is no yelling, unless there is an emergency. Our coach, Mark followed alongside of us in a small outboard motor boat. And there is no talking in the shell, the only person speaking is the coxswain.
The 8 seat shells are usually 62 feet in length, the seats are tiny, all you can bring with you in the shell is your shoes that you take off, so you can slip your feet into fixed shoes, the ones in our shell look like large roman sandals.
My feet are too small, so they don't get a snug, tight fit in the shoe. I will need to get some water shoes, kayak booties were recommended. The second thing you can bring in the shell is water. Most everyone had an 8 oz bottle of water.
Yesterday we rowed in paris, so seat 8, 7 and then seats 6 and 5 would join in, and as 8 and 7 would rest their oars, then 4 and 3 would join in. We had a total of 4 rowers at one time, we are not experienced enough to have all 8 try to be in synch.
While my oar was in a resting position, floating along the top of the water, I caught myself looking at the view, downtown Jacksonville and the green bridge, (the official name the Hart Bridge) were way off in the distance. Fixed in the horizon, still, tall, shiny objects, it was peaceful in my head and heart.
The sky was infant blue, very few clouds, the water calm, flat, forgiving of this new crew, the Learn to Row Class from the Jacksonville Rowing Club.
I took a few deep breaths and felt 150% at home.