We're all in the same boat so let's pull together!

High Wind Sculling, 101

25.2 Miles — 40.55 Kilometers

It was a perfect sailing day! I could have been flying a hull on my Hobie 18 on this gorgeous faux Spring day on beautiful Inland Lake. Yesterday came out of nowhere … crystal blue sky, high 60′s … and just a little bit of wind. Don’t give it a thought.

When I checked a day or two before, it looked like the wind was going to be 9 mph or less. My internet was down yesterday morning so I took off for the lake (after another morning workshop session with my portable dock) without checking again about the wind. All I cared about was a sunny day in January that might touch 70º for a few minutes!

When I turned onto the road leading to the lake, I started to pray that I would be admitted by the presiding Deputy. I went to find him at their headquarters on the way in. It took a minute, but he got on the radio and got the thumbs up. Whew!

Then of course, the first thing I did was test out the latest version of my little red dock. One more improvement and it should be an easy install every time. Yesterday I had to pile up a ledge of rocks on the other side of the ramp to get it situated, which used up my especially early start again. But it worked perfectly.

The temperature was perfect. I got on the water smoothly starting out sleeveless and sockless, but with a zip-locked change of clothes at the ready should there be a mishap. I started rowing at 12:30 and got into my pace with a minimum of fiddling.

But gosh it was windy. It was nothing new to me except that all of my rowing in high wind with two exceptions has been in warm weather either in the summer or in South Florida where landing in the drink would not present a possible hypothermia situation. The exceptions: one head race in Oklahoma City in October 2008 where 15 mph is a light wind day and my second Marathon Rowing Championships in Louisiana in November 2008. So far … I have not capsized a single. (Ask me about capsizing the Hobie!) I want to keep it that way.

Now, to answer the question as to why I tend to square my blades late on the Catch. Wind. Raise your hand if you’ve ever had the wind catch a blade before the water did. My muscle memory for rowing is based on a lot of rowing with my blades feathered high above the chop, wakes and swells and slipping the bottom of the blade into the water at an angle impervious to the wind. Then when I feel the water fill the blades I can go for the drive full strength. Raise your hand if you’ve ever squared your blades and dropped into the water only to yank on the valley of the swell that just passed instead of the actual water. Those are rollicking fun times!

So yes, I am capable of squaring earlier and do in glass, but yesterday was not the day to practice perfect form for perfect conditions. I had to work twice as hard to touch 6 miles an hour for most of the day and I had to be conscious with every stroke to let the water fill the blades before the wind had the chance. I had to share the lake with some white caps yesterday. We all had a great time.

Back in one of the fingers of the lake where the water was flat, I glided through a pair of turtles without bumping either. That was fun.

Since this lake has such a steep bank, I can get really close to the bank without fear of obstacles most of the way around (I go clockwise). But I learned, or rather remembered something important yesterday: the GPS line(s) I follow are only accurate with three or so feet. That matters when your blades are only three or so feet from the shore. I kept reminding myself to get inside the line and to watch where I was going having learned a lesson from Danger Dock on Monday. Moments after one such self-reminder, I glanced over my shoulder just in time to see my bow careening toward a stump. I shouted ALL STOP again and came to a gentle stop here:

So I promise next time out I WILL stay inside the lines … but I’m planning to at least think out-of-the-box the entire time I am inside the lines.

Perhaps the question of why I row so close to the bank has crossed your mind. First of all, I want to get the most mileage in one lap possible so I won’t have to be too far into a second lap when the sun goes down. Secondly, I started rowing on a river that is very serpentine and steering is something I am very good at doing. Third, my third Marathon Rowing Championships I noticed I rowed 30 miles. Allowing for a mile to a mile and a half of rowing up to the starting line, this means I over-steered a couple of miles at least, which certainly added needlessly to my race time. I realized the lake where I was practicing required very little steering and I had gotten lazy. The lake where the rowing club is now requires practically no steering since there’s only one line of deep water where it is safe to row. This is why I want to keep my steering ability sharp:

Natchitoches Marathon Rowing Championships Route

See? Unfortunately this wonderful event was cancelled this past Fall because of the low water levels. Hopefully it’ll be back on next November!

I managed to squeeze in 25.2 miles before the sun went completely down. I blame the wind for cheating me of a full marathon. I feel good about 25 miles in high wind. It was a wonderful row.

As I was getting my boat on the car and about to go back down the hill for my little red dock, Deputy Woodward (I hope that’s spelled right) pulled up and we chatted for ten minutes or so about how beautiful the lake is and about the wildlife on the lake. I told him about the Sculling Music Video we (Bob Montgomery, Cinematographer, Lot 10) shot that shows the beauty of the lake and he pulled it right up on his phone and bookmarked it to watch later on a bigger screen in High Definition.

I feel great today. Looks like some perfect rowing days are ahead next weekend. The boat stays on the car!

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