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

Deluge Aftermath Pitch Dark Sculling, 101

50.5 Miles — 81.27 Kilometers

It was pure joy! It always is, no matter what I encounter. I just love to row.

It was going to be a sunny day as warm as 70º, but with winds up to 14 MPH. As far as I was concerned … that’s a rowing day. Did I get a later-than-I-wanted-start? Of course.

First, instead of getting up and getting right on the road, I did an impromptu photo shoot so I could post that picture everyone has been asking for of what I wear when I row such long distances. I think they were aiming at a picture of my Red Bikini of Power, which I will be wearing again when the temps get above 80º, but for today, it was the sleeveless cycling top and the biking shorts with suspenders I never used for cycling, but discovered is perfect for rowing. As I mentioned in an earlier post, my specific-for-rowing unisuit is spiffy, but has a seam at my waist, which defeats the purpose of having nothing binding me at my waste for long distance. It is just the thing for head races when I want to look like I am a real rower. Incidentally, I don’t use my high-tech long-distance seat-pad for real rower races as I was informed by Dave Lee, the Oklahoma boat dealer who sold me my Flyweight, that only yahoos use seat-pads. So … I know how to blend in if I need to once in a while.

The cycling bibs are perfect for colder weather rowing because as you can see in the picture, there is a panel covering the waist that anything I wear on top (additional long sleeve jerseys) can be tucked in to prevent any looseness of garments for a thumb to snag on at the finish (when the blades come out of the water at the end of the stroke). A good thumb snag could put you in the drink quick.

Then … another delay resulted from how powerful I am at manifesting my thoughts. Right before I left the house, I commented to myself: “Gee, I hope they don’t charge me today to launch. I don’t think I have enough cash.” I wish I had said: “Gee, I hope the deputy gives me a million dollars when I drive up to the lake.”

Sure as the world, for the first time, I was charged. I found out that they were just letting me in for free while the lake was closed. For both letting me in for free and just for letting me in, I am very grateful and am more than happy to pay my fee.

I proceeded with great determination and a little bit of denial to scrounge for every penny in my purse and in my car — and I came up with $4.78. I needed $5.00. I offered the deputy a check. I offered a credit card. I offered to pay the difference next time I came out. I was about to offer him a diamond ear ring … but decided to heed his suggestion and just go up the road and get some cash.

So I drove five miles further out to the closest store to buy some item with my bank card and get cash back. I bought a Double Shot with Ginseng to give to the deputy who had been so patient as I searched for way too long for that one last quarter that didn’t exist. I could not believe it wouldn’t be under a seat or SOMETHING! Anyway, everyone drinks coffee, right?

The little store charged for getting cash back, which was fine, but I commented that I only needed a quarter. So one of the girls behind the counter just gave me a quarter. Soooo sweet!

Mission accomplished, I went back and proudly counted out the three dollar bills I had and the rest in quarters, dimes, nickels and pennies for the patient deputy, to make a full $5.00 with 3 cents to spare! I offered him the conciliatory coffee drink, but … he wasn’t a coffee drinker. I should have bought him a beer (for when he got off duty). But, as it turns out, I was happy I had that double shot at about mile 35.

Now, here’s the most important thing I must mention: for a couple of days earlier in the week we had a typhoon-monsoon-deluge down-pouring of rain that all at once made up for having the driest year ever. I had the flooded basement to prove it! So the water level is almost at full pool, as they call it, and still rising.

This development provided a new challenge for placing my Little Red Dock. No more nice safe smallish rocks to tread upon. There are now only unstable tipsy boulders between me and the water. It took me a long time to get the Little Red Dock situated and stable. But I still had to deal with carrying the boat over the big rocky rocks. This was not so hard putting it in as it was 50 miles later — taking it out.

I decided that now that the water level is high enough, I am going to carry my boat the half mile or so on the nice safe flat catwalk out to the nice safe flat dock and put it in there next time.

So, here are the lessons learned in this epic adventure:

After a big storm and heavy rainfall … there is FLOATING DEBRIS … stuff floating everywhere … near the bank … out in the very middle of the lake … everywhere … like a mine field. I will go into more detail in a moment. First I have some good news and some good news … and some more good news. (And later on, even MORE good news!)

The first good news is: Bob’s boathouse floats! I sent him this picture and he got out there the next day to be sure it was securely anchored. Since the spark plugs on his boat are on the blink right now, he parked his car as close as he could on a near-by road and hiked three miles to the cabin to accomplish this necessary task. All is well, and I am proud of him.

The second good news is the lake is sooooo much bigger now. My too-close-to-the-bank-GPS-map-line is no longer too close to the bank. However, despite that wonderful fact, I discovered that Deluge Aftermath factors present new challenges.

The third good news is that I have become quite adept at a pretty slick “ALL-STOP-go-right-into-a-river-turn-(where you move both oars in opposite directions to turn the boat like a turn-table)-miss-the-new-obstacle-while-there-is-still-enough-light-to-see-it” maneuver. This came in really handy because along with the new challenge of Deluge Aftermath Floating Debris, there are scores of new dead trees that have fallen and extend quite far out from the bank, and in many cases, are just anywhere they please.

I got started shortly after 3 pm. However, as my leg injury took longer to heal than I had hoped (I even had it ex-rayed to be sure it wasn’t fractured), I had done nothing but sit with my leg up with an ice pack on it for three weeks. I didn’t even work out with weights after the first few days because doing anything exacerbated it — and I MEANT I was going to get it healed as fast as possible. I knew having a fractured left tibia would not change how I was treating it, but it would determine the time-frame before I could get back out in my boat as it would require 6-8 weeks to be in one piece again. I just needed to know. Thankfully, I just had a severe periosteal bruise from slamming into my rebounder (mini-trampoline) in the dark in my house. The rebounder is in my work-out room in the basement again where it belongs! (Now that the basement is dried out again.)

Oh, yeah … right … the rowing story …

Well, due to my long hiatus and from being preoccupied with some projects and forgetting to eat much for a few days prior, I spent the first 6 miles fiddling, taking pictures, reading and writing email and was a little too focused on eating my snacks. Plus, I had pretty much forgotten how to row. So I didn’t go as fast as I could have while there was daylight. And I didn’t really get into my rhythm until about 15 miles into it. Without any oomph in my stroke, I was cruising at an easy 6 MPH, but not for long because …

Then it got dark. At first, that was ok because there was a nice bright half-moon exactly overhead. There was still plenty of light from the moon for rowing on the lake I had rowed on three weeks before. But not for what I encountered that night. And since the moon was already high, it went down long before I finished rowing, leaving me in the pitch dark flying by instruments just following my GPS line.

Oh, more good news! When it got dark … the water was glass. It was pure joy, I tell you!

When I arrived at the leg of the lake where I first saw the Bald Eagle, I ran into a serious log-jam. What I mean is debris in the form of large branches, logs and even a few wood pilings (must have lost a few docks) were everywhere in huge patches and it was too dark to maneuver around or in between them. For miles … there WAS no in between. If I still rowed with a skeg, I would have lost it 40 times that night. I was in fear for my impeller (the little propeller attached to the bottom of the hull that tells the Speed Coach what it needs to know), but the impeller guard held up like a champ to the abuse. I had to keep it under 4 MPH in a lot of places just to get through. But I made it through and found another half mile or so of lake beyond the remote boat launch leading to a marsh I saw, but miscalculated how far away it was — and met it “up close and personal” as dimly shown in this picture:

I couldn’t help but hug the new bank and explore the many extensions of the fingers of the lake in my first lap out of sheer curiosity about what the mileage of the new perimeter was going to be. I had been getting 22.5 miles or less. That night, I got close to 29 miles! Wow, what a difference!

On my second lap, I made the decision to skip the log-jam section entirely. Wise choice.

I never laughed so much rowing in all my 20 years as I did that night on the second lap. Why? Because once it got REALLY dark, I was no longer able to use my suave stop and turn technique to miss new obstacles. It didn’t matter where I rowed … out from the bank or close. Since it became evident that in these conditions I could not go fast enough to stay warm, I put on long sleeves and decided to concentrate on good form. Just as I was speeding along at another effortless MPH from simply using my knowledge of correct sculling form, I would SLAM into a multi-branched bleached white dead tree extending out from the bank … or just anywhere it pleased to be. A few times I got so tangled it would take me five minutes, maybe more, to sea-saw my way out of it. I laughed big belly laughs every time in disbelief that I didn’t capsize. One time I ended up with my port blade (the tip of the oar in my right hand) stuck in a branch 4 feet above the water surface. That made for a few precarious moments as I balanced myself with the suddenly-imperative-didn’t-know-I-had expertise of a high-wire walker — until I could get my wrists back together and jimmy myself out of that awkward position. That was at least a five minute job. Keep in mind … the air temperature was in the low 50′s and the water temperature was still hypothermia-worthy and I was wearing the only long sleeved shirt I had on the boat — far far way from the dock, warmth and dry clothes.

Even if I had tried to keep count of how many times I ran into dead trees or slammed into floating debris, I would have lost count. I will estimate 20 times on the dead trees and at least 40 for the debris. Debris example here.

That evening I decided to install an abacus on my rigging and make a call to Maas Boat Works to ask if ANYONE has ever turned one of these things over. I can only surmise that Maas Flyweights DO NOT CAPSIZE. What a perfect boat for me to train in as I prepare to attain the Much Sought-After, Recognized, Publicized, Pinnacle of Rowing Glory … the Title of the World’s Longest Distance Sculling Record-Holder of all time! (Please don’t forget why I am doing this.)

Then disaster struck! I learned yet another valuable lesson: just because the battery in your iPod looks full, unless you JUST recharged it … it is not. My music quit at mile 35. I had no choice but to keep rowing as I was some distance from the dock. I kept hearing water rushing and wondered if I had punctured the hull and there was water inside. But then I realized it was just the boat going through the water. I hadn’t heard it all that much before. I spent the next 15 miles to try to think of how many times I had rowed without music … and realized I had a lot, like when I teach in a double or row along with a friend for a few miles and chat. And a couple of head races where music is not allowed and earphones would make me look like a yahoo. I got used to it and experienced a new kind of sheer joy.

After the music died (I am not referring to Elvis), I heard a lot of little water falls and even the sounds of wild life. Also … this was another new experience: the Loch Ness monster leapt out of the water a bunch of times near the boat! Or maybe it was the alligator following me around.

Even skipping the log-jam, I only had to row a small extra loop to reach my goal of 50 miles. By then, I was glad to be near the finish as the wind decided to kick up pretty strong.

The Little Red Dock was almost submerged when I got back to it with the water level still rising fast. It really was a trick to get my boat the few feet over the perilous boulders on my well-earned wobbly legs to load it on the car. I took my time.

I have always kept my car pristinely clean in my garage before this winter when I switched lakes and decided to keep the boat on the car. Having a boat on top is a determent to taking it through car washes. So thanks to that Double Shot with Ginseng I mentioned earlier, I took a little time while still parked on the ramp to use my wet rags and the dew on the car to give it a pretty convincing wash!

This was the most eventful and adventurous row yet. It also took me all night. I felt fine so I decided to stay up all day and write stuff in Spanish (or what I imagine is Spanish … no sé, but my multi-lingual International supporters have informed me that it doesn’t suck) … and just go to bed early Sunday night. I had a wonderful day.

By the way, I checked the US Rowing Rules for doping and Double Shots with Ginseng was nowhere on the list. Whew!

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