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

Rowing

Local Rowing or Global Rowing?

I haven’t written at all about sculling lately. There’s been nothing to write. I haven’t been out on my boat in a very long time. This is ok, I decided … after having too much angst about it for too long. I had to decide there was a reason beyond my wisdom to STOP me from pushing myself so hard physically for a season after too much injury.

Of course, I could blame it on treading in water instead of sculling on water (too much work and no play) and being fed a rich diet by a very good cook (my Venezuelan assistant who did not agree with my views on carbohydrates), but in the end, something just had to give — and for a while, it was my training.

I am supposed to be a health and fitness expert, which was great while I ran a retreat. Having all the time to do what it took to be healthy and fit then was easy. It was my “job.” I was simply monetizing my lifestyle by letting other people do it with me and pay me for it.  It’s a bit more inconvenient as you all know when you have to fit it in around doing things to pay the bills that have nothing to do with preparing organic raw food, working out, doing sports and spa treatments all day long. That’s why I decided to turn my big house again into an “eco-community.” First to surround myself again with people who want to live the way I want to live and to have trustworthy people in the house to take care of it while I travel. And it looks like I’ll be doing a lot of that soon.

I have also been taking the time again to do for myself what I know I need to do to restore my adrenals, cleanse toxins (all you have to do in this world to be toxic is breathe) from my body, AND drop a few of those carbo-pounds that have turned me into a lightweight instead of a flyweight. My wonderful MAAS Flyweight rowing shell has a low weight-limit that I am slightly exceeding at the moment.  :(

There, I’ve admitted it.

But all is well and I am still strong and fit. The important thing is that I am healthier now that I have taken a break. I am completely injury free, my joints and adrenals are happy and I am ready to build up my training again wisely and gradually — while eating the healthy organic high percentage raw and low percentage carb diet my body wants.

Meanwhile the bread-pastry-cheese-rice-pasta-ice-cream nazi Trina (she did love sprouting though … and I do take responsibility for eating what she put in front of me) is cooking fattening arepas for her mother now in Valencia, Venezuela and taking care of her after several surgeries. Soon, in advance of my arrival to Caracas, she will be testifying about my medical invention before the Ministerio of her country. She is quite familiar with my device (that she misses sooooo much being able to use since she had to leave the USA because her visa ran out) that the government of her homeland began to pursue last summer through a former colleague of hers who is high up in the current administration.

I say my arrival … it has to do with whether they invite me. They want the device, yes, but we will have to come to terms. My caveat is that it not be distributed solely in A L B A Countries, but in First World Countries too. That’s a bit sticky with the political climate between Venezuela and the US at the moment, but people need it everywhere. It’s a latin telanovela. There is nothing boring about my life!

Tune in next week to see if the much maligned, misunderstood and now mysteriously ill leader of the richest country in America’s Backyard will ever forgive the ALL POWERFUL First World Country of the Americas that is still giving his best friend’s island the Cold Shoulder long past the Cold War and just get OVER all those assassination attempts by the all-pervasive intelligence agency whose name see I aaain’t gonna mention, that may well have it’s roots in the dark past of the Es Es.

¿Y quien es el padre de Elena en la verdad? ¿Miguel? ¿Guillermo? ¿Louis?

Even more mysterious is how have I been writing all those long emails in Spanish to my Power of Attorney (El Chino) in Venezuela and understanding the emails he is writing to me. Do I have a Spanish Angel? Well soon I will have an “in-house” Spanish translator/angel visiting this week (perfect timing Universe! Thank you!) named Juan Torres. As Trina always said, my Spanish is good enough that I wouldn’t starve, but I’m not ready to go have in-depth conversations about manufacturing and technical things in Spanish when I barely know the words in English. I joke (but it’s TRUE) that when I began the process of prototyping my medical device, the only technical works I knew to google to find the components I needed were do-hickie and thinga-ma-giggy! I know more now, but I had to put myself through my own personal “engineering school” the hard way.

Juan will be here just in time to be by my side for some Skype conference calls coming up as momentum is building in the matter of manufacturing my medical device in Latin America. There are other opportunities coming at me from several directions spanning many of my projects and inventions so I will be listening closely as I am still in Quantum Superposition — as to which position to snap into next. But just so you know, I AM UNLIMITED, all is easy, and I intend to do it ALL. I’ll be making some big decisions soon. But I’m completely calm about it since all I have to do is listen. ¡Todo es fácil!

So will I be Local Rowing or Global Rowing in the next few months?

I am fully prepared and ready to go for both!  Either way it’s adventure … so if you’re also ready and feel CALLED to a life of magic and miracles and FUN, then join me!!

Get on board!


FreeWill Floatin’ In The Flow, Mon!

The Global Rowing Club FreeWill Cruise of The British Virgin Islands was great! Idyllic, really.

The day before we left, my quest was to get back in touch with my favorite friend from Tortola, Leona Wattley. Years before I had tried in vain to contact her when I read that her husband, Paul Wattley, the Tortola Minister of Communication and Works, had suddenly died. I was unsuccessful then, but was determined this time to track her down. My detective work yielded that her internet presence was under her first name Sylvia. I left messages for her on Facebook and LinkedIn asking if she were the Leona I knew from The Anne Wigmore Institute in Puerto Rico in 2000. One of my messages reached her and she called me immediately from Tortola and we made a plan to get back together.

On the plane and the ferry on the way there and back I met quite a few other people with whom I had tons of things in common. The downside of that was all the talking over jet engines and ferry engines left me with a medium case of laryngitis. I could still speak softly, but even today, my voice is not fully recovered.

Originally it was supposed to be rainy the week or so we were going to be there. When I heard that, I said to Andrea: “Let me work on that.” (I have a knack for good weather.)

HENCE: the weather was perfect the entire time. There were a couple of showers that cooled things off at night, one during lunch while we were on land that cooled things off. I couldn’t have ordered a better scenario.

Andrea, Butch, Jeni at Leona's

Having only met in person two days before the trip … Captain Butch, Andrea and I all got along delightfully well and worked together on the boat like a well-oiled machine as if we’d been sailing together for years. Captain Butch, who has been sailing in the BVI for 27 years showed Andrea and me all the wonders of nature and history — and took us every day to fabulous restaurants for lunch and dinner. We snorkeled all the reefs and saw all kinds of fish, huge starfish, conch (barracuda, stingrays too). Between our three phones and a camera we effortlessly took over 600 gorgeous pictures and some video.

We met and talked with many interesting locals and ex-pat transplants spreading the word about the Mission of The Global Rowing Club. I had a nice visit with Foxy, a BVI icon on Jost van Dyke — and afterwards met with his assistant Susan.

Upon hearing about my background and looking over the GRC website together, Foxy’s assistant Susan informed me that Foxy wants to open a health retreat on Jost van Dyke. Susan, a former long-distance swimmer, expressed particular interested in the Pro/Master’s Athlete health retreat as well as my plan to build the sport of LONG DISTANCE ROWING and the year-round rowing center and new boat design. She felt all the health/athletic-related plans would go over very well in the BVI as a high percentage of the cruisers visiting were adventure-oriented masters athletes like Butch — a retired marathon runner after ruining his knees running. Long-distance sculling for Butch would be, as it is for me, physical therapy in addition to being a superior full-body work-out.

She informed me that current British political policies were slowing down the development of renewable energy initiatives in the BVI. Richard Branson purchased Mosquito Island to establish a green community/resort. It doesn’t seem to be progressing rapidly, but the time is at hand to break through such barriers and we will be in the wings at the ready with The Cosmos Renewable Off-Shore Energy Platforms  — just the sort of outlandish project that would capture the imagination of a man like Sir Richard. It certainly is Virgin territory!!!!

But hands down, of all of our adventures, the best was the wonderful evening with Leona our last night when we returned to the marina in Road Town. Leona’s and my connection was instantaneous. As we caught up over dinner at the marina, it came to light that she is on an accelerated path of spiritual awakening. My friends absolutely loved her too and she lamented over and over that she had not been able to meet us on our first day to join us for the whole cruise. We finished this magical evening over wine and cheese at her beautiful house on top of the mountain overlooking Road Town and the harbor.


Treading IN Water Instead of Sculling ON Water

Slow rowing summer? Why? I could say life gets in the way. But the truth is, I can’t devote a lot of time to training without outside support.

Just as the Levite tribe had to go back to working their fields because the other 11 tribes weren’t ponying up the dough to support the Levites to run the temple and attend to the spiritual needs ot the rest of the tribes (read The Book of Nehemiah to verify), I have to keep treading water bootstrapping with my inventions and can’t get to the business of saving the world or even trying to draw attention to The Cosmos by setting up spectacular rowing extravaganzas.

First my mother had a stroke, which took me out of town for nearly a month and completely broke my training routine! (She’s fully recovered.)

When I got back, for another month or longer it thunder-stormed every day.

I could probably still row a marathon tomorrow, but it would be SLOW and my hands would be scolding me for doing it for a week. Best to build up by increments when I get back out on the water.

Then I got too busy working with Trina working to translate all of my medical device info into Spanish for sudden intense interest expressed in manufacturing it in Latin America, and redesigning my self-loading boat roof rack to get into production to put on the market.

As for the radical new boat design: it is still the page that gets viewed the most. I suppose a lot of people keep checking back because I promised to prototype it and to take lots of pictures and videos of the process. But I haven’t started it yet because BILLS get in the way.

Seriously … if you are interested in seeing some of my projects get launched so that everything I have to offer the world will have a the chance to financially snowball into the funding it will take to make The Cosmos a reality … feel free to show up. There’s a button on this site every time you visit it that just beacons for you to JOIN THE CLUB. You can join at a predetermined organization or individual level or contribute any amount to join as a Cosmos supporter.


Climate Change and Sculling Challenge

I have to confess I am getting frustrated. I did better getting out to row all winter long in frigid temperatures than I am doing now that it is summer. There have been precious few days in the forecast that have not threatened thunderstorms. There were two days that were clear since Trina and I returned from over two weeks (of no rowing) in Maryland May 28th exhausted and depleted from the madness of the trip, but the wind was up to 14 mph. No thanks. Then there were two perfect days about two weeks ago but urgent matters prevented me from taking advantage of them. Mala suerte (I speak Spanish a lot more these days.)  Last Friday I did 36 miles dodging the ominous clouds and threatening rumbles of thunder. But that was on a small lake and I was always within a 30 minute row to get back to the launch dock if things got crazy.

My situation is a little different from the rest of the rowing world. Normal rowers and scullers can get out to row in the morning when it is clear and be off the water by the time the storms usually start. The reason that doesn’t work for me is when I get in my boat, it’s not for an hour or two … it’s for 5 to 10 hours non-stop. That’s why I am being thwarted. Most of the nights after sunset have been clear and I don’t mind getting started late and rowing all night, but I can’t get in either of these lakes after dark because the ingress is closed until dawn. So what’s a girl to do?

I’m all set to go back out to Inland Lake so I won’t have to do a zillion laps at Lake Purdy, but a thirty minute drive to gamble on dodging storms on a much larger lake where I could get caught an hour and a half away from the launch area — is too much of a risk — especially when I am in the middle of so much going on here. If I worked as much as I check the weather I would be much more productive.

I don’t remember it ever being like this. Maybe I wasn’t paying such close attention before … or maybe the climate is changing. That’s one of the things I want to get around to fixing. But for now, all I know is this weather is taking a CHUNK out of my rowing. And even worse, I barely have a tan and I can’t keep the cushions out on my deck furniture.

Looks Like I will be rowing on Monday.


Why the Long Rowing Dry Spell Jen?

Very good question. I haven’t been keeping up with adding to this blog for a good while either. So here’s the condensed version:

If you have been following my rowing stories, you will recall in the winter I really smacked my left shin running into something in the dark, didn’t ice it right away and actually forgot it even happened. My next row was on February 20th. I rowed 45 miles and I wondered why my left shin began to hurt. Next thing you know, I could barely walk for weeks. I even went to have it ex-rayed because I thought I had fractured it.

I gave it a few weeks off and went out on March 12th. It began to hurt again at 20 miles, but I rowed 50 anyway.

The next time out was March 27th at Lake Purdy to test my leg on the smaller lake where the rowing club is located. I am glad I only did 8 miles that day, taking it easy rowing slowly chatting with my friend Bob.

I stayed at Lake Purdy from then on as the water levels were back up and worked my mileage back up to 34 miles by April 19th. I really meant to do 50 or 60 miles that night, but I got a call from my new volunteer intern/assistant who was flying in on April 21st from Venezuela and once stopped for more than a few minutes, I got way too chilled to keep going, was floating right by the dock, so it was too tempting to just call it a night and get warmed back up ASAP in a heated car.

Then upon my new assistant’s arrival, our time was taken up with getting her trained and adjusted to all the workings of my multi-faceted business, health, sports, save the world way of life. It was going great and we were having a blast. But my personal rowing time was taken up with training her to row in a double. It was great fun, but not my usual work-out.

Then just as we were hitting our stride and making tons of progress, I got a call from my brother that my mother had a stroke. Next thing you know I’m on my way up to Maryland. Thankfully Trina made the trip with me in the hopes that we could continue to get some work done, but the friend we were staying with had no internet access and the only time we could get online was at the hospital … a two hour drive in traffic both ways from where we were staying. We never got to bed before 4 am in the morning. The strain of the trip did us both in.

Thankfully, when the dust settled on my mother’s acute episode, the doctor explained to me that her blood pressure had simply spiked way too high, and the worst of her damage was just being kept in a hospital bed for two weeks losing all of her strength while they were trying to get her blood pressure medication adjusted. By the time we left, she was her old self again. But between the 15 hour drive there (Trina obviously could not help with the driving) and the 15 hour drive back … and the minimum of 4 hours of driving every day we were there, and no rowing to keep my joints pain free, my old right hip injury decided to kick up into a full blown bout of non-stop pain and barely being able to walk AGAIN.

I was so depleted by the over two week trip of non-stop impossible circumstances, it was a week before I was even close to being myself again emotionally and being in constant physical pain was not helping at all.

I knew the only way to get it under control was to get back out rowing and Trina and I made it out once in the double, but again … 8 miles is not sufficient physical therapy for my abused joints from a life-time of extreme sports.

Then all of a sudden, we started getting intense interest from South American about my medical device invention and Trina and I spent a couple of weeks writing, compiling and translating already existing information into Spanish for her connection there to submit for consideration.

Then to make matters simply impossible, the weather forecast for every week since our  return from the Maryland trip has looked like this: And still does. This is from today:

Trina is off visiting family in Miami and trying to get a customs matter straightened out about some things she had shipped from the UK to Venezuela so I was determined to go rowing by myself again Friday. The weather as usual promised scattered thunderstorms so I called my chiropractor and made an appointment for 3:30 to get my hip adjusted. But I told him if it weren’t raining, I would go rowing to adjust it that way instead. He’s a Global Rowing Club supporter and knows me well. When I left having lunch with a friend, I called to say it wasn’t raining and rowed mind-numbing laps at Lake Purdy for 36 miles. I felt GREAT.

My hip is pain free again, but I still have to put in some more miles to get it completely back to normal.

I had my gear all ready to go back out to Inland Lake early this morning for some REAL mileage because the weather showed no signs of thunderstorms last night, but the big thunder claps started extra early and it has been dark and ominous all day. Tomorrow looks the same, but I will still try to get out early and hopefully dodge the scattered storms. When it is 95 degrees (35 Celsius) I don’t mind getting rained on. Getting hit by lightning might give me super human powers, so whatever happens, it’s a win win — the way I see it.

I just have to row again, darn it!

So there it is … why I have been conspicuously silent in my blog posting … and took a hiatus from rowing. Life got in the way.


Back from Sculling Haitus

36.1 Miles — 58.1 Kilometers

I only had 36.1 miles (58.1 K) in me today after not rowing in my boat Hummingbird since  April 19 … nearly 7 weeks ago when I did only 34 miles. I was planning to row 60 miles that night. The conditions were ideal. A full moon was rising just as it got dark and while I was moving, the temperature was perfect. But I got a phone call and stopped to talk. Then I got too chilled and stiff to continue. This afternoon and evening, I didn’t answer the phone, text, or even take pictures. I just rowed non-stop except for a quick pull-over to switch my running lights on at twilight. Is mine the only scull in the world that has a lit dashboard and running lights? I think it might be.


Marsh Labyrinth Sculling, 101

18.2 Miles — 29.3 Kilometers

The wind was up and only going to get worse. Gary at Lake Purdy kept telling me, but I had checked and I already knew. I told him I could handle it. (Yeah, I’m so tough.)

When I got out … windy it was. I pulled out an elastic band immediately to put around my hat to keep it on. I had intended to head straight down to the Bald Eagle nest but decided to make a run for the new Marsh Labyrinth in hopes that the wind would in fact get calmer instead of worse by the time I ventured back out into the main lake.

Once I got back there, it was a sheltered paradise. As I was only out to test my leg and work on my tan (the only sunblock I ever use is sun … I’m strangely not as fair as a Scottish lass should be) I lingered in the maze amid the wildlife. I saw all three Bald Eagles there, countless herrings, ducks, geese and even chased after a surprisingly relaxed and friendly Water Moccasin lazily swimming with his head above the water and sticking his tongue out a lot. It was forked.

I took lots of pictures. I was in no hurry to leave. There are a couple of the snake … look for them.

I managed to get at least four miles out of the Marsh Labyrinth and went places no scull has gone before. Skegless sculling means being able to go over logs or almost anything. And after rowing so much in the dark, my balance in the daylight is effortless! I can pick my way through narrow passes by raising my blades high above all obstacles or pulling them inboard all the way. It has become uncanny! I can go anywhere!

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Once I got back out into the main part of the lake … it was soooooooo windy. Oh my God was it windy. Up to 20 mph winds for the next hour. I just opened my bailer and left it open and struggled against the wind to keep up the 3 miles per hour it takes to keep the water going out as I was constantly swamped with swell after swell. There were times I was rowing as hard as I could and the Speed Coach read zero miles per hour! I tried like Jesus to talk the wind into calming down. I’m not as fast as Jesus, but it eventually worked. I kept going until dark mapping the perimeter and managed to get 18.2 miles in one lap. Now I have a GPS line to follow. When I got off the water and up to my car … this time there was a sticky note on my window with the combination to unlock the gate to get out. Thanks Gary.

He knows how I am. :)


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!


Recommendation from Bob Montgomery

I just received this today. He told me not to let it go to my head:

“Jenifer is far and away the most dedicated sculler and endurance athlete I know. Her standards start in that ethereal realm after most folks have just given up and gone home. She is passionate about finding ways to help others to experience and enjoy rowing … and is proving that by taking the sport to the Web with The Global Rowing Club. Her aspirations for new hull designs realized will be transformative for a sport steeped in tradition, yet always embracing the latest technological innovations. Jenifer is just as enthusiastic about training others to attain the superhuman levels of endurance and power which she musters each week when she puts in another 50,000 to 80,000 meters. Jenifer has a competitive edge and attitude most others can only aspire to.”

Bob Montgomery Jr., Birmingham Rowing Club

Thanks Bob! I am also the most dedicated boathouse checker you know.


Recommendation from Bob Montgomery

I just received this today. He told me not to let it go to my head:

“Jenifer is far and away the most dedicated sculler and endurance athlete I know. Her standards start in that ethereal realm after most folks have just given up and gone home. She is passionate about finding ways to help others to experience and enjoy rowing … and is proving that by taking the sport to the Web with The Global Rowing Club. Her aspirations for new hull designs realized will be transformative for a sport steeped in tradition, yet always embracing the latest technological innovations. Jenifer is just as enthusiastic about training others to attain the superhuman levels of endurance and power which she musters each week when she puts in another 50,000 to 80,000 meters. Jenifer has a competitive edge and attitude most others can only aspire to.”

Bob Montgomery Jr., Birmingham Rowing Club

Thanks Bob! I am also the most dedicated boathouse checker you know.


Night Rower — An Odyssey

Forced to launch across the lake because firemen were loading boats to get their equipment to a cabin on the lake that was on fire — my early start became and extremely late start. I rowed 45 miles in the most challenging conditions I have ever faced. More later. Click on the slideshow to control how fast it goes.

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Windy Moonless Long-Distance Sculling In The Dark Wilderness, 101

45 Miles — 72.42 Kilometers

I had upgraded my little red dock and packed my rowing bag … even made some power snacks on Saturday to be ready for a truly early start on Sunday. It was going to be another sailing day, but in the 70’s and I need experience rowing on all conditions in my preparation to break the world long distance sculling record. As I state in Sculling For World Healing, I will have no problem with the distance. But the time will be very weather-dependent and will require a lighter me and a faster boat. But for now, I will become the best sculler I can be building my skill, strength and mileage in a variety of conditions — including the dark.

But I was excited Sunday morning to set out for an especially long row in mostly daylight. But it didn’t happen that way.

The thirty-some mile drive has become second nature to me now, and as I pulled into the long country road leading to the lake, I passed a fire truck with its lights flashing. I had texted Bob I was on the way out there so he would know he would soon receive a picture of his boathouse as the water levels raise to where at some point we will find out if it still floats. Tick-tock, tick-tock, Bob.

I had gotten used to being the only car in this parking lot, but this is what I pulled up to, except by the time I took the picture, some of the emergency vehicles had disappeared down the ramp to load up boats with firefighting equipment. Deputy Staten met me to tell me a cabin on the lake was on fire and that it would be a very long time before I could get my boat on the water. Bass fishermen were in queue too. He advised me to go on out to the other launch area and gave me directions to get there by road.

I had an impulse to skip it, but 63 miles is a lot of driving (and CO2 footprint) for nothing. I pressed on. It was another 11 miles to the remote launch on country roads. That was going to make for about an hour to drive home after the row.

When I arrived, I checked in with the deputy there and then spent way too much time walking up and down that very shore-line that had stolen 5 weeks of my life last November/December after the day Bob and I shot the Sculling For a Blue Angel Music Video. This structure is a little store where you can buy snacks and Bob was hungry.

I usually never get out of the boat, but did to be a pal that day, I immediately sunk into quicksand and overstretched my right Achilles tendon. I got back in the boat and rowed another 10-15 miles. But the next day, the pain was so piercing — like fire — that I was sure I had ruptured it but. I was not fully recovered for 5 weeks. Turns out you need your ankles for just about everything including rowing and working out. I lost a lot of my strength and the last of the warm rowing weather of the year.

So needless to say, I am not fond of this place. It was muddy and the incline at the waterline was too gradual for my little red dock to work right, so there was no place to put my boat in cleanly. I wanted to pitch it again, but over-ruled myself and MADE a way for my little red dock to work.

I saw the Bald Eagle. I’m sure that meant something like: be brave. I was very brave. You’ll see.

As I was preparing my boat, I caught some guys using my freshly rinsed little dock that is simply not meant to hold the weight of heavy guys … as their way to get in their boat without getting their feet wet. I made Eric stand there while took I this picture, then requested after they used it to please clean the mud off that they just tracked onto it. They left it in fine condition so no harm done.

Yes, I am little prissy about being able to get in and out of my boat without getting it muddy or freezing my feet, or injuring myself in bottomless mud or on loose rocks. So I come prepared to do a little extra for my launch and landing to be a little safer, cleaner, comfortable and more convenient.

It WAS fricken windy, and that made me think again about how good of an idea it was to get on the water, but I told myself it would calm down and I had all night, if need be, to enjoy another moonlight row since it was just two days past the full moon.

I got on the water at my record latest time of 5:30 — two minutes past the official sunset time of 5:28.

It was still windy when I put in, but soon it let up and I had a twilight of glass to enjoy at the beginning of my row. My boat wanted to do 6 miles an hour effortlessly, which meant I could easily do 7 with a little oomph in my drive. But it was not to be.

First of all, the calm part of my row was spent returning texts from Bob wondering where the cabin that was on fire was on the lake (I made sure with the deputy it wasn’t Bob’s house). I told him I didn’t know, The fire had been long put out I am sure. He was also texting me that I needed to get running lights, a strobe and a Jen Cam installed on my bow. It’s true, I am cheating now with just having a flashlight on my splashguard. My grace-period will be over when the Summer People get back. There will be night-time traffic then.

Then …. IT GOT DARK. Way out in the country, there are stars in the sky … plenty of stars. But they don’t light up the water and the shore like even a sliver of the moon will.

I remembered a couple of things and learned a few more things. That’s what I’m out there to do.

I remembered that rowing shells are REALLY tipsy. That fact seems to diminish as skill and confidence increases. I was reminded acutely of it that night when I learned that vision has a LOT to do with keeping balance.

So even before the wind whipped up again, I had to settle into a slower pace than I wanted as I tried to get used to keeping some kind of stable stroke with no visual frame-of-reference to help.

I also learned that as much as I needed the lit-up instrument panel to keep my bearings, it was a two-edged sword as it kept me from being able to acquire night vision. Toward the end of the row their batteries dimmed to where they were just right, I will keep that pair to use in the darkest conditions for as long as they last. Perhaps I will design little dimming covers to put over fresh lights for such occasions. This is a picture of the dimmer lights at the end of the row.

Then a couple of things happened to make this row hands-down the most challenging one yet (not counting the typhoon I got caught in last summer).

The wind whipped up again and I found myself in open water conditions including gusts and swells just below whitecap level. Thankfully it wasn’t so bad that my boat swamped, but with diminished balancing senses, it was a test of skill to say the least.

And the thing I didn’t understand the most was: WHERE WAS THE MOON? The sky was clear. I could see the stars. The moon started rising only 3 nights before right at twilight (proof in the pictures on Sculling By Moonlight). But there was no moon to be found anywhere in the sky. What up Universe?!

Even though it was supposed to be a warm night (in the 50’s), I guess I couldn’t row hard enough to keep myself warm so at one point I put on two long sleeve jerseys and for the first time EVER, I put on tights! I even put on wool footies under my neoprene footies.

But then, just as I turned around at the main boat launch ten miles into the row, there was the moon rising. Better late than never!.

Before long I was rowing fast enough again that I had stripped back down to sleeveless, but didn’t want to stop long enough to pull off the tights. I felt a bit warm, but not enough to take the time to remove them.

I also learned that when dew falls, things get wet, so don’t leave anything you want to keep dry uncovered when it is getting dark. Funny how things you know in regular life have to present themselves in new situations like this … at least for me. I’m out there to learn not only to row better and faster in all conditions, but to learn how to stay in the boat, have everything I need without being over-loaded and just keep rowing! Most especially in REALLY long distance rowing in a single, it’s not so much how fast you go: it’s How Little You Fiddle.

When I got back to where I launched, I could have stopped there at 22.5 miles, but the moon was up, the wind had calmed a bit (back in there anyway) and I figured the next lap was my pay-off, so I went around again. After all, the farther the drive, the longer the row should be to justify the trip. That’s how I see it, anyway.

Halfway through my second lap, The clouds started to cover the sky until the cover was complete. But even a cloudy sky obscuring the moon is brighter than a clear starlit sky with no moon.

I have decided to zero out my GPS line next time I go out early in the day and make a new line. In an effort to squeeze the most mileage from the perimeter of the lake, my line is soooo close to the bank, even with the water levels rising again. And as Spring approaches, the bass boats will all be square on my line, so I need to shorten my lap by a half a mile to a mile. Since I’m gong to be doing multiple laps, I can afford to pull out from the shore a lot more to be safer.

I must take a moment to sing the praises of my beloved Hummingbird and thank the Maas brothers for making such a great boat. I could tell many stories of times I should have just gone right over … like in my first head race the day after I bought the Flyweight. I talked them into letting me enter The Head Of The Oklahoma at the last minute. Luckily my race was early enough the next morning that it wasn’t cancelled. Every single and double race after mine was cancelled due to the high winds. 15 MPH is a light wind day in Oklahoma City.

But that day, my first day rowing my new boat, two years away from having it rigged anywhere near right for me … I gave it all I had. Just as I was passing a grandstand full of people, the wind yanked my port scull (the one in my right hand) right out of my hand and swung too far away for me to catch it. Somehow I stayed upright until I could coax it back to within reach, and was on my way again. My time in the race wasn’t good, but that I finished dry in a new boat made me proud all the same.

Similarly, Maas boys, your Flyweight has saved my butt more times than I can count when dead trees, stumps and docks jump out from nowhere and catch me going full-tilt — and a wide variety of other crashes and sudden ALL STOPS I have encountered in my rowing too-close-to-the-bank approach. The other night I really should have capsized several times and had that fleeting thought each time: “This is it. I’m going over and there goes my perfect record!” But then, my Hummingbird steadies and I am a little shaken but still dry and very thankful.

I will mention one more thing that contributed to making this an especially challenging row. It’s one of the other things I remembered while I was out there. I started to notice something going on with my left shin with every stroke. It hurt a little and even cracked. Shins don’t crack like joints, right? I had no idea what was going on. And then I remembered slamming into my rebounder in the dark the other night when I had not put it way after using it and didn’t expect it to be where it was. It hit me on the lower part of my shin and I recall saying to myself, I need to go put ice on that. But then promptly forgot.

Truly, a stitch in time saves nine! 20 minutes of an ice pack on my shin that evening would have saved two days of icing it since I rowed 45 miles with a bruised shin. I don’t injured myself doing my sports. Just doing life. I’m sure that’s a metaphor for something. I am on the mend, but I think the Wednesday row I was planning (tomorrow) will have to wait for the weekend.

No matter how dark, windy and moonless it was … I was happy the whole time. There is no way I know of to feel more dramatically alive. I count myself among the most fortunate people in the world that I can do something so wonderful and enlivening as rowing as long as I want, whenever I want, and in conditions that most people would not brave even in a motor boat.

Super powers, I tell you!


How To Be a FRIENDLY Long-Distance Sculler

I have stumbled upon a way to be completely relaxed, self-forgiving, charming and sociable!

I have learned how to row in the dark.

Many is the time I have shouted over my shoulder to a rowing club friend as I was carrying my boat to the launch dock … “as much as I love you, I love daylight MORE!”

Back when I rowed where the club is located, well-meaning club members would want to hang-out and chat. They are in the club for social and recreational reasons. I did attend the parties to be social and even went to the business meetings. But when I went to row, I went to ROW. I established a rule: never speak to Jenifer after noon. If you want to socialize with me, then be here at dark.

I feel like Rocky training to be the World Champion … but in a sport that doesn’t even exist! Well, it’s about to exist if I have anything to do with it. Keep your eye on me. Read the GRC Mission page … when I put it up. The new sport of Sanctioned Non-Recreational Long-Distance Sculling/Rowing is ON if I have to sanction it MYSELF!

So back to how it is I am suddenly about to become warm and personable again.

I came to the realization a couple of weeks ago that this Water Works lake is not like the other. At Lake Purdy, you have to be off the lake and off the premises before they lock the gate. Too many times I have come in late and kept the guys, Ken and Steve, past closing time. They have been nothing but sweet about it, but I felt a lot of pressure to be a good girl there.

It’s really more “me” to be an out-law … without ever breaking the law. That’s a difficult balance to maintain.

So my new realization has SET ME FREE! At Inland Lake, since there are a handful of old cabins on the lake whose owners can only get to by boat, there is no closing time at the boat launch. They never turn off the lights and the restroom is always heated. I can stay out and row all night (just did) and if I want to … If it came to it I could camp-out in Bob’s high and dry boathouse. Eureka!

This empowering realization came to me because as almost a second thought last week, I grabbed a couple of lights just in case I found myself too far out on the lake to make it in by sundown on a day I knew the conditions were going to be perilous. I tell about it in Fricken High Wind Open Fricken Water Fricken Cold Weather In the Fricken Dark Sculling, 301. It worked so well, I discovered I can now row after dark and find my way back by following my line on my GPS map screen or use the marker feature to get me there the most direct route. Before I couldn’t see the screens after dark. The GPS and the Speed Coach have internal lights I can stop and press the buttons to turn on, but they only stay on for so long and they really burn the battery-life. As it was, I had to stop and change the batteries in my GPS Thursday night mid-row.

Elated by my new super-power, Monday after the Sunday Fricken High Wind row, I went to the Dollar Store and bought more LED book-reading lights and then on to the thrift store to find zip cases that were waterproof enough to not have to put things in time-consuming to open and close ziplock bags, as I have learned that you don’t have to turn your boat over for everything on it to get wet. I mention that fact in the Fricken High Wind row post too.

The thing about long-distance sculling in the wilderness in the winter alone is that you have to have “stuff” with you in case there is a mishap. That makes for a heavier boat and slower rowing, but safety first. I’m at the ready to change into dry clothes and start a fire if need be. In addition to water and snacks, I have extra pairs of gloves, extra batteries, extra socks, water shoes, towels, extra contacts, a bottle of saline solution and a magnification mirror in case I get something in my eye, some tools just in case I decide to adjust my rigging, tape in case my hands start to hurt (they never do anymore), line to tie my boat if need be, extra little bungee cords, and my GPS and Speed Coach manuals in case I push the wrong button and mess everything up, which I have been known to do! And don’t forget my extremely high-tech ergonomic long-distance rowing padded seat I tell about having developed in Jen’s Rowing Story. I am compensating for the added weight of gear by dropping some of my it’s-too-cold-to-row-I-got-injured-AGAIN-feel-sorry-for-myself-only-want-to-hibernate-by-the-fireplace-and-eat-popcorn-and-chocolate-winter-weight-gain. At least I don’t row with a lapdog in the boat anymore. Sorry Hannah, but there’s just no extra room in this one.

My winter hibernation weight gain is not shocking. I weigh exactly what I weighed when I shot the sofa movies video. It’s just that on a Flyweight (not a lightweight, midweight or heavyweight) scull, you go faster the lighter you are when you’re not sinking the beam to it’s max, therefore, there is a top weight you really don’t want to exceed. I am just under that top weight, but now that it is warming up, I’ll be in the pink again in no time!!!

I can’t wait to see what I can do when I’m IN SHAPE!

I have decided (another epiphany) to set up my cock-pit and leave it set up (covered) to save the time-consuming ritual of put it together before every row and breaking it down afterwards. Now that my mileage is climbing again and it’s about to warm up, I’m going to have to make more room for water and snacks and a way to get to them fast — as well as my ever expanding instrument panel. The other “stuff” I bungee behind me just inside the splash guard, and I will need far less “just-in-case” gear when the weather gets really nice.

This first night-time row was a fact-finding mission. I set up the cock-pit that afternoon and spent the entire row making adjustments like how to angle the lights to prevent distracting glare on the screens. I tested different gloves, an elastic band specifically for keeping my hat on in wind and various other ideas I have for minimizing the Fiddling Factor.

Once I got past most of the adjusting and could just row, my first moonlight row was magical. It is a story worth telling as are all of my rowing adventures in my opinion — for my own delight if for no other reason. See the next post to be with me vicariously on an uninhabited lake alone in the moonlight during the winter. Fortunately, you won’t be as cold as I was … but unfortunately, you won’t be as thrilled. I hope you will be entertained.

P.S. Just as I was leaving my neighborhood coffee shop where I wrote this post, I had a couple of nice conversations. The first one was with Dale the long-distance cyclist who I had met and chatted with before. We talked about how dangerous cycling has become (a couple of cyclists have been killed in our town in the last few years) which is one of the reasons I have cut back on cycling to maybe one Century a year in favor of the much safer, more scenic, far more elegant and full-body exercise sport of sculling. And I mentioned to Dale that the last Century I road last October, I was thinking the whole time how boring it was compared to sculling. Every stroke in sculling requires attention and skill. Dale said he was interested. It is part of my quest to recruit my old endurance athlete peers to consider giving sculling a try. I will write more about that part of my plan soon.

Next I ran into and met Leslie as I was getting into my car. As you may have read in my post The Boat Stays On The Car! … the boat was on the car. He surprised me by asking me if it were a shell. Usually people think it is a kayak. I was impressed that he knew that. We talked a little about the boat’s history of winning the North American Open Water Championships two years in a row (See Jen’s Rowing Story again) along with Diane Davis, a very accomplished racer. She was the reason I wanted a carbon fiber Maas Flyweight … and I just happened to get THAT VERY FLYWEIGHT. My life is magical that way.

Leslie asked if they made boats for Clydesdales. I thought that was cute. I told him I had one for sale the would be perfect for a Clydesdale — a Little River Marine Cambridge.

Interestingly enough, both Dale and Leslie asked me specific questions about sculling that I actually had just answered in this post. I told them my URL because someone was waiting for me at my house (around the corner) and I had to run.

Hi Dale and Leslie. Come on over to the wonderful world of sculling. :)

See, I am friendlier already!


Sculling By Moonlight

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30.5 miles. It was an awesome row. Story to follow after I get some sleep. :)


Long-Distance Moonlight Sculling, 101

30.5 Miles — 49.08 Kilometers

This is the story my first long-distance moonlight row on beautiful wild uninhabited Inland Lake, Thursday February 17th.

Excited about my new ability to row after dark on a beautiful Sunday in the high 60’s … possibly touching 70º a some point, I got all ready to go Thursday determine to get an extra early start and do a REALLY long row.

Of course, my extra early start turned into a medium early start, but I knew it was going to be an almost a full moon on a clear warm(ish) night and I was relaxed for a change.

Instrument Panel on Long-distance sculler Jenifer Humming's Maas Flyweight Hummingbird

When I got out there, my first project after cleaning my boat, was to put my new instrument panel together in a way that everything would be well-placed, easy to get to, efficient and attached securely enough to leave it set up. That took a while. But I wasn’t in my usual big hurry. It was fricken windy and I knew it would let up a little in the afternoon and for the first time ever, I didn’t feel rushed by the impending sunset. (You can’t know how happy I am about this!)

I met Robert the Bass fisherman and chatted a bit. He offered to help me carry the boat. I thanked him all the same.

I then met Archie when he came in from fishing. He only caught one bass. He said the fish at Inland Lake were the best because the water is so clean. But since it is so clear (it’s a deep lake but where it is shallow enough, you can see clear to the bottom 4-6 feet), it’s hard to sneak up on the bass. And bass are smarter than people anyway, to start with. Archie and I had a nice visit while I fiddled with all my doohickies.

Archie The Bass Fisherman

Then I tried my latest little red dock improvements. It is good, but not perfect. It doesn’t help that the water level is different every week. But I think I know one more small change I need to make for it to be the most versatile to place quickly where it will be steady.

I got on the water at a new record later-than-I-wanted time: 5 pm! Sunset was at 5:28.

It didn’t matter. I had new super powers.

It bears mentioning though … among my many lessons in this row, that I decided to try lowering my oarlocks to see if getting my blades deeper in the water would make me go faster. I remembered one thing and learned two things.

The one thing I remembered was why I raised them in the first place. A late finish is my biggest problem in being rigged right into this boat that gives me about 1 mm of leeway to be in the sweet spot — and it took me two years of minute to significant rigging adjustments to find it! I need the extra leverage to get the blades out of the water on time, high and clean.

The first of the two things I learned was not to make dramatic rigging changes before a 30 mile row in the dark. Best to test a change for a mile or two. The stroke was so awkward for me it was extra hard on my back. I had the screwdriver to fix it, but without getting my feet wet, there was no way to change it back. Plus … over water is not the place to let the spacers loose!

The second thing I learned was the time to test how fast you can go is not in the dark! I love how smart I am becoming. Between pushing the max weight with my own body weight, then add to that the weight of all of the aforementioned gear … and then add to that a rigging change that was straining my lower back on the finish … plus darkness, I just settled in to cruise at around 5 mph and decided to be happy with it. Faster days are ahead.

By the time I got started, it was cool enough that for the first time in 20 years I rowed the entire time wearing a long-sleeved jersey. It finally got cold enough (because I had to row easy instead of full-throttle) that I pulled out my “just-in-case” shirt. This left me without a backup long-sleeved shirt if I capsized the boat, which I will remind you (ego steps in for a moment) that I have never capsized a single and don’t want to start. That was another reason not to tempt fate by trying to set a speed record.

The rest of the story is just an amazing feeling I have never had before that I can’t adequately describe, of being all alone on a wilderness lake on perfect glass for most of the time with all the time in the world to row as long and as far as I wanted, under a moon that was so bright that it was almost blinding. And I didn’t feel one bit alone. I suspect Angels love to scull in the moonlight too. We had a wonderful time!

I told myself only one lap (22 miles). I promised myself that when I spotted the brightly lit launch area, I would pull in and be fine with whatever my distance turned out to be. I knew I was straining my back and shouldn’t push myself.

But when I saw the lights … my flesh was willing, but my Spirit was weak … or strong? I didn’t want it to end. Last summer I set my minimum distance at a marathon once a week … at least 26.2 miles. Now I want my minimum to be 30 miles twice a week for the next few weeks, then 35 or 40. So I gave in and rowed another 8 miles. Even then, I didn’t want to stop.

It was during that extra loop that one of the best moments of the evening occurred. Beegie Adair’s beautiful jazz piano rendition of Moon River came on while I was out in the open where the lake is wide. How can you not just love life in such a moment as that?

When I got home in the wee hours, I couldn’t wait to see the pictures so I uploaded them and posted a small slideshow of the few that weren’t too dark to see some detail.

Tomorrow is a sailing day at Inland. Partly cloudy with winds up to 14 mph … but getting up to 72º and staying in the 50’s after dark. I guess ya’ll know where I’m gonna be.


Fricken High Wind Open Fricken Water Fricken Cold Weather In the Fricken Dark Sculling, 301

39.2 Miles — 63.08 Kilometers

I got out yesterday for nearly a 40 mile row (39.2 without getting out of the boat) in MAJOR wind and open water conditions. It was a warmer sunny day, which meant I was going to go even though I knew the wind would be over 12 miles an hour for most of the day. It was the kind of day that if I were sitting on my porch overlooking the Chesapeake in Annapolis, I’d laugh if anyone suggested I go rowing. More like I would put on a wetsuit and fly a hull six feet in the air hanging from a trapeze!

The lake is open now so it’s not a gamble anymore to get in. Mr. Retired Deputy Tom Foster checked me in and we had a nice chat. He said he’d heard about the Bald Eagle but had never seen him. I gave him the link to see the Eagle Dance Video I edited last week so he could finally see him after all these years. There’s suppose to be an alligator that lives in this lake. We’ll see if I ever get a glimpse at that guy.

My usual early start (in the winter an early start means arriving when it’s getting close to 40 degrees no matter what time that is), once again turned into my usual later-than-I -wanted start. I discovered that when you think your shell might be a little slow from being a little wet inside and decide to dry it out the night before a row with a hairdryer blowing into the hatch … it might slightly melt the part of the hull it was aimed at directly. When I pulled the boat off the rack at the lake … it took some unsticking from the textured padding on the foam rollers. I then discovered the cost of my cleverness was the pattern was melted into the hull. But I’m just the kind of girl who carries around Lysol Toilet Bowel Cleaner (cleans ANYTHING off of a hull) and wet/dry sand paper. So latex gloves, some water and LTBC on some 400 removed most of the scarring and some 1500 brought it most of the way back to a sheen. It goes without saying I need to start traveling with my compounding paste. While I was at it, I had a go at the 6 foot long scratch — a souvenir from the treacherous shallow obstacle-ridden lake I had to abandon where the rowing club now resides.

I also had to bide my time to get my turn to carry my boat down the ramp as a parade of bass fishermen launched their boats. Those sweet guys always offer to help me with my boat. Non-rowers don’t intuitively know that we can carry such big long boats alone. I never accept help for good reason. It comes from experiences like letting a member of our club help me carry my boat and him dropping his end (and wrecking my other boat on a trailer). So … even letting people help who you would think know what they are doing can end badly. I rather have only myself to blame if I damage my boat, which as I mentioned above, I am perfectly capable of doing without any help.

Bob's Boathouse 2-13-11

It was 12:50 when I started out. By 1:00, about a mile into the row, I kept up my tradition and snapped this to show the water level is rising. The moment I took this picture, the wind tried to blow my hat off my head. But the water is up about ten feet from when I wrote Cold Weather Sculling 101. Before you know it, that thing may or may not be floating. Bob has some work to do on it. He’s an absolute genius, by-the-way … which means he STAYS side-tracked. I might have to get an underwater camera.

So I wrote about sculling in high wind a couple of weeks ago. That was nothing. This was serious open water stuff that makes calling that row high wind sound whiney. Every stroke yesterday was a survival moment except for a few delightful glass-water reprieves way back in the fingers of the lake.

I didn’t fiddle per say, but I spent most of my time doing things like taking my long-fingered gloves off to open my automatic bailer when the swells washed over my gunwales and swamped me, blinking funny because the wind blew my right contact up into the corner of my eye and I didn’t realize it until the drive home, removing my hat to tie back my hair again and slick it down with lake water  because the wisps of hair the wind unleashed were driving me crazy. And at one point I even had to stop and tie two little bungees together to wrap around my hat to keep my it from blowing off because there was no way to keep it on otherwise! I have never had to do that before in almost 20 years of rowing!

You might as well know about me that I am a Boy Scout and am always prepared. But don’t jump to the conclusion I carry a big purse. A true Boy Scout can fit all remedies for any eventuality in a clutch. The Quantum Field fits into a clutch too.

To say I felt great would be about as far away from expressing how wonderful I felt as it would be to say playing Heart and Soul with one finger on a piano sounded like a choir of Angels.

This is why the water levels are rising. We just had our third snowfall in a part of the country that sees a few snow flakes about every ten years.

Melting ice on Inland Lake

I’ve gotten really good at ALL STOP too. You wouldn’t believe the close calls I had. Did I mention how good I am at steering? That’s on the days you can afford to turn your head.

It was so windy (how wind was it?) that I was building my triceps pushing on the recovery. Still, having lightened my boat considerably by shaving off a few pound of my injury/hibernation winter weight gain by being disciplined in a diet of popcorn, sherbet  and chocolate, I kept up a pace of between 6 and 7 miles an hour and even stayed above 5 miles an hour on my hairpin turns through the magic of skegless sculling. My top speed was 7.9, but I think that happened one of the times I had to stop and the wind was blowing me backwards to the West while the satellite was orbiting East. Hard to say.

I borrowed some dark and a three-quarter moon for my row last night. I brought along a small Dollar Store aim-able LED book-reading light to illuminate my GPS screen without running down the GPS batteries and put a flashlight on the bow just to be seeable, but the bass boats were long gone so it was just a formality.

I anticipate that rowing 105 miles anywhere (the long-distance sculling record is, so far as I know, 104 miles), even if I can do it in less than 14 hours … is going to involve some rowing in the dark, so I best get used to it.

I came in at 39.2 miles iPod going strong … and felt like I had that much left in me, but it was starting to get too cold even for me. I actually put some sleeves on for the last 5 miles. It was 46º when I left — practically tropical.

The Moon will be full by the end of the week and the wind doesn’t look like it will exceed 15 miles an hour!

I’ll try to drop 5 pounds by eating only at IHOP for the rest of the week, get an early start and see if I can get some exercise on Thursday.


Eagle Dance — Sculling on a Wild Lake

31.8 Miles — 51.2 Kilometers

The boat stayed on the car. The little red dock got another upgrade. Sunday was going to be in upper 40’s with wind 9 mph or less. I even got an earlier start than usual for the 30 minute drive to the lake. We had been having some rain and snow so chances were the water levels might be up.

I have a confession. Since the Achilles heel injury … I have gotten out of my routine of getting to the gym at 5:30 every morning. I’ve really only been back since Halloween a handful of times. I’ve only rowed a few times too. So I have gained my usual winter hibernation weight … which slows a girl down on a Flyweight. No better reason to get out for a good long row.

On the way in, I stopped at the cabin to find the Deputy on duty, who turned out to be Deputy Staten who was very chipper and sweet on that sunny morning. The lake is open now since the water has come up a few feet. So now I can relax about getting on the lake, but will have to factor in bass boats in my steering.

The first thing I did was place my little red dock … and in the process, managed to stumble on the very rocks I am trying to cover so I won’t fall while carrying my boat. Better to fall putting the dock in place. Luckily, I didn’t get wet, but I did give my left knee a sharp knock that I would have put an ice pack on right away if I weren’t anxious to get on the water.

For some reason, my early start turned into my more usual later-than-I-wanted start. I manage to get going by 12:15. Sunset was going to be at 5:24.

It was in the low 40’s so I wore my neoprene socks trimmed down to my ankles, shorts and two jerseys. One mile into the row … right at Bob’s boathouse, in fact, the long sleeves came off and I rowed sleeveless as is my preference the rest of the day, wind chill factor, or not.

I went ahead and snapped a picture of the boathouse as it is the best indicator of the lake level out there. It has come up several feet, so staying on my GPS line is safer now, but I did make an effort to row inside the line anyway while thinking out-of-the-box, as promised.

Then I started back out and within a few minutes, there was my friend the Bald Eagle flying low and slow 50 feet from my bow. I stopped to watch until he landed on a tree on the opposite bank. I tried to keep my eye on him, but soon rowed out of sight. I saw quite few hawks the rest of the day, but no more close encounters. Watch Eagle Dance below. It is some of slow-motion footage of the Bald Eagle that Bob shot on the day we filmed the Sculling for a Blue Angel Music Video.

It was a beautiful day to be grateful for in early February only a day or two after a snow fall. Despite my later-than-I-wanted start, I fiddled not at all, made no stops longer than it took to take a bite of an apple that I didn’t even finish until I landed and I downed a Doubleshot at about mile 10. I didn’t row very fast, but like the tortoise and the Energizer Bunny, I just kept going and going and going.

My goal for the day was 30 miles. I came in at 31.8.

I’m looking forward to getting back in shape. It’ll take me two or three weeks. I’ll keep you posted.

It was 41 degrees when I got off the water. The little red dock is working like a charm. I decided to pull the car all the way down the ramp to load the boat, which worked out nicely, saving me the long steep climb. But my fingers were just about frostbitten by the time I finished securing the boat. I’ve gotten the hang of cold weather sculling, but Spring is just around the corner and will be so welcomed — even though it means I will have to share the lake with humans again and steer around bass boats.

This time I brought ice packs so I put ice on my knee for the 30 minute drive home, put ice on my knee again when I went to bed and iced it quite a bit today. Other than that, I feel great and my knee is on the mend.

Saturday looks like another rowing day, so the boat stays on the car!! I’ll try to get started earlier and do some real mileage. :)


Eagle Dance — Sculling on a Wild Lake

31.8 Miles — 51.2 Kilometers

The boat stayed on the car. The little red dock got another upgrade. Sunday was going to be in upper 40’s with wind 9 mph or less. I even got an earlier start than usual for the 30 minute drive to the lake. We had been having some rain and snow so chances were the water levels might be up.

I have a confession. Since the Achilles heel injury … I have gotten out of my routine of getting to the gym at 5:30 every morning. I’ve really only been back since Halloween a handful of times. I’ve only rowed a few times too. So I have gained my usual winter hibernation weight … which slows a girl down on a Flyweight. No better reason to get out for a good long row.

On the way in, I stopped at the cabin to find the Deputy on duty, who turned out to be Deputy Staten who was very chipper and sweet on that sunny morning. The lake is open now since the water has come up a few feet. So now I can relax about getting on the lake, but will have to factor in bass boats in my steering.

The first thing I did was place my little red dock … and in the process, managed to stumble on the very rocks I am trying to cover so I won’t fall while carrying my boat. Better to fall putting the dock in place. Luckily, I didn’t get wet, but I did give my left knee a sharp knock that I would have put an ice pack on right away if I weren’t anxious to get on the water.

For some reason, my early start turned into my more usual later-than-I-wanted start. I manage to get going by 12:15. Sunset was going to be at 5:24.

It was in the low 40’s so I wore my neoprene socks trimmed down to my ankles, shorts and two jerseys. One mile into the row … right at Bob’s boathouse, in fact, the long sleeves came off and I rowed sleeveless as is my preference the rest of the day, wind chill factor, or not.

I went ahead and snapped a picture of the boathouse as it is the best indicator of the lake level out there. It has come up several feet, so staying on my GPS line is safer now, but I did make an effort to row inside the line anyway while thinking out-of-the-box, as promised.

Then I started back out and within a few minutes, there was my friend the Bald Eagle flying low and slow 50 feet from my bow. I stopped to watch until he landed on a tree on the opposite bank. I tried to keep my eye on him, but soon rowed out of sight. I saw quite few hawks the rest of the day, but no more close encounters. Watch Eagle Dance below. It is some of slow-motion footage of the Bald Eagle that Bob shot on the day we filmed the Sculling for a Blue Angel Music Video.

It was a beautiful day to be grateful for in early February only a day or two after a snow fall. Despite my later-than-I-wanted start, I fiddled not at all, made no stops longer than it took to take a bite of an apple that I didn’t even finish until I landed and I downed a Doubleshot at about mile 10. I didn’t row very fast, but like the tortoise and the Energizer Bunny, I just kept going and going and going.

My goal for the day was 30 miles. I came in at 31.8.

I’m looking forward to getting back in shape. It’ll take me two or three weeks. I’ll keep you posted.

It was 41 degrees when I got off the water. The little red dock is working like a charm. I decided to pull the car all the way down the ramp to load the boat, which worked out nicely, saving me the long steep climb. But my fingers were just about frostbitten by the time I finished securing the boat. I’ve gotten the hang of cold weather sculling, but Spring is just around the corner and will be so welcomed — even though it means I will have to share the lake with humans again and steer around bass boats.

This time I brought ice packs so I put ice on my knee for the 30 minute drive home, put ice on my knee again when I went to bed and iced it quite a bit today. Other than that, I feel great and my knee is on the mend.

Saturday looks like another rowing day, so the boat stays on the car!! I’ll try to get started earlier and do some real mileage. :)


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!


The Boat Stays On The Car!

This time of year, riding around with a boat on your car looks a bit odd, but I since I work at home and I don’t drive much it stays safe and clean in my high arched porte cohere. (That’s French for carport. You get to call it that when you have a fancy high arched brick carport.) The rowing club moved last year to a lake where there is no under cover or secure place to keep boats. Plus, even though it is a great lake reasonably close to my house, due to the plummeting water level and my increase in mileage, I can’t row there anymore. The rack where my boat would be hung in my garage is currently occupied by my other boat that I had to confiscate from the rowing club after it was wrecked by the fellow who was transporting boats to the new club location. I made the repairs myself and it’s for sale if anyone is interested. It’s better than ever and it’s a great boat … fits up to two lap dogs.

Maas Flyweight "Hummingbird" safe and ready to GO on the car in the Porte Cohere.

I keep my boat on my car because I know how I am. If I have to put my rack on top of my car and load my boat, in addition to getting my gear ready … careful not to forget anything like the seat or the sculls, put my contacts in (that I only wear when I row), drive over thirty miles to an uninhabited lake that’s closed and hope the deputies guarding the road in will let me through, unload and prepare my boat to launch (it has to be perfectly clean), be sure I have dry clothes in ziplock bags, everything attached to the boat (like my GPS and Speed Coach are attached to the rigging looped through elastic cords), my phone in a ziplock back, my keys clipped to a Speed Coach wire …

If my boat weren’t already on top of the car I probably wouldn’t go. I just know how I am. It feels to me if I put it away, it would be like giving up and giving in to winter. I’m not giving up. I’m not giving in.

I haven’t mentioned this before, but the day we shot the music video (Halloween), Bob wanted to stop for a snack at a little store on the lake that is usually open for the bass fishermen. I normally don’t get out of the boat during my long rows, but since Bob was there on his pontoon boat filming me all day, I would make an exception. That day I learned that what looks like a beach on a lake that drops a foot a week is NOT HARD PACK! No, it’s quicksand. I immediately overstretched my right Achilles tendon as my heal sank endlessly into the sucking mud. I announced to Bob I had just injured myself. I don’t think he took it too seriously. I still got back in the boat and rowed another 10 – 15 miles. (Maybe my experienced rowing readers won’t be so hard on me now about the splashing on the catch at the end of the video.) But when I got out of the boat at dark there was no denying my ankle was in a bad way. As soon I got the boat secure on my car, I whipped out one of the ice-packs I always brought in a cooler and iced my ankle for the drive home.

The next week I kept my right food immobilized in a brace, desperate to heal it immediately. I was ready to row a full 50 miles and had planned to do it the weekend before, but wound up working to complete the repair of my other boat for a buyer who backed out. The next weekend was the video shoot, then the injury. I had hoped for a speedier recovery, but even though my Achilles tendon healed, my Plantaris tendon on the inside of my ankle gave me fits for many more weeks. My doctor and my chiropractor looked at it and said to keep my ankle it moving to prevent the Plantaris from attaching to another tendon. I made it out to row one more time before the weather became too cold. My foot started to really hurt at 20 miles, which is why I came in for the first time all year before dark at 24 miles.

Now, since I am healed from yet another enlightening injury: I want to row; I need to row. I am in denial that it is too cold to row; that the days are too short; that the lake is too far away and that it’s closed anyway. I just want to row. So I scour the weather forecast of Inland Lake every day and when the right kind of day comes out of nowhere, I AM READY TO GO!!

The boat stays on the car!


Cold Weather Sculling, 102

16.5 Miles — 26.55 Kilometers

See, this is exactly why I keep my boat on top of my car. You can look at the 10 day forecast for a rowing day (partly cloudy to sunny, high 40’s to 50’s +, wind under 10 mph), the 5 day forecast, and even the hourly a couple of days ahead and not see one rowing day in sight. Then, the night before a day that was supposed to be cold and rainy suddenly transforms into a ROWING DAY!!!!!

I discovered Sunday night that unexpectedly, Monday’s weather at Inland fell within my parameters for an acceptable rowing day. Determined to get out earlier than the last time, I got going early, but ran down to my workshop to quickly come up with some kind of a portable adjustable platform to use as a launching dock so I would be able to keep my feet and hands out of the frigid water getting in and out of the boat. That project took longer than I would have liked.

Then I drove out to the lake and on the road going in, stopped to talk with two Deputies who told me the lake was closed. I told them Deputy Dodd had radioed in last time and had been told it was ok for me to row. The Lady Deputy (I tried to read her name tag but couldn’t) checked and they said it was ok again. Then she and Deputy Burney (his tag was easier to see) and I chatted a while about the boat and my goal to break the world long distance sculling record. They thought that was great and the Lady Deputy took down the website so they could see the rowing video Bob and I made. They admired my roof rack and I told them it was one of my inventions. Deputy Burney is an inventor too, so we briefly discussed a bit about patent law and such. They were both so nice, it brightened my day! Deputy Bernie friended me the next day on Facebook. :)

A third Deputy (maybe Sherrif?) showed up just as I was pulling out from my visit with Lady Deputy and Deputy Burney and cautioned me that the wind was up. I said “I can handle it.” I already knew it would be around 9 mph to start and would calm down to under 3 or 4 later in the afternoon. I could handle it, even sans skeg.

When I pulled in, the first thing I did was take my new launching contraption down to the bottom of the ramp to get it situated and stable enough to stand on to put the boat in and get into the boat from it without getting wet. I decided to place it on the other side of the ramp from where I usually launch.

Then I started taking pictures of the little red dock, of how steep the ramp is, my boat loaded up to carry down …

Portable "red dock" - 1st try

Long, steep ramp

Late Start Again

Between making the little red dock, chatting with the deputies, figuring out where to put the little red dock and the impromptu photo shoot … I managed to get an even later start than the last time: 1 pm on January 3rd (Cold Weather Sculling, 101). I had pressed the wrong button or something on my speed coach mounting it and found as soon as I started out that it wasn’t showing the speed I was rowing like I wanted. I fished out the manual (I always take the manuals in a ziplock bag along with some other “just-in-case” essentials) and re-calibrated to 2 strokes. I put it away and when I started rowing again, I saw that I hadn’t fixed the issue so I stopped, got the manual back out and got to the bottom of it. Oh, simple fix … put it on MPH. Done. On the road again.

It was already 1:45 pm. Sundown was at 5:19. At least the days are getting longer. Yay! Rowing a whole marathon was unlikely that afternoon, so I just decided do whatever distance what I could fit in before dark and be grateful for it.

This time, passing by Bob’s place, I took a water level picture of the pitiful dangling boathouse that shows how dramatically far the water-level has dropped this year.

Wind Chill!

I learned something new about Cold Weather Sculling. Just because it’s 50º does not mean it feels like 50º when the sun is behind a cloud and the wind is blowing. Oh yeah, right … the wind chill factor. I know it well biking, skiing, walking and in life in general. Now I know it rowing! I wore a long-sleeved biking jersey over a sleeveless biking jersey tucked into bibbed cycling shorts with suspenders and no waistband. (Nothing baggy to snag a thumb on during the release.) I prefer it over my unisuit as the unisuit has a seam that hits me right at my waist, which defeats the purpose of wearing a unisuit! My first preference is nothing over my waist. I’d rather have on a bikini, but not so much in winter — wind chill factor and all. Also, the three pockets in the back of biking jerseys are ideal for putting stuff. I kept the shirt on for about five miles when I noticed I was rowing slower that I would have otherwise to keep from overheating. I stopped, took it off and sealed it in a ziplock bag. Then I got serious. This was the end of the “first fiddling five.”

Turns on a Dime!

It was windy and the water was  choppy, but nothing I wasn’t plenty used to. What I love that I’m getting used to is the POWER OF STEERING in a skegless boat! Here’s a picture of one of the fingers of the lake I go as far into as I can and the turn I made rowing … not a river turn. So cool.

It Wasn’t There Last Time

I learned something else new about rowing on a lake within a few feet of the shore when the water level is dropping every day. You still have to look where you’re going! Just watching my route on the GPS does not prepare me for the unexpected appearance of a floating dock on my line that wasn’t there three weeks before. But it was there this time tethered by a chain that lets it out as the water-line recedes. I was rowing all out when I just chanced to glance over my shoulder in time to see my bow barreling down full speed within 10 feet of this clever dock. “ALL STOP!” I commanded the helmsman. Not really. I just slammed my blades in the water and came to a screeching halt too close for comfort! I rowed a conspicuous zag for my GPS to warn me next time.

Danger Dock!

I looked for the eagles and saw a couple of large birds flying high at the eagle hang-out. I stopped to view them through my small binoculars, but still couldn’t tell. I did see my heron friend fly by right above the water. By then, the wind had died down and the last part of the row was sheer joy. I am a connoisseur of fine endorphins and nothing but long-distance endurance sports can get you that high. When I’m rowing, everything is clear to me. I know what is important. I am happy and at peace.

To wrap up the story and the day — as dusk was falling fast, I skipped the last two fingers of the lake and headed in. Just as I pulled up to my little red dock at 16.5 miles, the battery in my iPod went dead. Poof. No music. That was the strongest indicator that the row was over … even more than the darkness I have rowed in with a flashlight bungeed to the wave shield many a time.

I was able to get out of the boat onto my make-shift dock without getting wet, so mission accomplished. I’m taking it back to the drawing board now that I know better how it should be constructed.

Your land legs don’t come right back back after a long row. Being a little wobbly is never good, but it is especially not good when  carrying a really long expensive fragile thing while picking your way over loose rocks and climbing a steep ramp with gaping crevasses. I made it. And since my fingers weren’t blue, I had no problem loading and securing the boat.

One of the best things about Inland Lake is the water is so clean. I don’t have to battle scum lines and the water yellowing my hull. It takes a considerably more effort to row there, but I feel fortunate to have such a beautiful unspoiled place all to myself during my winter of denial.


Cold Weather Sculling, 101

18.5 Miles — 29.77 Kilometers

I finally got back out to row yesterday.

To get to the closest lake that is big enough for me to get any mileage without doing laps, it is a 63 mile round trip. It has been so cold, I hadn’t gone out for the last month or so! But I spotted a sunny day that would get as warm as the high 40’s with 1 or 2 mph wind and was determined to go. I wanted to time my arrival to when the temperature got over 40º. I wish now I had gotten an earlier start. I will chalk this trip up as just a fact-finding mission to determine the strategy, gear and choreography of rowing in cold weather. I learned a lot!

It was touch-and-go when I got up there and had to stop to check in with Deputy Dodd sitting in his car guarding the ingress. He said the lake was closed, but he didn’t know if it were just to motor boats — so he had to radio in to check. They said it would be ok for me to row. He asked when I would be through and I said I would come off the lake at dusk.

I had intended to be on the water by noon, but with the above mentioned delay and the imperative to stop for gas, it was nearly 1:00 before I launched. This is a wild lake controlled by the Water Works Board with only a smattering of really old cottages on it that must predate the Water Works taking the lake over and the only way to get to them is by boat from one launch site. I have to wade in the water to put my boat in at the corner of the boat ramp, stepping precariously on baseball to football size rocks that are steeply banked. Not such a bid deal in the warm weather, but a shocker this time of year.

These pictures show the difficult launching conditions of rowing boldly where no man has rowed before!

I chose the right day: a crystal blue sky and the water was glass. It was also in the low 40’s but I pealed off my shirt after a mile and rowed sleeveless. I fiddled a lot for the first 5 miles trying to get myself situated with new rowing conditions. The neoprene socks were bugging me so I switched to water shoes. I usually row barefoot since it is a open water racing scull that has straps instead of shoes. This time I wished I brought socks since toward the end my toes were getting cold. I always row with music and I put my iPod a shuffle of all the songs instead of my rowing playlist that has only higher cadence songs. I wanted to just take it easy and concentrate on form. Everyone thinks I need to square my blades earlier on the catch. We’ll discuss that more later. I could tell I had lost some strength. I didn’t want to make any mistakes by trying to push too hard. I have never capsized in a single, and this was not the day to tempt fate on that. I kept my pace to about 6 miles an hour.

On my way out to do the perimeter of the lake clockwise, I passed by the place where my friend Bob (the camera guy for the rowing music video) has a house. I was astounded at how their boathouse was just pitifully dangling on the steep exposed bank. The water level was lower than ever. Here is an areal view of what it looked like once the water level began to fall, and where the water line is now:

I was going to take a picture of it with my iPhone on my way back in but missed it. I was within a half mile of it and would have rowed back to it but I was within sight of the docks and saw two vehicles with their lights on parked by my car atop the hill. I assumed they were Deputies waiting for me to come off the lake (taking a head count: one on, one off) and I didn’t want to push my luck with them so I reluctantly concluded my adventure.

It was 43º according to my car when I got off the water. It felt colder since getting out of the boat meant getting my feet and hands wet in the frigid water. Thankfully the bathroom there is well heated and I changed into warm clothes immediately. I didn’t feel chilled all day until my appendages got wet and it got dark. It made me know that capsizing this time of year would be a serious no no. I had a change of clothes in zip lock bags on the boat with me just in case. I had water to drink with me, but didn’t even take a sip. I ate a few bites of an apple periodically and that was enough to keep me hydrated in the cold.

Having gotten chilled did make getting my boat loaded on top of my car and secured really challenging. My fingers were so numb they were blue. Even with gloves on I had practically no dexterity. I will devise some kind of portable launching dock to keep from having to get wet getting in and out of the boat. I am crunching ideas in my head.

I am also glad I had the route on my GPS screen as the sun was so blinding in spots I could literally not see the bank and had fly by instruments. I knew if I kept it inside the line I would be safe from the shrinkage of the perimeter.

The perimeter of the lake is supposed to be 26 miles. Hugging the banks within 20 feet, I have gotten 22 miles at the most. It was even less yesterday. We’ve had some rain. When is the water level going to rise again? What’s going on? Is the Climate changing or something?

Inland Lake

Inland Lake

You can see that if I am hugging the bank, I have to do a LOT of steering. That’s why I find it so handy to not have a skeg. Having lost it repeatedly at the lake where the rowing club is located because of the treacherous shallow water conditions there, I discovered I didn’t need it for stability and it doesn’t even affect me much in higher wind conditions. I did 30 miles the day we shot the rowing music video in wind and chop without a skeg not realizing I had lost it again probably at the launch on the rocks there — and LOVED the maneuverability. I have a replacement skeg sitting in my rowing bag … but decided to fill the slot with styrofoam instead.

Skeg Long Gone

Skeg Long Gone

I had the whole lake to myself aside from the company of about 25 eagles and 1 heron.

At the spot where Bob had perched on a cliff to take slow motion shots of me from above, we stopped for a while when we saw a Bald Eagle and he shot it in slow motion diving repeatedly at a fish. Yesterday as I rowed past the same cliff there were 20 (I counted several times) hawks flying overhead. Then out at the mouth of that finger of the lake there were 5 more. They were up pretty high, but I thought I could see the white of their tails glint in the sun. Next time I go I will take my little binoculars to determine for sure if they were  hawks. They might have been vultures, I suppose. But I want to believe they were 19 hawks and at least one Bald Eagle since it was exactly where we saw one before. I want to believe it was a good omen of good things to come.

Except for the first mile of this row, I have never worn sleeves to row in 17 years. But when the sun went down behind the trees at about 4:30, I decided putting a long-sleeved shirt back on would be a good idea. It really felt strange to see sleeves on my arms. Sundown was at 4:45.

I would have had time before dark to have rowed an even 20 miles, but since I knew I had been spotted, I came in at 18.5 miles. It was enough since I hadn’t rowed in a while. I’m not sore at all today … and have no blisters on my hands, so I am sure I can painlessly build my mileage back up in no time provided I get on the water earlier in the day. Unfortunately there are no promising looking days coming up in the ten day forecast.

But yesterday, I Carpe Diemed!


Eye Opening Conversation on rowingillustrated.com

As I mentioned in my post Interest in The New Boat Today on December 17, a conversation on the Boat Board at Rowing Illustrated began when somebody post a link to The New Boat for the “tech geeks/guys” to discuss.

I posted there this morning that I agree with the points made by a couple of the contributors in the discussion about how the governing entities of the sport of rowing (specifically FISA and US Rowing) are right to place more emphasis on the athleticism of the rowers than on how high-tech the boat is. To that end, they have incorporated restrictions on radical innovations in their Rules of Racing. The purity of the sport and the competition can only be preserved by limiting how drastic the boats can be changed by the people who have the money and the time to play the game of technology becoming the competition over strength and skill.

This conversation has helped open my eyes to a lot. I only came up with a new design because I couldn’t get any elite flat water boat makers interested in sponsoring me to break the world long-distance rowing record. So since I can’t afford $12,000 for an awesome boat right now, visions of how to make a really cool fast boat started pouring into my head. That’s how things work for me. I am an inventor — and as with so much of what I have invented: if there had been something that already existed that met my need, I would have bought it instead of making it. That is … back when I still had money.

I couldn’t have a permanent rack on my car and still get it into my garage, so I made one that I could put on my vehicle (any car with a standard rack and soon a version for cars without) in five minutes and load my boat by myself. With my new roof rack, I became autonomous after 15 years of always needing help loading and unloading my boats! I have used it for over two years and it has been awesome. Many people have requested that I make one for them, and I will. I will post more in depth information and pictures about the roof rack soon, as it would be helpful to many rowers and kayakers for it to become available on the market.

My “radical new boat design” came from the same place. I often do things just because I don’t know I can’t. That’s a useful quality I have.

The only world long distance sculling record I know of to break was made in 1901 by three guys in a treble: 104 miles from Oxford to Putney, England in just under 14 hours. I know I can break the distance, but to break the time, I’d need an especially fast boat. Believe me, I am not trying to compensate for lack of athleticism. I am strong and I have ENDURANCE. But although I love my Flyweight named Hummingbird and bought it because up until recently, I did most of my rowing on open water, there is only so fast I can make it go.

So when I can make the prototype of my new boat … and there are so many cool features about it I haven’t gone into and you can’t see from the picture — I will make it just for the fun of finding out if it really is a good design. Keep in mind, the drawing I posted was literally just a preliminary doodle from about an hour of thought. However, based on all of the good points that have been made on the Rowing Illustrated Boat Board and the introduction of FISA and US Rowing rules and regulations that I hadn’t considered — along with their likely interpretations for boats to be eligible to race in sanctioned regattas, I will try to modify my design to keep it acceptably within the guidelines in hopes that it will be legal to race — and for that reason, be marketable and useful to other rowers.

But long skinny expensive white elephants can be fun too.


Eye Opening Conversation on rowingillustrated.com

As I mentioned in my post Interest in The New Boat Today on December 17, a conversation on the Boat Board at Rowing Illustrated began when somebody post a link to The New Boat for the “tech geeks/guys” to discuss.

I posted there this morning that I agree with the points made by a couple of the contributors in the discussion about how the governing entities of the sport of rowing (specifically FISA and US Rowing) are right to place more emphasis on the athleticism of the rowers than on how high-tech the boat is. To that end, they have incorporated restrictions on radical innovations in their Rules of Racing. The purity of the sport and the competition can only be preserved by limiting how drastic the boats can be changed by the people who have the money and the time to play the game of technology becoming the competition over strength and skill.

This conversation has helped open my eyes to a lot. I only came up with a new design because I couldn’t get any elite flat water boat makers interested in sponsoring me to break the world long-distance rowing record. So since I can’t afford $12,000 for an awesome boat right now, visions of how to make a really cool fast boat started pouring into my head. That’s how things work for me. I am an inventor — and as with so much of what I have invented: if there had been something that already existed that met my need, I would have bought it instead of making it. That is … back when I still had money.

I couldn’t have a permanent rack on my car and still get it into my garage, so I made one that I could put on my vehicle (any car with a standard rack and soon a version for cars without) in five minutes and load my boat by myself. With my new roof rack, I became autonomous after 15 years of always needing help loading and unloading my boats! I have used it for over two years and it has been awesome. Many people have requested that I make one for them, and I will. I will post more in depth information and pictures about the roof rack soon, as it would be helpful to many rowers and kayakers for it to become available on the market.

My “radical new boat design” came from the same place. I often do things just because I don’t know I can’t. That’s a useful quality I have.

The only world long distance sculling record I know of to break was made in 1901 by three guys in a treble: 104 miles from Oxford to Putney, England in just under 14 hours. I know I can break the distance, but to break the time, I’d need an especially fast boat. Believe me, I am not trying to compensate for lack of athleticism. I am strong and I have ENDURANCE. But although I love my Flyweight named Hummingbird and bought it because up until recently, I did most of my rowing on open water, there is only so fast I can make it go.

So when I can make the prototype of my new boat … and there are so many cool features about it I haven’t gone into and you can’t see from the picture — I will make it just for the fun of finding out if it really is a good design. Keep in mind, the drawing I posted was literally just a preliminary doodle from about an hour of thought. However, based on all of the good points that have been made on the Rowing Illustrated Boat Board and the introduction of FISA and US Rowing rules and regulations that I hadn’t considered — along with their likely interpretations for boats to be eligible to race in sanctioned regattas, I will try to modify my design to keep it acceptably within the guidelines in hopes that it will be legal to race — and for that reason, be marketable and useful to other rowers.

But long skinny expensive white elephants can be fun too.