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

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.


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