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

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.


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