Most of you don’t know this, but my middle name is Rowe. As a kid I got teased with the song, “Row, row, row your boat.” (Kids aren’t always clever with their teasing tactics.)
Because of a combination of that memory and weak arms, I’ve never really been into rowing.
Growing up in Vermont, “rowing” was used unequivocally to mean a row boat. Out here, it’s a bit different.
For this column, I enrolled in Rocky Mountain Outdoor Center’s L2 River Maneuvers course. When I arrived, I learned the other students were on day two in an oar training series. I was behind.
On a few float trips and one river trip, I jumped on the oars for 5- to 10-minute stretches. I found it to be painful and awkward. I prefered to paddle or drink.
Nearly every person I know who owns a raft was at the Stone Bridge put in when we arrived. And all the rafts were rigged for oars.
When I discovered we’d be in 12-footers for the course, that gave me a boost of confidence. I felt with a shorter boat I’d be able to lift and move the oars with ease, but that didn’t really happen. Yes, it was easier, but I was surprised how quickly my arms crapped out. Holding the oars straight out to the sides proved more difficult than the actual push and pulling.
When I signed up, I was hopeful I’d master this well-desired ability. While I’m far from mastering, I did gain a lot of beneficial knowledge on reading and navigating river features with RMOC Adventure Specialist Kate Stepan and instructor/guide Nick Loffer. As a veteran, Kate had a personal story of nearly every possible river faux pas. Unintentional flips in an eddy, getting stuck in a strainer, getting stuck in the boat chute. She’s done it all and because of this she was cool as a cucumber. She was attentive, assertive and encouraging.
Even when another student biffed the boat chute – causing an oar to go under the raft and bend almost 90 degrees, Kate said it was all part of the learning experience and if they (RMOC) were concerned with damaged paddles, they wouldn’t teach courses.
Since the rest of the class were on day two of their training, I let them do all the technical sections and I took over for the flat, obstacle-free sections. Wasn’t that nice of me?
At one point I did maneuver between two rocks, like a boss. It certainly helped that I followed the lead boat. But Kate dubbed my execution as “pro” – and I’m holding on to that.
At the end of last summer, my husband and I bought a double ducky. I’m feeling like divorce is less plausible with my new river knowledge.
I learned the mnemonic device, Sag McDie: Set Angle Go Momentum Control Do It Early. It’ll be hard to forget that one.
The River Rat subculture of Salida is one I’ve dipped my toe into but haven’t yet taken the plunge. With the purchase of our divor – I mean double-ducky – I hope to get my dirtbag on this summer.