Reading Water

Back in college when I rowed, we would row in all kinds of conditions.  In general we would row in just about anything.  But two things you never wanted to see when you were rowing were lightning and whitecaps.  Lightning was a problem on summer afternoons.  Whitecaps were a problem on bigger bodies of water.  It’s been years since I rowed.  I have strong memories of rowing in both thunderstorms with lightning crashing around us and in races where the whitecaps were cresting over the gunwales.

I don’t row on water anymore, but I still look to the water whenever I’m around it, and read the surface as I once did as a rower.  Rowers read the water a little bit differently than sailors do.  Where sailors read the water looking for puffs to propel the boat forward, rowers look to those same puffs with a mental calculation of what that means to the set of the boat.  Wind and water conditions determine rigging, strategy in a race, and whether you’re going out on the water or hitting the ergs.

Sunday I was looking out at Buzzards Bay and watching the gusts of wind ripple across the glassy water.  It reminded me of those days reading the rivers and lakes that we rowed on.  And I remembered that I miss rowing.

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