Rowing under a Harvest moon
I rowed my scull in September under a Harvest moon and a million stars. I rowed well through the otherworldly light of that night. It was a transcendent moment alone on a beautiful and well loved pond on Cape Cod.
Because this is a wooden boat site I will tell you about the boat. She is a single scull, 27 feel long, and 11-½ inches at her widest beam. Her name is BOANNE, named after the Celtic goddess of rivers and poets.
I built her some years ago to the body plan provided by Graeme King, the great Australian shell designer and builder. I modified her somewhat with permission from the designer to accept a modern wing rigger. She is built from 1/8” red cedar strips, beveled and glued, covered with 2oz. cloth set in epoxy. I eliminated the traditional ribs as being redundant with the wing rigger. I further strengthened her to take the stress of the rowing stroke with carbon fiber tape set in epoxy and vacuum bagged diagonally fore and aft to the keelson. Cored carbon fiber was used for bulkheads. The deck is cored 2 oz. glass with a cedar detail rather that King’s more traditional “soft” deck of heat shrunk Dacron.
She is a four pounds heavier than I hoped she would be at 38 pounds, but I am a few pounds heavier than I would like to be as well. She is a joy to row, if you treat her right, and she sets up easily. She also “runs out,” holding her way through the water on the recovery part of the stroke, better than any boat I have ever rowed. I have been told this is characteristic of a King hull. When I am in BOANN I feel sometimes like she is a part of me or rather that I am finally whole.
She is demanding of course, she especially does not like it when I carry extra stuff aboard, like job issues or worries about my kids. And she lets me know when she is unhappy, rolling around, slopping water into the foot well. I can almost hear her say “hey, pay attention here.”
And so I do, and when I do, I row well, perhaps not race fast, I carry too much bulk on me, but as well as my physical limits will allow. Rowing clean; quick catches, clean releases, fast, light hands away and moving smoothly up the slide. The stem opens up the water with the sound of tearing silk and the wake is a silver tail in the moonlight.
Then we are as one, my boat and I, and at night on water like a black mirror, under the stars and moon I am free.
At the end of the row I realize this: That for all my faults, foibles and failures there was this undeniable wonderful thing. At age 60 I had rowed a single scull, one that I had built myself through a magical night. And furthermore I had rowed well, and when I am rowing well I am closest to who I aspire to be, fully alive and free from the burden of self. Connected through the trinity of sculls and hull with the water and through that black mirror to the infinite. That contact is not constant however but must be made, released and made again for progress to be made. This is the nature of the rowing stroke.
Rowing invites metaphor, a sport of progressing backwards, balanced precariously on this splinter of wood, glimpsing only briefly what lies ahead, seeing much more clearly what has passed. It is the stuff of life itself.
Rowing can mean intense competition to many athletes and more power to them. But for me it is a spiritual exercise, a sort of moving meditation. Never more so than in the darkness, and it can be so, so beautiful under a harvest moon.