Thursday, January 7, 2010

A Good Day for Rowing

The rain let up today and the temperature was in the mid 50's, so it was time to head for the boat ramp.

The worthy Pete Culler skiff, Paku was the candidate vessel and a very good choice, too. Despite the calm, balmy weather the wind picked up twice (each time in opposing directions and both times, on the bow. How does that happen, exactly?) So the stable, easy going manner of the good little skiff was a relief.

Since Chris Partridge has been talking quite a bit about mirrors for rowers lately, I took with me a mirror that I've used while riding my bicycle. The little mirror fits on the temple of a pair of glasses and presents a very small image, so takes a bit of getting used to. The view is limited, but clear. It's also backward (pun intended). In addition, it blocks a portion of the view forward (which is looking back - you see?). A bit distracting at first. I'm pretty well oriented to interpreting the image, but have only used it a couple times while rowing.

Today was a perfect test. I wore the mirror while rowing for three hours and never turned my head all the way around once, not even while docking. By panning my head back and forth, I could get a good view of both my course and any obstacles.

It's the fear of obstacles that brought up this conversation in the first place. At the least, it's embarrassing to hit something while pulling hard on the oars (you always hear comments like "that's what you get for sitting backwards!").
At the other extreme, I've hit an old barnacle encrusted piling hard enough to crack the shear guard and plank, which woke me up real fast, I'll tell you!

Here's a view of the river I row on. Sometimes those crusty pilings are barely above the surface at high tide and nearly invisible. Not to mention the partially submerged logs that float up after a particularly high tide.

The little mirror worked so well that I was able to shoot under this bridge, without looking forward. Both ways! Maybe you don't think that's such a big deal, but this opening is about 22 feet wide and my oars are 17 feet, grip to grip. The hard part was to trust it was actually working and not turn around, just to be sure.


Bursledon Blogger said...

Obsticles apart that looks like a really nice river to row on.

Brandon Ford said...

I've been following Chris' mirror inquiry as well. Glad to know that it works for you. I'll have to start looking around for a mirror. Maybe I'll stop in at a bike shop and take a look.

doryman said...

The Yaquina river is the closest water to my house, not counting the ocean, so it's my playground. It's tidal for 26 miles, so there's a lot to see. Most of the activities I write about here at home are on this river. If you go 6 miles inland, it becomes more scenic and isolated and by mile 15, it's a well kept secret. I've been looking for a house up there for six years, but no one is selling (can you blame them?).

doryman said...

I have an aversion to the mounted mirrors for asthetic reasons. Looks too much like a car!
People have objections to those little mirrors, too. They are really "in your face". It is becoming more and more difficult for me to turn around to look backward so the mirror is a huge relief. Of course I was navigating waters I know well, so it wasn't a full on test. It was a comfort to know I could pick out navigational aids.

O Docker said...

I've used the eyeglass mirrors on the bike for so long that I almost can't ride without one now. Most people hate them at first go, trying to focus on the mirror itself, but soon catch on. I've often wondered why rowers don't use them.

doryman said...

Oh, My! I've been O'Docked!!!
Mary's standing here and says "but; he's not cynical or jokey!?".

These cycling mirrors are second nature for me too, having spent many years as an endurance cyclist and many thousand miles using those little mirrors for watching my back in traffic.
Curious thing is that I've rowed for all those years as well and never thought to try the mirror on the boat. It's part of the equipment now!

O Docker said...

I've also heard of single-handers mounting mirrors on (or near) the winches on cruising boats so they could keep a forward lookout while below, in the warmth of the companionway, as the boat self-steered downwind.

Do you know how hard it is to be cynical about an eyeglass mirror?

doryman said...

It's hard to be cynical when you have the river to yourself on a sunny day, even for an old skeptic like me.

Anonymous said... follow what Bursledon said, and it looks like a great boat to do it in. I just acquired Pete Cullers Boats by J. Burke....I am happy now.

I like river rowing, when my neck is feeling loose. Maybe I should give these glasses a go.

doryman said...

Clint, I got that book last fall and it's been great to have a compilation of writings in one source. The photos and articles don't always cross reference, but on the whole, it's a very good read.
The Good little Skiff is a versatile boat. With two or three people aboard it can be a challenge to row if the water is rough, since there is little freeboard. None the less, I plan to make an open ocean passage in her this summer, just have to chose the right weather. (It will be about 20 miles on the Pacific Ocean, starting in the next town to the north and ending up here in Yaquina Bay.)