Plying The Oars On The Mystic River

Trying out the new boat. Not a perfect stroke, but a happy rower with a boating ‘belle’ in the bow.

In my former job at Mystic Seaport – The Museum of America and the Sea, I moved around a lot, but since I was appointed editor of Mystic Seaport Magazine in January 2011, I have mostly been sitting still in front of my computer. The only exercise I get is hammering away at some articles and lifting the receiver of the phone trying to get a writer to understand that the dead-line date that I gave him or her was not at all just a suggested date to send in the article, it was actually the date when I needed the piece.

I still remember vividly my glory days as a person who frequently, almost daily, got good exercise using an old wooden single scull rowing around the canal in my home town of Malmö in the south of Sweden. The rowing club, Malmö Roddklubb, was a block away from my little flat, so I rowed in the mornings before I went to the publishing company where I worked as an editor. I would usually also scull for an hour or so after work. That was now 14 years and quite a few kilos ago. Frankly, it now shows around my waist that I am not getting my daily dose of exercise plying the sculls.

Yes, I have tried the erg, and a month ago I had a good run of exercise, but then the ergs at the YMCA, where I was rowing, all broke down, and the manager did not seem to be in a hurry fixing them as very few people were using the machines.

Enough is enough I said, what I need is a rowing boat! But then, when I gave it some serious thought, I realised that what I need was not really a racing shell, a single scull, but a wider rowing dinghy, something that was safe enough to take the children in without capsizing. I mean, after all, we have been living close to the Mystic River for twelve years now, it is high time that the children learn how to scull, especially as their father is claiming to be, never a former rowing star, but at least interested in rowing history.

Anders viewing Mystic Seaport from the river side.

It was the WoodenBoat Show at Mystic Seaport some weeks ago, and there I happened to meet my friend Bill, who is a rower, too. When he heard that I was looking for an old wooden boat, he said he had just the one for me in his backyard. Now, not only is Bill a nice person and a rower, but also a boat builder. He has built kayaks, sailboats, and rowing boats. Bill said he would happily have me take over the first boat he ever built, thirty years ago, a 10-foot pram designed by the famous American boat builder John Gardner. I immediately agreed to take a look and to try out the boat.

While I tried it out a week ago, certain things were not working out well. I misjudged the tide, it was low tide and the boat got stuck in the mud at the launching area, which gave me a hard, good work-out just to get the boat in the water. It was a hot, humid day with the sun blazing down on the river. A light breeze fouled me so I ended up with a really bad ‘farmer’s tan’ after a one and a half hours row. The oars that I had borrowed were too short and did not really give me the right stroke in the water.

A happy, young rower, starting early to pratise for her rowing scholarship to an elite school. Look at her perfect grip, both thumbs were they should be.

Yesterday, however, was a perfect day for an outing on the Mystic River with the family. It was not too hot, we launched the boat when it was high tide, and I had borrowed half a foot longer oars, which did the trick. We got a nice voyage on the river, although our son, Anders, after a while complained that he was bored. Just the other day, he had learned how to ride his bicycle without the ‘training wheels’, so he was more eager to ride his bike than being out on the river. Our daughter Ingrid was, however, more than willing to have a go at the oars. She did very well; I see a rowing scholarship at an Ivy League school coming her way…

I guess, there will be more stories to tell about plying the oars on the Mystic River in the near future.

 How do I look, dear? Am I too late out of the water?

Let’s see, was it left over right, or the other way around? And where is the slide?

A happy man, he who has a boat!

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