Rowing a boat
I have started to write poetry; and it has been more difficult than I thought. Each day I sit with a pad and a cup of tea or more. Sometimes I write and most times I don’t.
This morning I thought I would try and write a poem about learning to row … of this I am well accomplished – the rowing I mean.
But still I got no further than the sitting and drinking tea stage
When I remember I have a piece that also began as a poem
Ah well back to the drawing board and the cold tea … boom te boom
Don’t know what came first – the ability to row or the sense of balance (or more importantly getting into a dinghy)
The sense of balance becomes so highly tuned that one never forgets. Even after the initial joy of being old enough to row a boat. When the skill has lain dormant and the opportunity comes again so the adrenalin and energy comes into play. One can take the oars and manoeuvre the little dear – perhaps not at first like a 10 year old. Nonetheless it is a beautiful experience.
As a farmer might have a wheel barrow or work horse, every boat person has a dinghy
A small dinghy was often called a pram dinghy which might give some idea of its shape. It was about 6 feet long and about 3 ½ feet wide and made of ply wood that was moulded and screwed on to a simple wooden frame. It was a little more sophisticated than a coracle. My father could produce a dingy in a few days. He would select the finest timber and trims to demonstrate all his joining skills. Or as one dinghy became beyond repair be would build another from recycled materials. So there was always a dinghy ‘on the go’ in his workshop.
I learned to row as my mother nursed my siblings on the aft thwart, I sat amidships between my dad’s knees. At 10 years old I was able to row for real between the jetties taking messages, mail and groceries.
Rowing is an art – First you must take measured step to a central floor plank without overbalancing or allowing the boat to wobble out of control away from the shore.
Only when seated comfortably can you take the oars – usually ready in the rowlocks to be used – when the forward painter is released. Holding the oars one can gently use one to push away from the shore’s edge.
You should use a turn of the wrist so the wooden oars twist and strain against the steel of the rowlocks and the blades dip into the water. With another twist so the blades skim across the surface of the water no effort is wasted – like a dancer – as she glides across the stage tide. Eyes to the rear but glancing forth and back, holding, turning, pushing and waiting, with legs outstretched and straightened back.
Ever watchful that we are not taking in water with baler at the ready and a quick look for imminent danger – taking oars in board and to bale hastily. Then, with a rearrangement of balance and dignity we are back on course.