Sunday 14 September 2008

Arthur Martin: 'Life in the slow lane'

Arthur Martin, the designer of the Alden Shell, did not invent recreational rowing - Ratty and Mole did that - but he invented a new class of rowing by designing shells for fun rather than racing. For the first time, recreational rowers could row at speeds unattainable in a traditional skiff or whitehall, while being able to get out in conditions that would keep fine boats imprisoned in the boathouse.
I picked up a copy of Arthur Martin's autobiography a few weeks back - the picture shows him rowing an Alden Shell past his family home on Seal Island, Maine. When I read this in the introduction, I knew I was going to like it:
"I had nothing but contempt for the new fangled outboard motors and used to delight in racing against them while rowing at full power in a Maine peapod.....I grant that there are many good uses for readily portable power, but I do not consider such a use aimlessly speeding about, to the danger of swimmers, canoes and small sailboats, by young children who would be better off doing something more mentally and physically challenging. One spoiled kid in an outboard can shatter the very tranquility of a quiet lake or creek that the adjacent homeowners have paid so dearly to enjoy. Perhaps I hate outboards because they remind me of mosquitos. On the other hand, perhaps I hate mosquitos because they remind me of outboards."

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