Wednesday 30 November 2011

Frozen Rowing

I went rowing today and found it hard work in a F5 breeze against the tide.
Exhausted, I slumped in front of the telly to watch David Attenborough's latest triumph, Frozen Planet. And he showed people who have it really tough.
The Aleut peoples of Chukotka, the bit of Russia that Sarah Palin can see from her bedroom window, hunt in boats made of walrus skin on wooden frames. They kill walrus by throwing huge weighted harpoons attached to inflated walrus bladders to stop them from diving.
The unfortunate walrus even provide puncture repair outfits - holes in the hulls are repaired with dobs of walrus fat.
I admire the hardihood and self-reliance of these people so much. Their timing could be better though. And they used a very short, sharp stroke. Could that be to cope with rougher conditions?
The Frozen Planet series is the best thing on the TV right now by a country mile - if you are in the UK and haven't watched this superb programme already, watch it on BBC iplayer NOW.

Sunday 27 November 2011

Cockups make rowing interesting

This is what happens when you leave a boat unattended on a rising tide with the wind offshore.
Embarrassing. Everyone walking their dogs along the foreshore stopped to watch. Luckily the breeze blew her into the shadow of the pub and the tide brought her back in before anyone had to get wet waist deep to stop her floating off to France.
Later, an inexperienced cox failed to notice a mooring buoy, catching the rope with the rudder and bringing us to a sudden and inglorious halt.
As I hung over the stern up to my elbows in cold water disconnecting us, a voice rang out from the pub: "Should've gone to Specsavers!"

Saturday 26 November 2011

Soaked again

The Cutters met for a row to Emsworth in what the met station said was a Force 3 gusting 4, but turned out to be a lot brisker than that.
We had an awkward number of crew, so Marcus and I took Lottie out without a cox, always hard work in any sort of breeze because she has a strong tendency to lie beam-on to the wind. We laboured down to Marker Point, much further than the other boats who went directly to Emsworth for coffee.
Coming back, we took the short cut along the north channel. A pair of channel markers have recently been put up. I mean, I know the channel is narrow there, but they were so close together we couldn't row between them.
Got back straight into the wind, smashing down into the waves and getting thoroughly soaked.
We do this for fun, y'know.

Saturday 19 November 2011

An Evening Row

I had to spend the day writing a very boring piece on Business Strategy Change Execution, so when I finally finished and looked out of the window to see a cloudless sky, I just had to go for a quick row in Kittwake before sundown. There was just enough tide.
Passed a plastic boat with the three occupants trying desperately to make some way against the tide using two very small paddles and the bailer: their outboard was doing what outboards do best, sulking. I rowed over to a fishing boat across the harbour and got them to go to the rescue.
As the sun went down, nothing but the cries of the birds, now over for their winter stay, and the roar of the waves on the harbour bar a mile away.
The Royal Oak was a welcome sight on my return.

Monday 14 November 2011

Rowing and Towing

No, this isn't my car. The picture was posted on Proper Course, where ace Laser sailor Tillerman says he doesn't know much about rowing but isn't something wrong here?
I spent much of the weekend towing stuff, as it happens, including taking our majestic 30ft long Solent galley Bembridge to the Hamble. Proceeding at a stately 60mph past a motorway turnoff, I looked in my wing mirror and saw a hot hatch zoom up on the outside lane trying to overtake me before the turnoff. Then he (yes, of course it was a guy) discovered he had totally misjudged how long the boat is and had to hit the anchors and drop round our stern so he could make the turn. Much slower. HAHAHAHAHA.
Which reminds me. Doing the same trip a few weeks ago with our Clayton skiff Gladys behind, I was overtaken by a house. It is very alarming to look out of your side window and see a front door drifting past just a few inches away (it was a very wide house) at a good 70mph.

Saturday 12 November 2011


Rowed up the Hamble in Bembridge with Langstone Cutters today and it was fab - the trees are taking on their autumn golds and russets, the water was flat calm, the sun was warm and the beer was cool.
At the hard at Swanwick we met Bernard with his Selway Fisher-designed skiff. He wanted removable outriggers, especially as he transports the boat on his car roof. I know from bitter experience how scratchy outriggers are on a car roof.
Bernard developed a simple and elegant removable outrigger to solve the problem. One end fits in a hole in the thwart and the middle slots into a fitting on the gunwale, secured by a grub screw. He sawed aluminium tube to fit and got a local welder to weld it up.
Judging by the speed Bernard got from the Horse and Jockey back to the hard at Swanwick, this is a very egronomic arrangement.

Thursday 10 November 2011


The Swedish illustrator Brynolf Wennerberg (1866-1950) produced some charming stuff including some attractive images of ladies rowing.
Unfortunately, his work has two drawbacks for today's British art lovers. One is that his best-known work was propaganda for the First World War German High Command - he had emigrated from his native Sweden to Munich, where he changed his name to Bruno and worked for various magazines. Actually it is pretty fluffy stuff including a series of postcards of horrific war scenes such as a girl tending a gruff soldier convalescing from what is clearly a flesh wound, and another of a girl greeting a postman bearing the grim news that her fiance has a slight hangover after winning a bar to his Iron Cross. In the card on the right, a couple of girls are taking a brave soldier out for a good time on the lake, the lucky fellow.
From a rowing point of view, however, Wennerberg commits the cardinal sin of portraying the lovely oarslady above sculling right-over-left. Tsk tsk.

Saturday 5 November 2011

Museum of London Docklands

I was forced to go up to that London last weekend despite the tides being perfectly suitable for rowing, to take my darling daughter and her delightful cousin to a gathering of exhibitionists called Comic Con at the exhibitionists centre on the Royal Victoria Dock. While they were there I visited the new outpost of the Museum of London in Canary Wharf.
Frankly, I was expecting to spend half an hour looking at a poster display, but the Museum of London Docklands is brilliant and I ended up spending most of the day there. An all-inclusive history of London as a port, starting with the Romans. There is a superb model of Old London Bridge, based on all the known sources and probably the best representation now possible, and 'Sailortown', an evocation of the darkness, squalor and smells of the old East End.
And, of course, there is lots of stuff about rowing, with models of the wherries, peterboats and barges that used to ply their various trades on the river. It is not easy to take pictures of exhibits behind glass, but above is a model of a wherry with a waterman in traditional garb with his badge on his sleeve, plus a crutch (not a rowlock). Another model is shown below.

Thursday 3 November 2011

Fin de siecle elegance

There was a young lady from Thrace,
Whose corsets grew too tight to lace.
Her mother said, "Nelly,
There's more in your belly,
Than ever went in through your face!"

This ad is for sale on eBay.

Wednesday 2 November 2011

Spring in New Zealand

Owen Sinclair is out early this spring - spring in New Zealand, of course. An early trip was to lovely Lake Rotoroa (above), dramatic scenery that we don't have much of in England.
Owen writes:
Lake Rotoroa is great. It is one of two vehicle-accessible lakes in the Nelson Lakes National Park and the Department of Conservation discourages waterskiing and jetskis from it, in favour of them using the other (Lake Rotoiti) This helps maintain the serenity to some extent. The fisherman on the lake are normally in powerboats but there aren't too many and they are generally orderly.
The lake looked prettier in some ways a few months ago when the mountains were coated in snow. On the other hand, when I rowed there the weekend before last the kowhais (yellow flowers) along the lakeside were in flower with tuis feeding on them and calling and there was native clematis (white flowers) relieving the green of the forest in places. Plus eels at the Durville Hut jetty (sorry no photos of those)
Here is a slide show of Owen's recent trips from Marahau to Falls River and return, and around Lake Rotoroa. Thanks Owen!