I took up rowing about 25 years ago at the age of 32. Although the crew team recruited me heavily in college (I guess I had the build for it), I ran track and swam. I ran seriously through law school and eventually started doing triathlons, but knee surgery and a pretty stupendous bike crash got me seeking a new sport. At the time I was living right on Long Island Sound and could drop a boat in the drink right off my front yard, which I used to tell people went “all the way to Portugal.”
My first boat was an Alden double that was kind of sluggish but beamy, stable and fun. While I always rowed it as a single, it would comfortably accommodate a passenger, and often I’d let my girl friend row me around. On a scale of one to ten, Leslie was at least a fourteen-and-a-half, and with her at the oars in a skimpy bikini, while I lounged in the stern with Heineken in hand, I soon became the envy of many a yachtsman as we plied the waters around the Thimble Islands. “What’s that guy in the funny little boat got that I don’t?” Leslie is an accomplished actress and playwright who still lives on the shoreline. We usually get together once or twice a year and go for a row.
I have since moved inland, and, while I get out into the salt as much as I can, I do most of my rowing now on the Farmington and Connecticut Rivers, as well as some lakes in Northwest Connecticut. Currently I have two rowing boats, an Alden Star and an Appledore Peapod.
Named after one of the Isles of the Shoals in Southern Maine, the Appledore is an old workboat design modified for sliding seat rowing. It’s 16 feet long, 33 inches wide, and was the proudest creation of Arthur Martin who basically invented the sport of recreational rowing with the introduction of the Alden Ocean Shell in 1971. The boat has a real sharp entry, a lot of bow flare and is relatively flat amidships. She can be rowed single or double, carry a passenger and a lot of gear (yes, for old time’s sake, Leslie still rows) and handle incredibly rough conditions. Somebody rowed one around Cape Horn once, and there have been times when it’s started to blow that I would have felt more secure in the Appledore than my 23 foot powerboat.
The Star at 22 feet long and 18 inches beam is also somewhat flat bottomed but does not pound. Its most unique feature is a squared-off reverse step transom that supplies some hydrodynamic characteristics of a longer boat, as well as lift to keep you from pooping in a following sea. (Ed: pooping is when the sea comes over the stern—rear—of a vessel) This boat is also truly amazing in big waves. It’s rugged, and I have dropped it a number of times and run it into all manner of stumps, logs, lobster pot buoys and other obstacles, all without damage, although I did need to patch the transom once (an easy job) after my ex-wife ran into it with her little blue Volkswagen.
I have a high pressure, sit-down job as general counsel of a large engineering company, but my office is about five minutes from a beautiful stretch of the Farmington River. I keep the Star on a rack on my pickup truck, and most days when there is no ice, I drop it in the river at lunch time and am gone for about an hour. I row downstream to an old dam, then turn around and row upstream back to where I started. Things that seemed like problems when I started are mere bagatelles when I finish. As Arthur Martin used to say, “my boat is too small to take my cares with me.” The other day as I was loading the boat back onto the truck, I asked myself how much extra money would I take to go back to the high-rise law firm world where I couldn’t do my noontime rows. The answer was: “no amount of money in the world!”
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