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Dodging chunks of ice in Boston Harbor, the rowing season in New England got off to a spectacular start with the annual Snow Row, hosted by the Hull Lifesaving Museum. Rowing teams were dodging one another among chunks of sea ice as they maneuvered the 3 ½ mile racecourse through fog and falling snow. Lake Champlain Maritime Museum brought youth crews from Vergennes Middle and High School, Mt. Abraham High School and Burlington High School, and two adult teams to the event. Mt. Abraham, Burlington, and LCMM’s Rowing for Racing won their divisions.
A Racer’s-Eye View
by Lisa Percival, LCMM Rowing for Racing Team
Friday, March 20, 2015
It’s the snowy first day of spring. My husband Dean and I trailered two of Lake Champlain Maritime Museum’s Whitehall gigs down from Vermont to Hull, Massachusetts. Watching the parking lot fill up with assorted boats from all over New England, there was a lot of “tire kicking” going on, with rowers admiring each other’s boats and checking out how they are fitted out. Everyone is proud of their boat and the fact that they are assembled here for this exciting annual row. There will be a total of six LCMM teams here for the race. Also in attendance will be many of the gigs that we have previously sold to other clubs, including Harvest Moon that was bought by the U.S. Navy last year for use by the crew of Constitution, now renamed “The Flying Bobby Oar”!
As we drove down the coast earlier, every harbor was totally iced in, with not a break in the surface for open water. As soon as we got to Hull, we dropped off the boats in the parking lot and headed out to the farthest point of land where the race will be held on Saturday at 11:00. The water was mostly free of ice with only a few icebergs and chunks floating around and the rocky beach had been cleared — but there were still huge banks of icy snow from all the plowing over the past months. There is one narrow entrance to the beach for the trailers to be backed down to the water, one at a time. It will be a challenge to launch over 70 boats tomorrow!
This is a wild race—all the boats are beached, stern out, with perhaps 5-6 feet between the boats. At the starting horn, the rowers must race across the beach, wade into the water to push the boat off the shore, set their oars and proceed to row backwards without hitting the boats on either side. Then comes the tricky part: turning all 70 boats 180 degrees to head out to open water. There are always collisions and oars hitting other oars but the overall atmosphere is one of good natured competition— and courtesy. No one yells – there is no time to do anything other than focus on getting away from the beach.
Friday evening we enjoyed our traditional dinner of pasta at Mezzo Mare, a Hull landmark restaurant.
We had 9 packed into a table and were joined by Ed McCabe who organizes the race every year. What a great group—I wanted the night to go on forever with these people—it is such a blast to be together again. Snow has fallen for the past 3 hours. We will have a true Snow Row tomorrow. Everyone is loaded with carbs and energy—we just want the race to begin!!
The View From Above. Thanks to Dronepros.net who flew a quad copter and GoPro camera over the harbor.
Sunday, March 22
We won!! Our 4-woman Whitehall Gig Blue Heron came in first place in our class.
Snow was falling all morning. The beach was covered with a light layer of snow, and the boats were all in the water stern out waiting for the starting gun, when our team lined up behind the rope starting line. We were in the second flight of boats to go out, with the workboats, rowboats, kayaks and assorted small watercraft going out first. At the sound of the gun, our team raced across the beach, through the icy water and into the waiting boat. Once we pushed off, there were several long moments before we got away from the other boats all turning into one another to start rowing in earnest. A few strong pulls and we were off and away from the shore. Ice floes were randomly floating into our path as we slowly overtook the smaller craft. Dodging both floes and boats, we headed for Sheep Island shrouded in the snowy mist.
Rounding the island was another tricky spot as many boats were grounded in the shallow waters there. Some boats were struggling to get free of the rocky bottom while others were trying to avoid colliding with boats veering around each other. Once around the island, we were at the 1/3 mark heading for the buoy turn. The six-oared gigs in the third flight were slowly overtaking us as they powered through the calm water. The final leg of the race was a long pull for the finish line with Ben as cox calling out the remaining distance to us. We crossed the line feeling exhausted and exuberant and ready for more—what a rush this is every time!
Our team was amazing—Katie Lowrie, a co-worker of rower Uli Schygulla, had never rowed a gig before. She was a natural and an immensely strong addition to the boat. Mary Hennessy was our steady stroke, Uli was in the middle power seat and Ben Mayock was our incredible cox. We finished first place in our division in 38 minutes and 35 seconds. The boat behind us was only 21 seconds away! Last year we finished in 48 minutes 46 seconds in comparable wind and temperature. We shaved ten minutes off our time! And we each have a painted quahog shell necklace as an award!!
We are thrilled by our race, immensely happy to be back on the water after a long winter, and can’t wait to get out again. We all want to thank Hull Lifesaving Museum for their dedication and hard work—this was a herculean task to organize. We also are thankful to Nick Patch, Charlie Beyer in Lake Champlain Maritime Museum’s Boat Shop, and the museum staff that makes these boats and events possible for us. We have made wonderful friends within the rowing community over the years and truly feel like we are ambassadors for LCMM. We look forward to welcoming many of these teams as they return to our annual Challenge Race this July.
Special thanks to the students and teachers at the Diversified Occupations Program at the Hannaford Career Center in Middlebury, VT who work so hard to build and maintain these beautiful boats!
The Vermont crews rowed with heart and did incredibly well. Times are as follows:
|Vergennes High School #1||Redwing||43:20||Pilot Gig youth amateur||3rd|
|Burlington High School||American Shad||44:52||Coxed 4 youth amateur||1st|
|Vergennes High School #2||Maple||39:04||Pilot Gig youth pro||2nd|
|Mt. Abraham Union HS||Water Lily||41:17||Pilot Gig youth amateur||1st|
|LCMM Rowing for Racing||Blue Heron||38:35||Coxed 4 adult amateur||1st|
|LCMM Fishcakes||Spirit of Otter Creek||35:21||Pilot Gig adult amateur||3rd|
Find complete race results on the Hull Lifesaving Museum’s website.