Sunday, March 28, 2010

Weekender edition: With a water theme

Let's see. Writing from ... a pub, I guess it is, in Marblehead. And no, I'm not the only dork with a computer at a bar. But yes, it is only the two of us at our table who can lay such a claim. S'ok, the bar's dead, it's still daylight out, they're happy for the business.

It's cold, cold this weekend, but damn. Lows in the 20s, high maybe in the 30s, but with wind, doesn't feel like it. And I got right up personal with the cold in my boathouse's "Crusher Casey" opening day race.

Crusher being a real-life historic figure, a boxer, wrestler and rower, bar owner, not sure what else. What we could call a character, someone we're proud to have had as a member. So we named our opening day stake race after him, a member who's a jeweler made a boxing champion belt, anther member made a nice wooden plaque to mount it on, and every year, the fastest man and woman get their names engraved on it, and get early season smack-talk rights. Pretty cool. More emphasis is put on sculling, but they put up with a bunch of us random sweep rowers who join up to form mixed 8s (as in, mixed-gender, 8-person boats).

Stake races are a little crazy in rowing, particularly in sweep rowing, as you've got big long boats lacking what you would call a tight turn radius. So there's lots of talk amongst all the rowers of the best way to execute it. In my boat, some were of the opinion that you have starboard rowers row hard, stop, have port rowers jam their oars in the water (this is pretty accepted wisdom so far), but in a fancy twist, jam their oars in backward, or flipped around with the blade facing the opposite way it usually would (followed by starboards rowing hard again to pull the boat around). The 2-seat rower in front of me muttered vociferously about what a bad idea it was, that it was precisely how rowers caught crabs (a very unfortunate sequence of events in which an oar gets out of sequence with the rest, gets caught in the water, then irrevocably slammed against the side of the boat, usually smacking [hard], sometimes injuring, occasionally ejecting a rower from the boat in the process). So we tried it. And a rower promptly caught a crab (no injury fortunately). So we tried it again. Same results, different rower. At which point I called up from my bow seat at the end of the boat, "Hey, why don't we not flip the blades around when ports check it down?" So we didn't. Not because of my genius suggestion, but because common sense collectively dawned.

So, we won our race. Yay! Love winning. And the boat actually felt pretty darn good -- sometimes with thrown-together boats, and no practice, it can be a disaster, but ours was smooth and fast enough to beat the other boat.

But my point, my point was about cold -- my hands were entirely numb for the first half of the race. Which felt like a while. But it was awfully fun.

Following the stake race is the opening day breakfast in which every possible form of carbohydrate and baked good is represented. My favorite was "Irish carbomb cupcakes" -- chocolate cupcakes with Bailey's icing with a chunk of chocolate in the middle.

After all that was done, by about 8:30 in the morning (this is why rowers fall asleep at 9 p.m.), I headed over to my sidekick (it's OK, we're really each other's sidekicks), and we headed out for Marblehead for a change of scenery, some fresh ocean breeze and new cafe space for worktime. And found all that. And then a waterfront pub with free wi-fi, a promise of fried ravioli that didn't actually materialize, so we improv'd with walnut-crusted fried goat cheese. And it's starting to feel like bedtime might not be far off. Oh hush, been a long day, pre-5 a.m. wakeup....

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