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  • Writer's pictureGeoff Kronik

Sculling Boat Rescue

Updated: Jun 25, 2023

Living near Boston means access to the Charles River, be it in a kayak, a rowing shell, or on foot or bike along its shores. Eight years ago, in my fifties, I took up rowing at Community Rowing, Inc., or CRI.


To simply call CRI a rowing club is a misnomer; it's actually a charity devoted to improving people’s lives through the mental and physical benefits of rowing. CRI serves thousands of rowers annually, from public school kids to late bloomers like me. Rowing’s image does not always bring the word diversity to mind, but CRI is changing that. As you can tell, I’m a fan. CRI makes its boats available for an affordable fee, and once or twice a week I take out a single, row for an hour and go home feeling wonderful.


As a beginning rower, one learns not to turn one’s back for long when a boat is at the dock. Wind and current are unpredictable, and no one wants to whirl around and see their boat meandering off on its own. As a seasoned rower, this knowledge should be second nature, but rowing is complex and distraction can be the bane of its practitioners.


Recently I finished a row, exited my boat, and paused to savor the endorphic afterglow of brisk outdoor exercise on a fine morning. I stood there alone in my meditative state, with only birds and wind for company. Then I looked and saw my boat had left the dock without me, and was already well beyond arm’s or oar’s reach. The blessing was there was no one around to witness my gaffe. The curse was there was no one around to help me. I had no choice: I jumped into the river, waded out and grabbed the boat.


The Charles is only waist-deep at CRI, but the bottom is thick with muck. Like sausage, it's best not to know how this muck is made, but plant decay and goose-poop likely play major roles. The stuff is ankle-deep, has the texture of pureed peas and is utterly revolting to walk on. The aroma is worse still, as I learned on the drive home. I smelled like I imagine the creature from the Black Lagoon did.


But I rescued my boat, and got a lesson in sport and in life, not to mention enjoying The World’s Greatest Shower later. Remember the fundamentals: what you learn at the beginning, in anything, is not ephemeral but a foundation. Omit a part of it and you’re on shaky ground--or perhaps in murky water.



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