Sunday, 25 October 2015

The Seven Wonders of the (Dutch rowing) World

The Netherlands is a short flight from the southern UK and their weather is similar to ours, but their rowing clubs are practically on a different planet.

Last weekend, I went on an informal 29km rowing tour there with Dutch friends, followed by a conference on touring rowing (organised by Toer!) the next day in Amsterdam, and was bowled over by what I found.

Saturday, 17 October 2015

Gig rowing for river rowers/skiffers

Today I was lucky enough to be taken out for a "taster session" in a Cornish Pilot Gig (in Hampshire, but you can eat Cornish Pasties there, so why not?).

On hearing that I was a river rower/skiffer, the coach immediately told me that "This is completely different", and it turned out that he was right, in several ways. Here's what I learned...

Thursday, 8 October 2015

What people REALLY want to know about long-distance rowing (sadly)

You plan, you train, you organise, and then you struggle, you overcome and you achieve! And what is it that other people want to know about your gruelling but wonderful feat of oar-powered endurance? The blisters? Sometimes. The scenery? Maybe. The weather? Yes, fair point.

But with depressing frequency, what they ALMOST ALWAYS want to know about are... the toilet arrangements. So I shouldn't have been surprised when the web analytics for this blog revealed that someone had reached it by searching on the phrase "when long distance rowers use the bathroom". I kid you not. However, since at least someone wants to know, and in the interests of encouraging expedition rowing by sharing my experiences, here is the "bog blog"...

Monday, 13 July 2015

Rowing with seals: a Scottish alternative to swimming with dolphins

Back around 1968, when leisure activities in some circles was focused on peace and love, a visionary, benevolent and – crucially – wealthy member of the Royal West of Scotland Amateur Boat Club (an excellent, if not entirely accurately named organisation, but more of that later), commissioned a rowing boat for the club, on condition that it was used annually, for "a long row".

Not having specified exactly how "long" a row this had to be, the club played "safe", and decided that, to be certain they were meeting their moral obligations, "long" should be defined as at least 50 (statute) miles. In other words, trips firmly in "expedition rowing" territory, or perhaps waters: my favourite thing! But in wellies...

Saturday, 13 June 2015

English rows or English rose? The Magna Carta 800th Anniversary River Pageant

When it comes to expedition rows, I'm generally drawn towards the more challenging end of the spectrum. But despite involving more time spent picnicking than actually rowing, and the main preparations being  focused on what to wear, this two-day paddle along the Thames from Cookham to Runnymead was a truly splendid extravaganza of rowing in all its forms.

"What sort of boat is that?", was a FAQ along the way (both asked of us and by us); equipment was compared (I experienced boat-hook envy); and we made some lovely new friends too.

Incidentally, where was Magna Carta signed?

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Ringvaart Regatta 2015: Time for a little lie-down

What with sofas for marshals; floating bananas; llamas; a 25km row to the start; mid-race chips; a stork on a stick; loads of students who could hardly row; but then loads more students who excelled at bilingual organisation, the 100km Ringvaart Regatta is probably the wackiest rowing event I've ever taken part in.

Though I have to say it was an unusual choice for a first sculling race for the only other British entry in the event, "Jim the Sculler".

Friday, 13 March 2015

Rowers' Paradise

When an Olympic rowing medallist describes somewhere as "Everything you could imagine paradise to be, and we rowed there", it's going to pique anyone's interest, never mind the passionate expedition rower's.

Unfortunately, this wasn't the sales pitch, it was the after-the-event summary of a trip I DIDN'T go on, but golly, I would have loved it... Crystal-clear water and World firsts, not to mention the impromptu lobster dinner. Wow!

Sunday, 11 January 2015


Several people have asked me recently what expedition rowers do in the Winter. Despite partly subscribing to the maxim "There's no such thing as bad weather, just the wrong clothing", there's no getting away from the fact that rivers flood, locks are closed for repairs and the days are much shorter. So, whilst I do go out on the water (including with lights at night), and also spend some time on the erg, an important wintertime activity is planning next year's expedition rows. The first of these will be the 100km OC&C Ringvaart in Holland, which is previewed here using the medium of Lego.