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Heck No, I Won’t Row!

Heck No, I Won’t Row!

by Greg on July 19, 2011

As much as my wife and I have always wanted a boat, we’ve never been fortunate enough to own one. It’s not because we can’t afford one, it’s because we really can’t afford one. Actually, I take that back. There are a number of boats in our price range. We’re probably just a little too picky.

For starters, we prefer that our boats don’t have gaping holes in them. Call us spoiled but we’ve become accustomed to cruising the lake above the water. The last thing we want is a “project boat”. Especially with my brief history as a somewhat-handyman. Working some putty into a door jamb carries far less pressure considering there’s no threat of my house sinking should I apply it wrong.

While some of the pre-owned boats listed as being in “great condition” were tempting (we’ve since learned that “great condition” is boater-speak for “still floats”), we were advised to approach a used boat purchase like you would a rabid cobra. You don’t.

Ask around and anyone not trying to sell you a used boat will tell you that the word “Boat” is actually an acronym for Break Out Another Thousand.

Having already been through this cycle with our minivan, I’d rather wait until we can afford to buy new. This way, we can enjoy a few blissful months of worry-free boating before the vessel instinctively begins to suckle on our wallets.

In lieu of a boat, my wife is trying to talk me into buying a canoe (an American Indian word meaning “capsized”) or a kayak (an Eskimo word meaning “capsized”), but I need a boat with some power behind it. Otherwise, it’s not a relaxing or fun excursion, it’s just work.

In my opinion, the easiest way to get from Point A to Point B, or, if boating, from Point A back to Point A, is with an engine. I’ll paddle if my life depends on it (in most cases), but I don’t like paddling for recreation. Whether it be a canoe, a kayak, or a rowboat.

Especially a rowboat.

Sure, taking the kids out on a rowboat sounds like a lot of fun, but just wait until you find yourself in the middle of the lake surrounded by a crew of feeble-armed children with bladders the size of chickpeas screaming that you row faster…faster…FASTER to get them back to shore.

If you’ve never rented a rowboat, let me set the scene for you.

Rowboats spend their days absorbing the full brunt of the sun’s energy until they’re essentially floating griddles. Once the metallic seats are hot enough to fuse skin and aluminum, the boat will be available for rent. You’ll be handed a few bright orange square life vests that are fashioned from 1960’s patio cushions. Intentionally designed to throttle one’s neck, don’t be alarmed if your children complain that they can’t turn their head, raise their arms, or swallow. Explain that it’s a life saving device, not a comfort pillow.

Most children will reserve their complaints and whining until the boat is untied from the dock. From there, one child will be too hot. The other, too cold. One child’s life preserver will be too tight. The other, too loose. One will be hungry, but only for the sandwiches left behind. The other, thirsty for anything not in the cooler. For one child, it’s too scary. For the other, not nearly thrilling enough to maintain interest. Both will want to go home far too early, yet they’ll tell you this far too late. And neither child will be deserving of a ride home, yet our laws demand that you provide one.

I can attest from experience that your patience will never be tested more in life than when you’re struggling to keep the oars in the rickety dismantled oar holder things while your kids are demanding to see a thrashing bubbling wake from behind the bloated aluminum fortress you’re trying to navigate.

Rowboats are fun for about six seconds. After that, the kids want to ride a tube behind it, they want to see fish, they want you to go faster, faster, FASTER! Try as you may, rowboats have a top speed of roughly 1.6 MPH. Assuming you’re rowing downhill. They are twice as heavy as a river barge yet provide half the navigability.

And if you lose an oar? You may as well determine which child to eat first, because unless the lake has a current, you aren’t going anywhere. If you thought you couldn’t make progress with two oars, try getting around with just one. Should this happen, be prepared to summon the strength of Hercules before canoe-paddling the medieval vessel back to the docks. Forget the oar. It won’t be recovered. Just let it go. Half the cabins you see on America’s lakes were built with abandoned oars.

Rowboats exist for one reason and one reason only…to be used as a last resort refuge when the boat you’re supposed to be on is sinking. Even then, you’ll find yourself debating whether or not to float it out or climb aboard. Especially if you think you’ll be expected to row. Don’t let the history books fool you. There were plenty of rowboats on the Titanic. There just weren’t enough willing passengers.

Every time I see someone rowing a bunch of children around on purpose, I know two things:

One, it’s their first time. And two, it’s their last.


karen July 19, 2011 at 5:34 pm

We can’t afford a real boat so we do have a canoe. We never use it as much every summer as we’d like, but when we have the time it’s nice to have.

TQND July 19, 2011 at 10:02 pm

My friends and I used to ski behind an aluminum boat that had a 30 HP Evinrude outboard motor. Of course, we were 16 years old and quite senseless. It was a lot of fun.

I can’t count the times that we ran out of gas in the middle of the lake and had only one oar. Something about youth make you think that a gas tank on any mode of transportation is limitless.

Candace July 20, 2011 at 11:21 am

We don’t live near water enough to have a boat but I wouldn’t want anything more than a peddle boat hahahaha!

Jaime July 21, 2011 at 12:01 pm

I took kids canoeing once when I was a nanny… the kids thoroughly enjoyed it .. mainly cuz they weren’t doing any work… I, however, was sweating my arse off moving the boat around the lake… lol

Nicole July 21, 2011 at 1:20 pm

Hahahahaha! My kids INSISTED on using a rowboat when we were camping a few weeks ago. As a former Crew Team member, I KNOW the issues you highlighted. We made the agreement that THEY would be in charge of rowing. My husband and the youngest got a paddle boat (also a ruse to suck you in…they are horrible and navigating and the harder your pedal the slower you go!). The kiddlets made it to about the middle of the lake and were begging to trade places. So, DH and I ended up splitting the difference the rest of the day. We felt we were properly worked out both upper body from rowing and lower body from pedaling.

Melinda July 24, 2011 at 10:35 am

Sooo true. Only people with more than a ten minute attention span ( not me) and who like to fish can enjoy a rowboat. The paddleboat comes in just behind that as you realize you need to bicycle yourself back to the dock and didn’t realize you should have trained before beginning that “relaxing” adventure.

Jessie December 9, 2011 at 3:00 pm

Back when I was a teenager my best friend and I used to go camping every summer at place called Lake Tapps. There is a very large island in the middle of the lake and over the course of the week we were they we would row around the island multiple times (not in the same day). We thought it was fun. It usually took us all day to make it around.

Charity January 24, 2012 at 12:02 am

When my daughter was four we decided to borrow a friend’s canoe and take the kids on an adventure. At this time April was learning to ride a bike without training wheels – this is relevant, I promise. We purchased adorable little life jackets and dressed the little cuties in warm clothes. We strapped the canoe to the roof of the jeep and excitedly drove to the Chena River. April and her older sister, Brittany, talked about all the fishies they would see. We unstrapped the canoe, strapped on the adorable life jackets, grabbed our paddles and prepared to launch. All was well until we actually left the shore. Immediately April started screaming at the very top of her lungs “DON’T STOP PEADDLING, DON’T STOP PEADDLING!!!”. We turned the canoe around and paddled our way back to shore. Apparently she thought the canoe would topple (like her bike) if we stopped paddling/peddling. We put the canoe in our front yard and let the kiddos play in it. April got used the the movements of the canoe and eventually agreed to try again. She was still nervous about the lack of paddling but she made it through the outing without screaming. April will have her 16th birthday in March, so of course I love telling this story 🙂

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