Facing backward, moving forward

Posted by Ken Campbell October 16, 2010 1 Comment 646 views

The crew over at O.A.R. Northwest took the rowboat out to play yesterday. They left the dock at Point Defiance at about 6pm, attempting to row from Tacoma to Victoria, a trip they figured would probably take about 30 hours.

They are preparing for next year’s cross-Atlantic race, which they hope will take them something on the order of 35 days or so… hard to know exactly, with all the variables. Regardless, it’s a monumental undertaking. The row to Victoria was a training paddle, an attempt to calibrate their own efforts with the capabilities of the boat, to get the rhythm going again. They’ve done it before, now they’re trying to do it faster.

The wind was stout from the North as they made the final preparations to shove off. I didn’t know the effect that the wind would have on them; some craft are more susceptible than others, after all. (It would have been a difficult prospect for a SUP, for instance, and in a kayak, I think I could make some headway, but I would have been a lot closer to shore than they could go, just to try to beat the wind.) When they got underway, they were rowing strong, right into the teeth of the wind as it whipped across Commencement Bay.

If it were me, I would have been hoping that, once I got into Colvos Passage, the wind would lessen. It’s more protected there and unless the wind is funneled directly down the waterway, I would expect to find calmer water there than out where the fetch is longer. For the 15 miles or so up to Southworth, maybe the wind would cease to be a real factor.

Which, I imagine, is what they were hoping too. I checked their progress this morning when I got up and saw their latest update, however, and it seems they turned around. The wind turned out to be a difference-maker for them and I’m guessing that, even if they had soldiered on, they figured they would miss the tidal schedule they had worked out in advance. A slow start could tend to throw all the other calculations off.

For whatever reason, they decided to return rather than beat forward into the wind. I’m not sure that this qualifies as a setback; they still have 13 months or so until the race starts so there’s plenty of time for more training. I know they would have rather stayed out there though, so it must have felt like a pretty pointless exercise for them to throw in the towel.

Wind and water are powerful things, much bigger and stronger than we are. Every now and then, we are reminded of these things and it can be humbling. Nobody conquers the elements. The best we can hope for is to cooperate with the conditions, to bend our efforts to nature’s will and use what chances she gives along the way. And sometimes there aren’t many chances to be had.

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