Antigua, at Last We Find Thee
Pre-Antigua's Classic Yacht Regatta

Row, Row, Row Your Boat

I am determined to lose weight and get stronger.

Well, on some days I’m determined.

I definitely have to work at being more determined.


When I am determined, I exercise – walk, swim, yoga, or row.

That’s rowing, as in rowing the dinghy, not paddling, as in paddling a kayak. We don’t (yet) have a kayak, so when I want to do some upper body/cardio work, I row our West Marine Inflatable dinghy. Apparently I am the only person in the Caribbean who ever rows an inflatable on purpose. Inflatables are not known for their rowing ability although this West Marine model handles quite well. Except for me, folks row an inflatable only if their motor isn’t working or has been stolen.

There is no negative impact on other cruisers when I walk, swim, or do yoga, but it appears that I cannot row the inflatable without causing angst. So while I like the exercise I get from rowing, it does make me feel guilty.

When we were anchored at Water Island in St. Thomas, I rowed toward Charlotte Amalie some days (orange line), and to the other end of the island on other days (blue line).Capture  Rowing routes St. Thomas 2Usually, I row for about 45 minutes, and I work at rowing faster, and going farther each time. On one ambitious morning I rowed for over 60 minutes, from Water Island to the entrance of Crown Bay Marina. I had to do laundry that morning, and wanted to exercise, so I rowed to shore. (Dashed black line.)

This caused a lot of boaters to veer off course and come to my aid, and that is why I feel guilty when I row. There seems to be no universal sign for “I’m doing this for exercise”, though some women have understood when I put the oars down and move my arms back and forth as if I were running. None of the men get that at all. Still, the women will come alongside and ask, “Are you exercising? So, you’re OK, right?” The men just ask whether I’m OK or offer to help. I will see them catch sight of me and turn abruptly in my direction. Usually I try to stop them and send them on their way, but that has never worked.

If I use the exercise motion, they continue forward. If I move both arms, parallel to the water, crossing them back and forth in front of me, they don’t see that as “no thank you” but as “I need help.” If I wave, they are sure I need help. If I ignore them, they come along side and offer a tow. When I rowed with the laundry, the wind set me close to the main island and away from the anchored boats off of water island. Consequently, every person who stopped to help had to go out of their way to rescue me. I’m so sorry.

I need a kayak. No one every interrupts a kayaker. Kayakers are supposed to paddle. Inflatables are supposed to be powered by outboard motors. Whenever I row, the outboard is attached, prop hoisted out of the water, ready to take over if I get tired or if the wind picks up. Every time I row the dinghy, at least one boat veers off course to offer aid. I’m sorry.

Most recently, I went for a row in Falmouth Harbor Antigua. It had been one of those days. I had plans to write and couldn’t create even one interesting paragraph. I decided to sew, and couldn’t find one necessary book. Once I found it, the article wasn’t as helpful as I had thought it would be. This all seems very trivial, because it is, but it was a windy and stormy day and I wanted to get something done. Anything. So, deep breath. I’ll do a round of yoga. Before leaving Grenada, Gabi had thoughtfully provided us with a 45-minute session on video. That’s just what I needed. Inner peace. I got out my mat and took the laptop on deck and couldn’t hear a word over the wind and Gramps, our rather quiet wind generator.

EW was cheerfully undertaking a myriad of little tasks and listening to music. He was having a productive morning. I had succeeded only at making breakfast and washing the dishes. I hadn’t even been able to complete a Sudoku puzzle. “I’m going for a row,” I declared. EW looked at me with interest. “Now that’s ambitious,” he said.  OK, so it was blowing 20 with gusts to 25. Big whoop. I needed a time out. I needed to find inner peace. I needed to give EW some peace.

Rowing in the windHe helped me launch the dinghy. I rowed. At first I didn’t get anywhere. In fact, I was immediately reminded of the advertisements for those tiny lap pools with current that keeps you in one place as you swim “laps”. Rowing up wind was like that. But I persevered. Can you see how the wind is blowing my hair forward? It was blowing 20 – 25 knots. The chop doesn’t look as bad here. It sure felt choppy. Our friends Jackie and Chris are anchored nearby and were both on deck to watch my progress. Later, Chris said, “I couldn’t believe you actually made headway in that chop. I wouldn’t want to arm wrestle you!”

I rowed. And sure, enough one of our neighbors jumped into his dinghy and motored over to help me. I tried all of my hand signals, but of course they didn’t help. He was cheerful about it. “Are you really rowing for exercise?” “Well,” I replied, “today I’m rowing for inner peace.” He smiled – sort of – and quickly drove back to his boat. I’m sorry.

I don’t think I rowed for 45 minutes (of course I forgot the watch, that time) but I did set a goal to circle a particular boat before returning to La Luna. As I did, could see a few people on their decks, watching me. Just before reaching La Luna I passed close by a British couple. She smiled, “You don’t need help, right?” Clearly she had been on deck long enough to see me refuse help from the guy in the dinghy. “No, thanks,” I said. I’m fine. Just working seeking inner peace and giving my husband some peace and quiet.” She laughed. At least I made her day.

Boy, are my arms tired.

There’s a joke there. Somewhere.

By the way - please check out my book: Harts at Sea Sailing to Windward, Kindle version available at Amazon for $2.99  


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