Imagine walking onto a dance floor, an unfamiliar song playing and you try to hear the beat and translate it into moving feet and hips. Its humbling to say the least when we set about teaching ourselves many ‘firsts’. In theory it makes perfect sense but once in practice it proves challenging.
I recently was able to experience this at a level that brought frustration, confusion and deflation. I took Ocean’s Soul into the water for the very first time. A project that saw some 100+ hours of labour invested over several months was finally floating on its own. Feelings were mixed…I had envisioned what launch day would look like, feel like and encompass. I compare it much to window shopping. You see a jacket that catches your eye, you picture yourself in it but until you try it on you don’t truly know what it will feel like. The correlation fits as I wondered, would the oars feel heavy? Would the boats track be centered and sustained? Would the blisters be tolerable? Most importantly would my rear end be comfortable?
Stepping in brought about a said satisfaction as immediately the boats stability was evident. She felt solid, sleek and ready to stress every seam, joint and layer of epoxy. As I strapped in my feet, swung out the oars, adjusted my seat I was now ready to take my first few oar strokes.
It should be mentioned that it is common to overlap the oar grips (handles) with your left hand over your right hand as you drive through the pull. Of course, in theory this would be very fluid. In reality it looked like scraped knuckles, oar handles binding on one another and oar blades getting caught awkwardly in the water and causing the boat to brake and list to that side.
It was torture…
I let in the negativity…
I let in the doubt…
I cursed as I struggled to sustain any sort of rhythm. If Ocean’s Soul was a woman embracing me in a dance then I was stepping on her toes, pulling on her dress and sharing my sweaty palms with her.
I knew enough that it wasn’t going to be cake the first time out, but I didn’t expect what it was. I felt cornered and with only learning the art of rowing through video, reading and hours on simulating machines in a gym, this was very foreign.
In a previous post I discussed the math and physics behind rowing and the set up or ‘rigging’ of the boat. It became evident that I had not yet dialed this in appropriately. However, having faith in the numbers and the history was hard. My mind was saying this was not right. My back was saying, don’t ever put me through that again. My will was saying, the heck with it; I’m not laying down just because this got hard.
I revisited the geometry and set about checking and rechecking measurements, settings and all the things that change heights, leverages and the overall drive of the rowing system. I knew instantly that my cockpit coaming modification was not permitting my oars to be dropped low enough to get the blades out of the water high enough to avoid catching themselves during the recovery. The idea of cutting into the fresh paint and making changes to lower the coamings height made me anxious. I soon found that the oars themselves felt low. An easy fix would be to raise the entire rigger to facilitate clearing the coaming but also bringing the oars grips higher to a more comfortable level. Two inches of height was gained with some scrap wood and new mounting bolts. Another observation was that the oarlocks sat at the same level. In order to help the act of overlapping hands during the stroke, I opted to remove a spacer below the right hand lock effectively dropping it just over a centimeter below that of the left. This differential would assist in getting my left hand over my right.
Reluctant to feel defeated, I stepped into the cold water of Georgia Strait, sat in once more and took hold of the green grips of my concept2 oars. What followed next was pure euphoria and relief. At last what I dreamed would be…was. The boats gearing felt right. The strokes were efficient and powerful. Most importantly, fluidity entered the equation.
It was by no means days and miles of trials, but it was a start; and like all things new, you have to start somewhere.