Monday, October 28, 2013


Rowing... I Love to row. I mean don't get me wrong, I love to paddle too: rafts, kayaks, canoes, paddling is great! But I LOVE to row. There is just something so magical about that dance between you, your oars, your barge and the current... it's that necessity of intimacy with the current that is reminiscent of sweep boats, where angle is the only dance. The kind of intimacy that is somehow different from team paddle rafting, different from agile maneuverable hard boats. The kind of intimacy that leaves you vulnerable to the mercy of the current, forces you to dance solo with every flux of the current... 

 It would seem that I am not the only one to experience these feeling,  Charlotte Loves to row. Even as a 16 month old baby, her favorite place on the raft was sitting on my lap, holding the oars while I rowed.
16 month old Charlotte rowing with Mommy, Arkansas River CO
San Juan River, UT- 2 years old

Arkansas River, CO- 3 years old

As she grew she started pushing on the oars herself, even pushing Mommy's hands out of the way.
This summer, Mommy's lap was dismissed too, and Charlotte began to actually Row. I sit across the cockpit from her so I can still grab the oars, but let her do all she can.  Now bear in mind that this is a 14' raft we are talking about, often loaded with days worth of food and gear. It is a big heavy boat. While Charlotte is quite strong for a five year old little girl, she is still a five year old little girl. Yes, she moves that boat, not allot and not fast, but she can move it! Maneuvering is harder, but if her angle is right & she starts early enough, she can catch an eddy!

"Hands off Mommy!" San Juan River, UT- 4 years old

"I can push this boat!" Arkansas River, CO- 4 years old
"The Captains seat is mine!" Green River, UT/CO- 5 years old
Owning it! Green River, UT/CO- 5 years old

We have have a smaller boat too, a little 10.5' Hyside Minni Max, but until last week it had been just a little paddle raft. We have always threatened to get a frame for it, and maybe it was some sort of attempt to fill the void eating our souls from not being on the Grand Canyon (due to the government shutdown,) but for some reason we finally pulled that trigger & bought a little custom frame from Salida Riverboat Works for it! After both Mommy & Daddy had taken it for trial runs while Charlotte was in school, she got off the school bus, right into her PFD & down to the eddy at our house where she rowed all around. She practiced picking things (rocks, Mom,) to aim at and bump into, spinning & turning, pushing & pulling. Boy could she move that little boat! It was just so much smaller, easier for her to maneuver and move!
Proud little oarsman! First rounds in the little boat at the home eddy.
Practicing her two oar turn in the home eddy.

Come the weekend, we rallied to float from town down to our house, a fun little class II stretch. Charlotte & I on the little green raft, Daddy in his canoe. I put the convertible oar rights my Dad had requested for our non-Grand trip on the little oars so that Charlotte didn't have to worry about her blade angle. Training wheels, I know some people Love their oar rights, but they really are just training wheels, and this is the perfect application for them!
Putting the oar rights on & getting ready to row!

I rowed us through the first little cobbly wave train, and then turned the oars over to Captain Charlotte! We bumped a few rocks, we got stuck a couple times, but all in all Charlotte was doing Amazing! To be honest, I had expected her to only row a few flat parts, and planned on rowing all the little rapids myself, but she was having so much fun & doing such a good job that I let her keep rowing. After her first little rapid, Charlotte looked at me elatedly & said "Mommy! I rowed a rapid! That was a class II rapid!" Coming around the corner after the next little rapid, a fisherman on the bank beamed at us saying "Now that is the neatest thing I have seen all day!"
A very content and competent young lady.
Rowing the rapids!

I rowed the next set of rapids, as they are a little bigger and one is just so rocky at the top it's hard to get through. Though in retrospect, I think she could have done the last one (Bear Creek, the only named rapid on this stretch,) just fine.

At one point Charlotte lost focus & we did a good bit of bouncing down the side of the river getting stuck, but fueled by gummy bears, she she got right back on track! Her biggest challenge (as is everyone's,) was angle. Contrary to most people learning to row, she actually found two oar turns to be easier than using only one oar. Though I think part of that might simply be that the frame needs adjusting, the oar towers are just too high, it takes allot of effort to keep an oar out of the water when your handles are at head level! Regardless, we did allot of work on two oar turns which is actually a very complex move that most adults struggle with. It is pushing with one oar while simultaneously pulling with the other. It's kind of like that whole pat your head & rub your tummy thing... Anyways, she was getting it! She was very excited at how fast it turns the boat, and was really able to put the boat where she wanted it once she got that turn down.

We talked allot about reading water, what her plan was, where she wanted the boat & how she was going to get it there, all in all she had a great concept of reading the water & where she wanted to go. It was just a matter of learning what she could do with her oars to get the raft there! As far as eddies go she was catching them just fine, but finding getting back into the current a little more challenging, rafts act a little different from kayaks...
Looking at our line, reading the water, talking about what to do.

I rowed a few more times, mostly to bust out some flat water & give Charlotte a break, plus one more of those super rocky entrance rapids... but all in all Charlotte rowed at least two thirds of that 4.5 mile run! She also completely exceeded my expectations, again I really thought she was going to row just a couple of flat stretches, not most of the whole run & a ton of little rapids! Once again, my daughter has blown my mind... What an incredible experience to be rowed down the River by my five year old daughter, and knowing that this is only the first of many many more miles to come...


  1. So awesome! Just amazing. Go Charlotte!

  2. I agree, this is the best way to raise children. My 14 yr old son paddled 50 miles of the MF Salmon this summer and my 12 yr daughter helped row the gear raft. I believe there is no better way to build self confindence and a can do attitude than learning to work with and concure the current. Keep it up.