Monday, May 18, 2009

Row boat experience

When I was watching the Olympic rowing finals, I thought rowing is quite simple and all one has to do is to dip that stick in water and push it hard. When I rowed for the first time, all my perceptions about rowing changed. I started appreciating the work the participants of that final have put day in and day out to reach the heights they have reached.

My first rowing experience is probably the funniest ever. I, along with four other guys, set out to explore the beauty of mountains and lakes in a place called “The lake district” in United Kingdom. The thought of getting into a row boat was thrilling though no one had a clue about how to operate the boat. Every one of us was quite confident that rowing that boat is as simple as eating a piece of cake.

“Do you need life jackets?” the guy in the counter asked. “Life jackets?” I thought sensing fear for the first time. “Why would I need a life jacket? Is rowing a boat life threatening? If yes, of all the places in the world, why am I here? “Were a few questions that came to my mind. And the fear was written all over my face. When I looked around to see the guys, no one was feeling the heat. It was just me panicking.

“Can anyone of you swim?” I asked and I got an instantaneous answer from everyone. No one can swim. So am I. Well, if everyone can give it a try, why can’t I? So, I decided to jump into the boat.

After tightly tying the life jacket around my chest and waist and triple knotted it, I jumped into the boat reassuring myself that life boat would save us if we had problems. My heart sank when the boat wobbled badly as one of the guys jumped into the boat like jumping from a cliff. In the process, I dipped my hand in freezing water and then I started jumping around. The boat owner had to calm us down and ensured that all five of us got in.

We were on our own when the boat owner untied the knot and pushed the boat forward. “All the best guys. Come back in one piece!” he said and winked at us. It looked like a wicked wink from a horror-movie-villain.

The first five minutes were exiting. Cameras came out, lots of solo pictures were taken and infact some of us tried to change our seats which is probably the worst thing to do on a boat. The boat almost capsized when we attempted this seat change. Common sense prevailed when all of us realized that going back to the shore alive is more important that posing like a hero for the camera.

After the photo enthusiasm subsided, we took that stick and started rowing. Four guys were rowing and I was watching from the front of the boat facing them. All four were rowing independently. There was absolutely no team work whatsoever. Four of them wanted the boat to move in different directions. So the boat stayed still for sometime and then started moving in the direction of the wind.

We were given a map of the lake and it clearly indicated where we should start and finish. We started from the right place but we were not moving in the direction we were supposed to move. After all, how can you expect wind to blow in right direction when four dumb fellows cant row the boat in unison. When the wind picked up, it was unbearable for me to sit on the boat. I was trying to cover my entire body with something made of wool. As the temperature was close to zero, my entire body was shivering like it was stuck in an earthquake.

After a few minutes of chit chat inside the boat, we realized that no life boats were around as the wind carried us in a completely wrong direction. We had no options at that time. We didn’t know how to control the boat; we didn’t know when the wind would stop; we couldn’t swim and all we could do was pray for help. No help arrived. All four started rowing. No, all four attempted rowing again. All four in different directions. Again, the resultant was nil; again, the boat was controlled entirely by the blustery wind blowing across the lake.

After half an hour of intensive rowing, the wind took us close to the bank in the other side of the lake. And then the wind stopped. All four guys continued rowing. But, the boat was not moving at all. Rowing got intense. But, no effect. After a bit of struggle and after one hour of prayer, help arrived.

A group of people was holidaying in that side of the lake. A tall lean guy picked up a few meters of rope from his house and threw it towards us and pulled us to safety. He then tied the boat with the same rope and said “I have been watching you guys for quite sometime. What were you trying to do there? “Pointing to the lake, in heavy Scottish accent.

“Well… we were trying to control the boat, but we couldn’t” I said.

“Have you ever tried rowing before?”

“Well, we have watched it on television, but er.. we haven’t tried rowing before” I said, feeling a bit ashamed.

He burst out into laughter and called his entire group from inside the house. The entire group of started laughing when they came to know about our stupid adventure.

Like most of the Scottish people, they were very kind and offered us tea and biscuits. And thought us how to row. That is exactly when we learnt that rowing is complex and it requires a lot of co-ordination and energy.

After a short chat with our new friends, we got into our boat again. They pushed the boat off the shore and said “Alright guys, now, get back to your destination in one piece”