The Voyage of the Doomed

Or…The Accidental Triathlon

The day started like any other day.  I woke up, did my hated core exercise routine, and drove to Newton to go for a row.  Little did I know that my easy steady state session would end up…in disaster.

It was cool and grey out.  They was a brisk, gusty wind from the ENE blowing about 15mph with gusts to 20.  This was a cross head wind going downstream.  The 4km trip from the dock to the dam was an uneventful slog.  I have not spent enough time in the boat and my rowing was terrible.  There was a bit of chop in some places, and the wind was hard enough to toss around my oars.  But I just worked on trying to keep my oars off the water on recovery and take nice smooth strokes.

I turned around at the dam, and I was really looking forward to working with a tail wind.  I rowed back under the bridge, and in front of the watch factory.  As I was approaching the s-turn, I heard a loud metallic pop behind me and my port oar washed out.  I looked over my shoulder and my rigger had failed.  I row in a Fluid which has a bow mounted rigger.  There is a main strut and a smaller reinforcing strut.  The main strut had completely severed, right near the edge of the hull.  The only thing holding the rigger on was the thin reinforcing strut.

After a few moments considering my situation.  I was roughly 3km of river away from the dock.  I decided to see if I could gently paddle along on what was left of the rigger and make back to the dock.  This worked great!  For about 20 strokes.  Then the joint connecting the severed main strut to the reinforcing strut parted and I was left holding an oar that just dragging in the water.  An immediate moment of panic passed when I realized that I could keep the boat balanced by leaning to starboard a bit on my good oar.  That gave me time to think.  The first thought was…I am not getting out of this boat without getting wet.

Obviously, I wasn’t going to be able to make it back to the dock, but there was a boat launch ramp about 100m from me.  100m is not far to go, but if you have no means of propulsion, and it’s 100m upwind, it isn’t really close either.  For about a minute, I thought the wind would push me to the bank of the river and I could get out there.  Then it became clear that I was getting pushed to a part of the bank where there was a lot of underbrush, and I wouldn’t have been able to get out.

I made the decision to eject.  I leaned to port, and quick as a wink, I was in the water next to my inverted boat.  I kept a grip on the loose oar.  I was worried that the extra weight of the broken rigger on it might be enough to make it sink, which I now doubt would have happened, but at the time, it seemed quite important to me.  With my free hand, I flipped the boat back over, got my water bottle and flip flops back in the cockpit and started swimming upwind to the dock.

The swim took a while, maybe 5 minutes or so.  I’m looking at this as the second leg of my triathlon.  Then I put my boat and oars off in a grassy corner of the little park where the ramp is.  It was a bit worrying that I could hear water sloshing around in the bow.  I’ll have to look into that later.

OK.  So I was on land and I had a boat.  What’s my next step.  I knew that I was 3km from the dock on the river.  I had no idea how far it was to get there on foot.  And then I discovered reason #67 to have a smartphone with you when you row.

Reason 67 to have a smartphone with you in a boat:  If your rigger fails and you need to get back to your car, you can use it to give you directions!

It turns out that there is a path that runs along the river, but cuts out a lot of the twists.  Google maps told me that my car was 1.5 miles away.  I put on my flip flops and jogged the whole way for the final leg of the Triathlon.  I got to my car, changed into some dry clothes and  then drove to pick up my boat.  I never knew that it would be so handy to keep my boat rack on my car.  I’m just glad that I do!  I picked up my boat and my oars and headed to work.  The crazy thing is that I got to work almost exactly at the time that I normally do.  It was a disaster, but a very efficient one from a time point of view!

Part 1 of the row.  No HR data because it was connected to the speedcoach that ran out of battery power.  This took me about 3km into the row.  When the speedcoach packed up, I stopped this session and hooked the HR monitor to RIM to continue with part 2.


Screen Shot 2017-09-22 at 3.42.47 PM

Part 2 of the row.  Finishing the trip down to the dam, turning around and rowing until the boat busted.  Then the swim to the ramp!


Screen Shot 2017-09-22 at 3.43.52 PM

I didn’t bother tracking HR or pace on the run back to my car, but it took about 15 minutes.

Tomorrow:  We’re heading to the cape tonight.  If the wind dies down I might go for a coastal row tomorrow.  Other wise it will be on the erg.  In either case, the goal will be head race simulation.  30 minutes at 24 spm.

Here are few pictures of the busted rigger


2 thoughts on “The Voyage of the Doomed

  1. sanderroosendaal says:

    Dramatic! At least you were close to the bank. On a lake or on open sea it would have been worse.
    I do think about this sometimes when rowing. Imagining the scenario of flipping, getting to the shore and a wet run back to the club. On the wrong side of the lake, it could be a long run.


  2. dcyyz says:

    Quite the adventure. I’m not sure what the average life expectancy of a wing rigger is. My first one failed after about 3 years and the second one was a slightly different design, so will hopefully last longer. Hudson replaced mine in 3 days. see if Fluidesign can beat that!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s