Sunday: The voyage to the wreck of the James Longstreet

The weather is beautiful.  70s, Sunny, brisk breeze from the Southwest, around 15 mph with gusts a bit stronger.

I am trying to do longer rows to get ready for the Blackburn Challenge and I have been trying to get experience rowing in bigger waves. Today’s breeze from the southwest provided a terrific opportunity to do that.

The mission for today was to row up to Wellfleet Harbor and then row all the way to the Red Bell Buoy marking the wreck of the James Longstreet.  This was a freighter that was used as a practice naval target during World War 2.  The wreck is now almost completely submerged, even at low tide, but the buoy provided a challenging target for today’s row.

Here’s the planned course.

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I started at WP0001, which is locally known as kayak beach.  I had printed out the chart along with course instructions.


And then taped it in a ziplock bag to the deck beside the cockpit.  This worked out well, but I need to work on legibility.  I need to make the font bigger and come up with a way to identify waypoints, it was a bit hard to read when the spray was flying!

The actual track shows that I still have a lot to learn about steering in tidal currents.

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The first part of the row was slow and careful as I tried to pick my way between the shoals at low tide.  It wasn’t as bad as last time, but my oar blades were smooshing into the bottom on a lot of strokes.

I basically rowed straight to the green can, and then turned north to toward the inner harbor.  This was delightful downwind rowing.  There was a little bit of chop, and it was on my stern quarter.  There were some nice surfs along the way.

I got to the end of the breakwater, turned, had a quick drink and started to row against the tide and wind.  The first leg, down to a red buoy (WP0004), was good.  The waves weren’t that big and I wasn’t really taking on much water.  After the Buoy, when I turned to WP0005, I was heading straight into the wind and the building seas.  The section from about 7km to 11km was the toughest, slowest, wettest and most challenging rowing of the day.

Once I had the next buoy in sight (WP0005), I turned to the south, and then the wind was on my bow quarter.  This was a bit easier and my pace picked up a bit.  But as I came out from behind Billingsgate Island, I started to experience the long rolling waves that had built up across all of Cape Cod Bay.  These were long period waves, probably 2 feet high, with smaller chop breaking them up a bit.  There was a definite pattern of a few big waves, then a lull, then some more big ones.  It got a bit hairy as I approached WP0006, my farthest objective.  The waves seemed to get steeper over the shallower water here.  I was rowing to a compass course until I was able to see the buoy I was rowing for and then I turned straight to it.  Here’s a little narrative about my objective from the Embassy Cruise Guide to New England.

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I was quite glad to finally get around the buoy, and luckily I did not set off any unexploded bombs.  Then I had a long ride back with the waves on my beam and the wind behind me.

This was a different type of challenge, but quite fun.  My heading was not far enough downwind to surf the waves.  The thing that took some experimenting was figuring out how to deal with radically different water heights beneath each oar.  I found it easier with a slightly higher stroke rate.

Heading back, I navigated fine to WP0010, but after that, I maintained the right compass course, but I think the incoming tide pushed me quite a bit off course.  I rowed the specified distance from WP0010 to WP0009, but when I looked around, I could find the buoy at all.  I tried with and without sunglasses, and completely stopped the boat.  Well, that’s not good.

By now, it was a couple of hours after low tide, so I decided to deviate from the planned course and cut the corner to go home.  I was getting pretty tired and I had been out for over 2 hours.  But this was some of the most fun rowing of the day.  The wind and waves were on my port stern quarter, and the wave frequency was long enough that I could surf the front of a wave about every third stroke that I took.  When I caught the wave right, the last 3 feet of the stern would be buried and there would be a great swooshing noise from the bow.  It took some creative rowing to try to keep the waves from slewing the boat around through the process.

I navigated by eye around the north side of the island and pushed hard as I finished the last leg to Kayak beach.  I could barely stand up when I got out of the boat, but I was grinning from ear to ear.

The pace and HR plot below shows how it was tough to row hard when I was going into the wind and waves.  It was easier to push when I was surfing.

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It was quite a workout.  nearly 2 hours of UT1.  Total time on the water was 160 minutes.

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Workout Summary - media/20170611-171639-Greg Smith 20170611 0844amo.csv


Below are pace and rate charts.  The one from on the left is from the speedcoach.  The one on the right from Crewnerd.  Speedcoach continues to have some trouble finding the stroke rate in rough seas.  But the pace information is a bit smoother.

Tomorrow:  Hopefully on the water in Newton.

M1 4 x 15′ / 4′ 7′ @ 5KP, 8′ @ MP 92.5% (172)


Sunday: The Maiden Voyage of Kanangra

Weather:  I launched right around 8am.  There was a little wind that was dying down.

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The more salient bit of data was the tides.  We are in a period of time called the King Tides.  These occur a few times a year when the moon is at perigee and also aligned with the sun (new moon of full moon).  If they happen around January 2nd, they are even bigger because the earth is at perihelion.  These tides were pretty damn big.

Here’s a view of the Lieutenant Island Tide calendar.

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The squiggle is the tide height.  The numbers above each peak is the time and height of the high tide.  The highest tide of the month was very early Saturday morning (12:46AM May 27th) and was a 13.0 tide.

Aside:  The faint line near the high tide points is the tide height where the water comes over the road to the island.  When these tides are very high, you are cut off for about 4 hours around high tide.

The low tides are correspondingly low.  I launch from a beach that has the best low tide access, but this particular low tide ended up causing me a comic 30 minutes of trying to find deep enough water to row in.

Here it is speeded up buy a factor of 30 to reduce the boredom factor.

Certainly an inauspicious was to start.

Once I got through that, I was able to really try out the new boat.  Here’s my course.

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This chart was made with some a navigation.  A program called GPSNavX which supports plotting course directly on navigation charts.  The GPS coordinates come from the speedcoach, exported to CSV using NK Link, then uploaded to rowsandall, then exported as TCX, then convert to GPX by TCXConverter, then loaded into GPSNavX.  Simple 😉

This part was “on foot”


The row up to Wellfleet was good fun.  There was some light wind was from the SSW, so the chop could build up more as I got further north.  The boat handles quartering waves very well and surfing directly downwind is rock solid and good fun.

I noticed that there were patches of floating reeds all over the place.  These float out of the salt marshes during very high tides.  They had the effect of turning this outing into something like a random bungee row.  I would be rowing along, pass through an area with some reeds and eventually notice that it was harder to keep the pace.  Then, I would stop, back the boat down, wiggle it a bit from side to side and see a big clump of reeds float up from the fin.

I turned and headed out to sea.  The wind basically stopped and there was very little chop.  I just tried to set a nice rhythm and take long easy strokes.  My HR monitor decided early in the row that it didn’t want to cooperate, so I didn’t have that feedback.  My guess is that most of the row was low UT1.

I passed over Smalley Bar, and I noticed the water got appreciably lighter as it got shallower.  At the shallowest, I could see the features on the bottom, but at least I didn’t need to get out and walk.

After that I noticed that my pace was getting mighty slow.  It eventually dawned on me that the tide had turned and was now coming in.  On the chart, you can see that I was in the deepest part of the channel for a while.

I got to Red Nun “6”, and decided to do another 2K to the south.  That would put me at about 20km for the whole outing.   The row to Green Can “5” was very slow because of the tide and I could see it flowing past.

Rowing into the tide, I was doing around a 3:30 pace.  After I turned, with the same effort, I was doing around 2:20.  I calculated out the current.


Here’s the pace and rate for the outing. The first 1000m were paddling, dragging and walking the boat.

Here’s a quick video showing a bit of the downwind with the waves, then me trying to row past the green buoy against the tide, and finally showing the process of getting the reeds off the fin.

Despite the initial challenges, I declare the voyage a success.  The boat is amazing.  It’s noticeably lighter to carry and much stiffer to row.  I can’t say much about how it does in bigger waves, but I suspect it will do better than the Alden.

Anybody want a “slightly used” Alden Star?


Today is a rest day, but an eventful one.

Last weekend’s experience breaking the backstay on my Alden Star convinced me that I would need a more reliable boat if I was going to continue to do coastal rowing.  After the backstay broke, I suddenly felt very far away from land, and the boat felt very small.  If the wind had been much stronger, I doubt that I would have been able to paddle with enough pressure to get home.  Even as it was, I basically destroyed the bulkhead that the rigger attached to because of the flexure.

So, armed with the arguments about safety, I began the project to convince my wife that I needed a new boat.  It was not a difficult project.

Me:  Honey, I’d like to buy a new boat.

Her:  Would it make you happy.

Me:  Oh, yes.

Her:  Then you should.

With that endorsement in place, I put my plan into action.  I emailed Dana at Mystic River Boathouse.  I told him that I wanted to buy an Maas boat, either a Maas 24 or an Aero.  We went back and forth a little bit.  The Aero is shorter and a bit wider so it slower, but it handles rough water a bit better.  Based on the conditions that I have been seeing in Wellfleet, I decided that a rough water handling was the most important factor.

Typically, in open water events, the 24s and the Aeros are in separate event classes.  For example in last year’s blackburn, there were 11 in the “Touring Class” and 8 in the “Racing Class”.  The times on the course were not that dissimilar.

I inquired if Dana had an Aeros available on hand.  He did…Specifically he had the Maas Aero Carbon, with self bailer.  I asked him if I could come pick it up on Friday.  He seemed delighted by the prospect.

So, this morning, I drove down to Mystic, Connecticut to go get my new boat.  I was so excited, I showed up an hour early.  Dana went through the features of the boat, then I loaded it up and came home.

Which leads me to the title of this post.  This new boat will be christened with the name “Kanangra”.  The name is an Australian Aborigine term, which according to my late father means Spiritual Resting Place.  It is also the name of a National Park in Australia (Kanangra Boyd National Park) where my Dad went bushwalking while he was in High School and college.


When I was a kid, I sailed every weekend with my Dad on his Ensign, a 22 foot Pearson boat.  My Dad spent a while trying to figure out the right name for his boat, and ultimately came up with Kanangra.  It was a lightbulb moment.  As soon as he thought of it, he knew it was perfect.  He owned two other boats after the Ensign, and the Kanangra name was passed along to each.

Now there will be a Kanangra on the waters of Massachusetts Bay once again.


15km around Wellfleet Harbor

The weather was much nicer on Sunday morning.  I headed out around 8:30 and launched just before nine.

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The wind was from the ESE at 10-12mph with gusts to 15mph.  This was enough to kick up seas around 1 foot once I was out toward the further out part of the row.

I was following the same “long row” course that I defined a couple of weeks ago.

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I didn’t have enough time to do the whole course, so I cut off the 4.9km out and back.  This turned out to be a wise move for a couple of reasons.  First, it was getting pretty bumpy and I was a bit concerned about rowing into the wind and waves for 7km.  Second, my boat broke when I was still about 3km away from my launching point.

Here is a video of the fateful event.  The breakage occurs at 50 second in.


Prior to that I was having some fun in the waves.  Here is a video of the last couple of minutes heading out to Billingsgate Island.  The waves were getting a bit bigger and I was surfing down some of them.  Then I turn and head back toward home.  It was about 20 minutes later when I broke the backstay.

Here’s my overall course, from Google Earth.

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I need to recheck the course.  It looks like the initial 1.2km is wrong and the heading for the leg down to billingsgate Island is a bit off too.  I was glad to see that my lines were much straighter from paying closer attention to the course.  The stay parted just a little bit north of the buoy nearest the “0.5km/20deg” label.

I was also happy with the HR profile of this row.  I wanted to try to maintain this as a UT2 row, because I will need to stick to that kind of a pace for a 3 to 4 hour event.  In the summary plot you can see that I held the same heart rate both upwind and downwind.  The pace was good, bnetween 2:40 and 3:00/500 until I turned into the wind and waves.  Then it was a lot slower, as you can see in the next plot.  Then around 1:17, the boat broke and I was limited to a slow paddle.

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So, I had a blast during this row.  I am bummed out about the boat, but to be honest, I was worrying that it wouldn’t be seaworthy for the race, given the kinds of conditions that can occur.  I was also feeling quite vulnerable as I got into bigger seas far away from land.  I bought the boat cheaply to find out if I like coastal rowing.  I have decided that I really do.  So, I think I will buy a proper boat that I can trust.


Another 10K on the bay

Today was going to be my grand adventure.  But it didn’t turn out that way.

I got to bed around 11, and I slept hard until almost 9am.  So, I got a later start than I wanted to.  I finally was loaded up and left the house around 9:30.  While I loaded up, I realized that I had forgotten to print out my map.  Damn.  I guess I would do the best I could from memory.  I drove over to a different beach which I thought would be better for launching near low tide.  It was.

I got everything down to the beach and was about to put my boat down in the water when I noticed that I didn’t have my seat.  Blast!  I put my boat up high on the beach (the tide was coming in) and drove home to get my seat.  About 10 minutes later I was back on  the beach putting my boat in.

The partly cloudy and light easterly winds that were advertised did not seem to be in evidence.  The sky was grey, and a moderate wind from the South was blowing.  This beach faces north so the water was nice and flat off this beach.  The wind was going to get worse.  Here’s the weather data.

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I finally launched just before 10am.  I wanted to be home before noon, so I decided that I would limit my adventure to about 90 minutes.

Here was my original plan.

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Here is what I actually did, superimposed on the plan.

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Here is the course, from Google earth, with heart rate, which helps tell the story.

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a. Launch from beach.  Notice that the Speedcoach isn’t showing pace.  Remember that speedcoach is set to use impeller, which this boat doesn’t have.  Stop and change the setting of the speedcoach.  Start rowing again.  Take 10 strokes, notice that the speedcoach is not started.  Start the speedcoach.  Get going.  Notice that the water is getting quite shallow.  Decide to change course to take me a bit offshore.

b.  Stay on the same course until I reach 1.5km.  Then return to original course (330deg).  The wind is building a bit now, and the waves are pushing around the stern.  I’m surfing on some of the waves.  This part of the row was good fun.

c.  When I reach the breakwater at the mouth of Wellfleet inner harbor, I stop and turn.  Now I really notice how much the wind has built.  I made this turn at about 10:10.  The wind was 12 mph sustained with gusts up to 15.  The waves were starting to build.  I started to push up into the headwind.  I thought the course from my plan was 210 deg, it was actually 200.

d. Anyway, I was doing fine for a while, and then I hit a stretch with particularly nasty waves.  I stopped to open up the bailer and started again.  That’s the little dip in the HR.  Looking at the chart, that place seems to be a bit shallower.  I guess it would make sense that the waves would be nastier in the shallower spots.  It’s hard to see the difference looking over your shoulder.  Anyway, after opening the bailer and getting going again, I was doing ok.  Until…..

e.  If you look at the google earth image, you can see the color of the water change.  On the chart, you can see that the bottom shoals here.  The waves suddenly got really, really bad.  I wished that I had the gopro mounted because I’d like to look at it after the fact.  It felt like the waves were well over a foot tall, and my bow was plunging right into them.  They would roll back over the deck and completely fill the cockpit.  This happened 3 times in a row and I decided that it was stupid to keep going in this direction.  I had no idea if the wind would build and I was barely able to make headway as it was.  I decided to turn for home.

f.  I steered due east, and tried to work my way through the beam seas.  You can see that my HR was pretty low in this stretch because I couldn’t really take full strokes.  I just picked my way through the waves and when I would get a really bad set of waves, I would just paddle through them, then try to accelerate during the smoother chunks.  After a while, I could see  that my easterly course was going to take me too far north, so I turned and rowed to SE for a while.

g.  As I rowed into the lee of the island, the waves were blocked and the water flattened out very nicely.  I started to row with longer strokes and it felt really wonderful.  My HR was quite low today for the level of effort.  This section was very enjoyable.

I noticed that the pace was quite fast for open water, and I realized that even though I had a little bit of headwind, I was rowing with the current.  I got back to the beach with about 9000m on the speedcoach.  I like the blog title “10K on the Bay”, so I did 500m more past the beach, turned and came back.  I was having so much fun, I kept going.




It wasn’t the long row I intended, but it was useful practice.

A side note.  I spent an hour trying to fix the leak in my boat.  It turned out that there are a couple of cracks in the bulkhead between the seat deck and the bottom of the footwell.  The rigger attaches to this bulkhead and the screws that hold it in place were frozen in place.  The whole bulkhead looks like it is about to go.  Ultimately, I will need to cut out the whole bulkhead and replace it (or more likely just sell the boat).

But since I wanted to fix the leak and I couldn’t get the rigger off, I decided to just work around it.  I mixed up a batch of epoxy resin and cut a few strips of fiberglass and just reinforced the area where the cracks were.

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This photo shows the rigger attachment to the seat deck bulkhead.

Here’s a close up of the ugly repair.

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It is not pretty, but it seemed to work.  After bashing into the waves, I only had about a cup of water drain out after I was finished.

Tomorrow:  Marathon training session.

M2 3 x 20′ / 2′ MP, 10KP, HMP 90.0% (167)


  • MP –> 180 to 195W
  • HMP –> 195 to 210
  • 10KP  –> 210 to 225

10K on Wellfleet Harbor

Weather:  It was nice until I decided to go rowing.  I didn’t go first thing in the morning since the tide was low.  (It’s tough to launch at low tide because there are extensive sand flats all around the island.  High tide was at 2:40pm.  I launched about 12:45.  As I walked over the dune to the beach, I noticed there was a bit more wind.  It turns out it continued to freshen through the row.  It turned out to be quite an adventure.

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I turned north and headed up to Wellfleet Harbor.  I actually headed somewhat NW, into the wind and waves until I was past the north point of the island.  Then I headed more northeasterly with the wind and waves on my stern quarter.  It was only 500m or so, but it felt longer in the boat.  Then I lined up a course to take me to the end of the wellfleet harbor breakwater.  The wind felt like it was on my port bow quarter, and this was actually a reasonable course with the building waves.  At this point they were probably 12″ or so and quite unpredictable.  I’d get a couple big ones, and then a few minutes with much smaller ones.  I enjoyed this part of the row a lot, but not as much as when I turned the corner after the breakwater.  I turned east.  The wind was close to dead astern, and the breakwater took care of the chop.  There was a longer period swell that seemed to bend around the end of the breakwater and I was surfing down the face of these waves.  This was a blast.

It all came to an end when I turned around at the east end of the harbor.  All of the sudden the wind that was diminished by me going in the same direction, was right on the bow.  Going into the harbor, I was rowing 2:30-2:40 splits, coming back out, I was lucky to get below 3:30.  Even on smooth water, this was hard work.  As I came out past the end of the breakwater, and hit the waves that built up across the broad fetch over to the great split, it got even rougher.  My original thought had been to cross over to Chequesset Neck and then row down the great spit, which would have been somewhat sheltered  from the waves, then I would cross back over to the island at  the south end of the spit.   That plan did not last too long.  I bashed my way against the waves and the wind for a few minutes and then decided that I had had enough.  I turned for home and tried to navigate with the waves a little bit forward of my beam.

This was easier, but still a lot of work.  I would go through sections where the water was reasonably flat and I would get some good strokes in, then I would slam into some bigger waves and completely fill the cockpit with water.  The bailer couldn’t keep pace with the all the water that was coming in.  At this point the waves were 12 to 18″ and I was struggling with the conditions.  The worst was the last 1000m.  This part was over the shallow Lt Island shoal that extends out from the island.  The waves were much bigger here and most of them were breaking.  I just tried to pick my way through them.  You can see my HR went down a lot in this section.

You can’t really see just how slow I was going when I turned around into the waves on the summary chart.


So, here it is in isolation.


I am trying to construct what happened when.  I used Google earth, which can show telemetry along the mapped route to figure it out.


A.  Decide to head straight up to Wellfleet instead of heading over to Indian neck since the waves were building.

B. Turn behind the breakwater.  The next chunk was fun.

C.  Turn around to row back into the wind.

D.  Get slammed around enough that I decide to head straight home instead of heading for Great Spit.

E.  Huge waves stop me dead and fill up the whole cockpit, even the seat deck was under water.  Noticed that the self bailer was a bit fouled, cleaned it out and continued.

F.  Get to the shoals around the island and the waves start breaking.  Pick my way between them back to the beach.

Even though it was hard work, and frankly a little scary at times, I enjoyed it and I think it provided some useful rough water practice.  I feel pretty confident about what the boat will do in these circumstances and I’m getting the hang of working with the waves.

It was also a pretty good workout.


I noticed a couple of interesting quirks in the telemetry.

First, the algorithm that NK is using to detect strokes doesn’t work as well as RIM when you are going slowly and getting slammed by big waves.  In the comparison plot below the RIM data is blue and the NK data is red.  The total stroke count on the NK was way off too.  I was counting strokes and NK was over counting by about 5 strokes per hundred.


Second, there is a mismatch in total logged distance.  In the first half of the row, with less wave action, they match up well, but as soon as I was pounding into the waves, RIM started to give me credit for more distance than NK.  One idea is that RIM might be measuring distance in 3 dimensions and NK is measuring in 2?  But by the end, it was a difference of about 500m


When I got back to the beach, enough water had leaked into the bow of the boat that I could not lift it.  I had to flip it over and let it drain for 5 minutes before I could carry it to the car.  I think I found where the leak is.  There is a crack in the bulkhead between the seat deck and the cockpit bottom.  Whenever the cockpit gets full, water can drain into the bow.  Since the cockpit was basically full the second half of the outing, the boat must have been half swamped by the time I was back to the island.  No wonder it felt so sluggish.

Next weekend, I think I need to do some fiberglass work!


Back to the Bay! First Open Water Row of the Season.

I was not expecting to be able to get out on the water this early in the season, but I lucked out to day.  It was sunny, and the temp was in the mid sixties.  Water temperature was around 45F, but it felt warmer than that.  There was a bit more wind than I would have liked, but not nearly as much as we had yesterday.

Here’s the weather data from my house for today.

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I launched right before 1pm, so the wind was building during my row.  This caused waves between 8″ and 12″.  This is big enough to present some steering challenges but not big enough to make it unpleasant.  There were a few scattered white caps.  Just to give you an idea of what it was like yesterday, here’s the weather data.  We had gusts up to 65mph over night on Saturday night and Sunday night.

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But thankfully, by the time Monday rolled around, it was much calmer.  I launched from the little beach a couple minutes away from my house, and rowed north up to wellfleet harbor.  This was splashy and slow into the wind and waves, but it was quite nice to be out on the water again.  On the expanse of the bay, my boat feels very small, especially when the waves build.   I finally made it to the breakwater of the onner harbor and turned.  Although the wind was from the north, it hooked around a bit and when I rowed to the east into the inner harbor, I was going with the wind and the waves.  This was some of the fastest splits I saw of the day.  I rowed up past the end of the town jetty and turned around into the wind and the tide to slog out of the harbor.  Once I passed the breakwater, I turned south and had the wind on my starboard stern quarter.  This was a tough angle to maintain.  The waves tried hard to push me to starboard and I had to maintain much heavier pressure on that side to stay straight.

Ultimately, I got the hang of getting my point and timing my strokes to surf the waves.  I would end up off course, but could swing back and repeat the cycle.  It was pretty fun and the time flew by on the way back to the island.  I rowed in front of my house back to the beach and landed there.

One bad thing, there must have been about a gallon of water in the boat.  I really have to get it fixed if I’m going to use it in the Blackburn.

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Sad but true.  I go slowly enough in my Alden star so that the pace doesn’t show up right in the plots.  You can see I was pushing hard enough so it was a good aerobic workout.  I was also trying to keep my rowing reasonably light by aiming at a stroke rate of 20.


Here’s a better view of the pace.  The first 2500 meters were into the wind and 8″ to 12″ waves.  The section from 2500 to 4000 was still into the wind, but I was approaching the north shore of the harbor and the waves were smaller.  I think I was also getting a bit more help from the incoming tide.  Around 4000m was where I turned into the harbor and I was rowing with the wind, tide and waves.  It was fast and fun. 5000 to 6200 was right into the teeth of the wind and against the tide.  Fortunately not much wave action.

Then from 6200m to the end I was rowing downwind with the waves on my stern quarter.  The pace variations were basically dependent upon the size of the waves and whether or not I was getting swamped.  That happened a lot.  You can see from the HR that I was holding a pretty consistent level of pressure.


All in all an unexpected treat being able to get a row in this time of year.


Saturday: Bumpy 14km Open Water Row

Down in Wellfleet.  I saw that the weather forecast looked good.  Sunny, calm, but a bit chilly (in the mid 40s).  I decided to go for a last Open Water row of the season.

The wind forecast proved to be wrong.  Right before I launched, it felt like the wind was freshening and it definitely was kicking up some waves.  Here’s the weather data from the station on my house.

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I launched at 11:07, according to RIM, and on top of my house it was blowing nearly 20mph then.  It didn’t feel like it was blowing quite as hard as that.  I think the fact that my wind sensor is about 80 feet above sea level means that it is catching a bit more wind than I was seeing on the water.  It was still pretty breezy though.

I didn’t check before I set out, but the water temperature was 55F.  When the air temp is in the 40s, this actually doesn’t feel too bad.  And for those safety sticklers, I passed the “100 degree rule” by a degree.  46F (air) + 55F (water) = 101!  But I think this will be it for open water rowing this year.  The margin for error is pretty slim at these temperatures.

Since it was cold out, I brought a towel and socks.  After I launched from the beach, I dried my feet and put on the nice dry socks.  That lasted about 2 minutes before the waves came crashing into the cockpit and soaked my feet.  The waves kept building and I decided to head pretty much straight up wind to get across the harbor over to the long sand spit on the far side, where I figure the water would be a lot flatter.

Rowing into the waves was slow, but not hard.  There is a regular pattern to the waves and you can get used to rowing in time time with them.  The key thing is to be very deliberate about placing the blades at the catch, and then load up the drive gradually, since there is a good chance that one blade or the other will miss water due to the waves.  If you have a habit of rowing in, this would sure help cure it.

I made it about 1500m before a wave managed to fool my phone into thinking that I was doing a whole lot of screen touching.  Over about 500m of rowing, the splashing did the following:

  • Went to the RIM setup screen
  • quit out of RIM
  • popped back to the home screen
  • started up Spotify
  • picked a playlist
  • and, I swear to God, pushed play.

As I approached the spit, the chop subsided.  I was still a couple hundred meters off shore, but when I looked over my shoulder, I saw a couple of big rocks poking up maybe 50 meters ahead.  I decided it was probably a good time to turn north and row along the lee shore of the spit.  I stopped briefly and stopped the music, fired up Wahoo fitness.  I decided to do that because I know that it works in background with the screen off.  So once it was started, I turned off the screen and just rowed by feel.  It was pretty enjoyable rowing unplugged like that.  Even in the lee of the spit, there was still a bit of chop and it really was trying to push my bow around when I was rowing north.  I needed to maintain a lot more pressure on my starboard oar the way along.

You can see a couple of sharpish turns as I approached the north end of the bay.  The first was when I saw the bottom rapidly shoaling on me as I approach the sand bar at the north end of the spit. I turned to the northeast to get back to deeper water.  Then you can see the unintentional turn towards the northwest which was induced by the wind and chop.  I finally noticed what was going on and turned east toward Wellfleet inner harbor.

As I rowed along, I again noticed the water shoaling under me.  You can see the area on the map, a little sandbar right after my turn to the east.  It got shallow enough that I touched bottom with one of my oars.  After that, I paddled along and the waves got a bigger as I got further from the spit.  I was rowing with the waves and it was kind of fun when I could time my stroke to catch a wave to surf down the front of (more on that later).

I continued past the wellfleet breakwater into the inner harbor and rowed all the way to the end of the town pier, when I spun.  Rowing with the wind, I was starting to feel a bit warm with all my layers and with a lack of splashing and spray.  That changed as soon as I turned back toward the west and started rowing into the wind.  The boat took a lot more effort to move, and the wind felt pretty strong and cold.  I wasn’t feeling overly warm anymore.  At that point I really appreciated the fantastic JL shell that I was wearing.

Once I cleared the end of the breakwater, I needed to turn south to head home.  This proved to be a significant challenge.  Going south meant that I had the northwest wind and waves coming at a angle to my stern.  Along this section the waves built to over 12″.  Now, I know that this does not sound all that impressive, but when the freeboard of the boat is less than 4″ and the oarlocks are about 8 inches above the water, it means that there is lot of water above the top of the boat, and maintaining control of the oars requires a bit of concentrated effort.  Also, since the waves are at an angle, you need to have vastly different handle heights at the catch to make sure that your blades are actually in the water.

The result of this was that I actually worked less hard in the section and rowed pretty slowly.  I continued south past my house to the beach where I launched and then turned for a last run straight downwind to the beach.  This was a blast!  The waves were over a foot, and now they were right on my stern.  I could get myself lined up and surf down the faces of the waves.  Over 5 feet of stern was completely submerged, and when I surged over the crest of a wave, my backstays would be slashing through the water sending spray all over.  The cockpit would fill with water.  The fun bit was trying to keep my stern to the waves, because they were trying to turn me broadside at the end of each of these surfs.  This kind of rowing bears no resemblance at all to flat water rowing.  This was all about timing your stroke to get you on the face of the wave and control the boat well enough that you can put in a single powerful stroke at the right time.  Honestly, the last 3 minutes of this section made the difficulties of the prior 30 minutes totally worthwhile.


One fun thing to point out on the map.  See the three little intervals at the very end.  That’s me carrying my oars to the car, then going back to the beach, then carrying my boat to the car over the dune.  I didn’t stop the wahoo app until I was in the car and had the phone out of it’s waterproof case.

Also notice the 2000m gap at the beginning.  The first path to the west is the TCX file from RIM.  It stops when the ocean started screwing around with my phone.  The line starts again after I got the wahoo fitness app running, and started to row north along the spit.

This is the RIM data for the row across to the spit.  I estimate another 2000m basically just like that is missing.

And here’s the HR and pace data for the rest of the row.  Notice the extreme difference in pace between rowing with a cross wind on flat-ish water (0 to 5000m) and rowing with a cross wind and a pretty good chop (5000m to 9000m).

From 9000m to about 10,400m was the worst wave action and I was struggling to get good strokes in.  You can see how my heart rate is dropping in this section.  I was really just trying to keep the boat on course and pick my way through the waves.  Then finally after 10,400, that was where I turned downwind and surfed to the beach.  Still not fast, but a hell of a lot of fun!

So, when you put it all together, you get

RIM:   1526m, 11:30


Guess: 2000m, 11:00

Wahoo: 10645m, 1:06:00

Total: 14171m, 1:28:30

Tomorrow:  4 x 20′ or rest day, depending when we get home.

Saturday: 16km Open Water Row

We headed down to the cape after work on Friday and arrived around 8pm.  I’m still struggling a bit with Jet lag and I was asleep by 10pm.  I woke up around 4am, but managed to eventually get back to sleep and got up for good around 7:30.  When I got up, I looked out and it was absolutely stunning outside.  Temperature was around 55F, and there was just a little bit of wind, maybe 1-2mph.  Even better, it was nearly high tide, so launch and recovery would be easy.  I tossed my boat on top of my car and headed to the beach about 2 minutes away.

I launched and discovered that I had forgotten my seat!  Oh well, I paddled to the base of my stairs, ran up to my house, got my seat, and then I started my row.

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First, I headed straight up to Wellfleet harbor.  I noticed that my boat speed was pretty good (around 2:30-2:40).  Remember, I am in an Alden star.  I usually have to work pretty hard to go that fast.  Then it occurred to me that I was riding the incoming tide up the harbor.  After that, it was kind of fun to maintain the same pressure and watch the boat speed move around depending on the tidal current.

I rowed through Wellfleet harbor and around the town pier.  I rowed a way up into the old harbor.   I turned around when it started to get a bit narrow.  Then I headed south along the east shore of the harbor, turning again when I ran out of space.

Then I headed across toward the long spit that forms Wellfleet harbor.  At the north end of this is a tidal estuary called the Herring River.  I had never gone up there, so I paddled through with the tide and briefly saw a 2:20 pace when I was in the middle of the channel.

I did a big loop around and headed back south along the spit.  I rowed 2km south, and then cut across the bay.  The wind had picked up just a little and there was a cross chop that made rowing a bit more challenging.  Once I was over to Lt. Island, the water was flatter and I pushed along to the finish at the beach.

Workout Details
Workout Details
01|05048|28:00.0|02:46.4|20.2|139.4|147.0|08.9 - With the tide
02|05476|30:00.0|02:44.4|20.9|146.6|151.0|08.7 - harvbor & Herring River
03|05614|32:49.0|02:55.4|22.2|151.6|156.0|07.7 - Back against the tide

I felt great after the workout.  Energized and happy.  But within an hour or so, I felt pretty drained.  It was a long session.  I had trouble keeping my eyes open by 8pm and I was asleep before 10.

The featured image was the sunset on Saturday night.  It was close to low tide then.  I’m not sure the picture does justice to the incredible colors.


Saturday: 14K open water in Wellfleet

Sunny warm and beautiful.  Brisk wind from the NNW between 10 and 15 mph with gusts to about 20.  This kicked up a fair amount of chop away from the windward shore, so I tried to stay close to shore where I could

I launched at 8:40am.  Here’s the weather data.

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I launched from the small beach near my house, and rowed along the shore of Lt Island.  Then I cut over toward indian neck.  On the water, the wind felt like it was more NNE than NNW, and once I got over to the indian neck shoreline, there was nice smooth water and a bit less wind.

I went into Wellfleet inner harbor and I wanted to explore up into Duck Creek.  It was a good thing I did, because as soon as I turned around the end of the breakwater that forms the entrance to the creek, my boat was surrounded by a school of fish, they looked to be between 6″ and 12″ long and they were swimming so fast that they were stirring up the surface of the water.  I wasn’t sure why they were so agitated, but when I looked around there were a couple of seals peeking out the water at me.  They soon went back to hunting these fish, there were thousands of them.  A most amazing site.

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I turned at the end of the marina and then rowed all the way out of the harbor and along the Wellfleet town beach to the west until I got to great island.  By then I had done about 9km and I needed to turn for home.  I didn’t stay as close to the beach on the way back and there was a lot more chop, which was basically on my beam.  I needed to ease up a bit and work on balance and timing to get both oars engaged at the catch with the boat rocking around.

I wanted to get over to the eastern shore a bit before I turned for home to avoid a bit of the chop, but time was growing short so I decided to just turn and row with the waves.  This was a blast.  Sometimes I was surging down the fronts of waves, but I needed to be really aware to avoid catching my oars on them on recovery.  In this case catching an oar is not the kind of slap that I am used to in flat water rowing, but burying the whole damn blade in the back of a wave.  I don’t want to give the wrong impression.  I would be surprised if many of the waves were over 12″ tall (except when they merged with a passing wake).  But it was enough to really change the way that I could row.

I surfed all the way back in front of my house to the little beach.  Then I had to carry my boat over the dunes back to my car.  One issue with the boat.  Every time I row, I get a good liter of water in the boat that drains out when I open the plug in the bow.  I suspect that the seam between the hull and the deck is cracked.  I’ll have to try to fix it this winter.

Edit:  Adding graphs from

Here is the pace data leaned up and scaled so you can see the slow bits that were going into the wind and waves.  The worst was the bit from about 5 minutes to 10 minutes.  The bit from just after 20 minutes to 30 minutes was tooling around wellfleet harbor.  I struggled with the waves from about 55 minutes all the way to about 1:10.  The big slow downs were huge wakes combined with the waves that pretty much swamped me.

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