Notes from a Reluctant Crew Member – learning to row at the Minnesota Boat Club

A while back I was walking along the Mississippi River with a friend. As we passed the Minneapolis Rowing Club’s building, my friend mentioned the St. Paul version of the rowing club, Minnesota Boat Club, on Raspberry Island. While she was lost in reminiscing about hot summer nights, partying at the River Serpent bar, I was distracted by her offhand mention of Learn to Row classes that she said would be starting up soon. This got me thinking about rowing. I’ve always been an athletic person and while most of my pursuits have been more solitary, the idea of being in sync with a group of people gliding across the Mississippi River certainly held some appeal. Thank the internet for turning a whim into reality; before the day was over, I had Googled Minnesota Boat Club’s website and signed up for the first session offered in May.

My first class was last Tuesday evening. We were greeted by our instructors, Kerry and Bruce, and given a tour of the Boat Club building. In short order our instructors had us in the workout room and onto the rowing machines or ‘ergs’ as they are referred to.

Now, as I mentioned, I’m a pretty athletic person. I trail run, I ride dressage competitively, I’ve had personal trainers blah, blah, blah – so as I’m watching Kerry demonstrate proper rowing technique, I’m thinking ‘no problem’. Um yeah; I climbed aboard that machine and felt as if someone had just asked me to pat my head and rub my tummy while jumping on one foot. But eventually I got into the groove along with everyone else in the class. We all got several turns on the machines, recieved individual feedback on our form and worked on some drills.

Next we were taken out onto the training barge tethered to the dock on the river. The training barge isn’t the sexiest boat on the river, let me assure you, but it was stable and built to withstand our clumsy first-time attempts at rowing. Before we actually got to row, I discovered that they don’t untether the boat from the dock. Once we got into position and were instructed how to row, I understood why. Good call.

I learned a surprising amount in a short time. And while mostly I felt like a total spaz, the instruction was solid, Kerry and Bruce were patient and we all did show improvement by the end of the evening. Like anything else, practice makes perfect.

My next class is Thursday night. I’ll let you know how it goes.


St Paul Peeps

Francisco, Pedro and Cesar are 13-year old friends who met in St Paul. (Pedro and Cesar are cousins) They were aboard the Anson Northrup during the Great River Passage Unveiling last Thursday. They are from Mexico; they attend middle school at Washington and Battle Creek, and have access to the internet at Francisco’s.  They like to bicycle!  Photos include a Google map showing approximately where the boat turned around, a rare river’s view of the industry (scrap metal recycling, gravel, and coal) which uses the 17 mile Great River Passage to transport goods and services, the train trestle that chatty Captain Bob navigated the long, large Northrup skillfully around, the sun setting on the gorgeous bluff above Pig’s Eye Lake and other St Paulites who enjoyed the free 90-minute tour.

St Paul peeps

Name:  Nicole

In St. Paul:   I live in Minneapolis, but I’ve worked at the Nook for five years.  First I worked at Shamrock’s

Last place she played in St Paul: I’d like to say I went to Grand Old Days.

I do go to Mississippi Market.  The strawberries are good there right now.