On Saturday I did a long easy distance workout, so for Sunday I thought I’d do something a bit higher intensity. I also didn’t have much time, so I went to Pittsford Crew boathouse which is nearer my house than any other canal put-in. (I didn’t want to do the creek because it’s too shallow and the bay involves 2km or more of shallow at the beginning and end.) I got there, paddled downstream for a few km, and discovered that there was a full-on rowing regatta going on. I should have suspected as much when I noticed that most of the Pittsford Crew floating dock was missing – I guess they floated it down to the regatta site. When the Fairport Crew has a regatta, or even a training event, sometimes they’ve got no compunction about blocking off the entire canal or telling you to stop while they spend interminable time getting a heat started, but Pittsford were much better – they marked off their two lanes, and then there was a safe lane along one side. They appeared to be racing upstream and using the safe lane for returning boats and crews to the start.
On the way downstream, I had no problem staying in the safe lane. If there hadn’t been a regatta going on I would have been further out in the middle taking advantage of the stream flow and the fewer debris, but staying safe from rowers in a good thing. So score one for the organization. It appeared they were using one of the flood gates as a start area, and there were a lot of boats milling around, but I was able to thread the needle around them with no problems. I went several km further past their start/finish before turning back.
On the way back, it was a completely different matter. I had been keeping my heart rate in the high 4s (near my max) for quite a long time and I was feeling it. And when I got to the floodgate I had to thread through some more traffic, but when I got into the “safe” lane I found three 8-rower + cox boats just sort of hanging around there, but parked with their oars completely spanning the lane. The first one, I yelled “make some room”, and in my highly stressed state it appeared that they were slow to react and giving me attitude, so I yelled something regrettable about how they don’t own the canal and they need to share, only in more forceful language. The second boat was a repeat of the first – they moved, but not fast enough for me and I said more harsh words. The third one hadn’t even started to move at all by the time I got too close so I yelled “stay where you are” and had to risk exposing my back in the racing lanes, which scares the hell out of me. (As a Canadian, I remember all too well what happened to Silken Laumann when she was hit by another boat in the run-up to the 1992 Olympics: “I looked at the leg for a few seconds and knew it was serious when my muscle was hanging at my ankle and I could see the bone”.)
Further up the canal, I encountered more boats but the safe lane was wider and I had no problems getting past them and I could nod amiably or even exchange a non-swear word or two. I was starting to feel bad about the language I’d used against those first three boats. Yeah, they shouldn’t have blocked the canal to other traffic, but they probably weren’t expecting a kayaker to be making the sort of speed I was making – we racing kayakers aren’t that numerous, and I wasn’t exactly being an ambassador.
After I got home, it kept eating at me. So after a few hours I composed an email to the organizer of the event:
I don’t know if this is the right address for this,but I hope you can get it to the right people.
Today I was doing an intensive kayak training session on the canal and I ended up going through your regatta. For the most part it went smoothly and I appreciate the marked off safe lane or return lane you had provided. However on my return leg, near the floodgate, there were three 8s mostly stationary in the water completely blocking the safe lane. I’m old enough to remember the pictures of Silken Laumann when she had her leg muscle nearly severed in a collision with another scull and so I’m quite scared of the danger of going into your racing lanes.
I’m afraid in my haste and desire to keep my heart rate within the proper zone for that part of my work out, I yelled some rather harsh things to those three boats to get them to move.
I want to apologize to all 27 of the young men and women involved. I’m sure as fellow athletes you’re aware that we’re not always at our best in the heat of high intensity, but I shouldn’t have said the things I did. Sorry.
This morning I got quite a nice response.
Hi Paul –
Thanks for your note, which did find its way to me. I’m the President of Pittsford Crew.
We didn’t hear anything.
As someone who sculls a lot in a single myself, I understand your frustration. Some of the crews out there were pretty inexperienced, as the winter weather prevented many from getting in their full season. Regardless of their inexperience, the coxswains need to be aware of other boats on the water. I’ll get something put into the race notes for next year that will emphasize this.
I don’t know if there is a user group/ mailing list for the competitive kayakers. If there was, and you gave me the contact info, we could email people a week ahead of time so they know this event is coming.
Have a great summer.
So there’s that at least.