I have wanted a pulling boat with a sliding seat for as long as I can remember. Something to row in heavier weather and open water. And I did buy an incredibly beautiful, blue pulling boat with a sliding seat, outriggers and nine-foot, super-light carbon-fiber oars shaped like hatchets. It pulls like a train. I named it “Yeats,” after the poet. Then “Blue Yeats” because the hull is such a fine blue color.
Brilliantly designed by my new friend, Bill Larson of Little River Marine in Florida, it is a slender, stable variation on the ancient Whitehall idea, fifteen feet long, with a sharply rising bow and a wine-glass stern. The lines are ideal, the sides are lap-straked and it is the best-rowing boat I’ve ever rowed. It gives me joy every time I see it. Or the photo which I carry around with me, like the picture of a beloved grand-child. It pulls me out of my house and onto the water, even on rainy or nasty days. It works my body and my soul, for hours at a time. I keep it up for hours because of the endless pleasure of the deep-edged oars biting into the water…the long run of the perfect hull between pulls…and the delight of sitting at eye level with the ducks and the geese and the grasses on the shore. You do not have to be a poet to buy a pulling boat this. But you’d have to be a brute not to become one after you’d had it for a while. Ice cream for the soul, my man.
Yesterday, which was a mild and sunny Thanksgiving, I rowed from Sag Harbor over to Shelter Island, a sweet, three-hour pull. My pulse was a steady 60-65% the entire time so I was building an aerobic base, as Harry directs. But I wasn’t thinking about that. I was thinking about the swans beside me at one point, and the slap and whir of their huge wings as they rose off the water. About the seal who followed me for a little ways, curious as a dog. About the magic inlets in the tall marsh grass into which I pulled and sat, invisible, for a while in the reeds. And about the good, solid miracle of being Younger Right Now, for which I was duly thankful. On the water. In Blue Yeats. On Thanksgiving morning in my seventieth year.
So, if you happen to be lucky enough to know the water a little, think about getting yourself a pulling boat some time. A Little River is easy to row correctly and a pleasure for ever. You can row as long as you live. It is a perfect kedge to pull yourself into a strong and delighted old age. Into eternity, really. Try it. The Heritage 15 Dory
Decent men have been rowing small boats for pleasure since the dawn of history. It is one of the blessings of our humanity, one of the first things we learned to do, with our opposable thumbs and our inquiring minds. What a genius that first guy was who jumped on a log and paddled with a stick, waving to his enemies, dumbfounded, on the shore. And how about the man who quit paddling, sat backwards and rigged oarlocks to pull against. And finally, how about the excellent creature who invented the sliding seat and outriggers, so he could use his legs and gut – his whole body – to row (and get the best exercise ever). Anyhow, going out in small boats is deep in our bones, and the luckiest of us still do it. Around the harbor, around the lake, across the river and down to the sea. Until we get to someplace beautiful where we rest on our oars and stare. Then pull some more.