It’s the final day of the Miami Boat Show. Yachting Magazine of Asia has just finished a sea trail of the Heritage 12YT, under oar and sail. Watching the editor have fun for more than an hour in the Heritage has me more in the mood to row than to head back to the show, so I unload a Heritage 15, outfit her with airbags, life jacket, water, and a cell phone, and head into Biscayne Bay. The breeze is a stiff 15, maybe more, and in my face as I head south towards the first bridge. But the tide is with me, and the shoreline chugs by with relative ease. The power of sliding seat never ceases to amaze me, with 20 foot of total oar length, and 5+ foot range of motion, rowing is like a diesel locomotive, powerful even at half effort. It can be squandered on a poorly shaped hull, too wide or too heavy or too flat. But when applied to a hull designed for it, sliding seat is pure inspiration.
I’m not sure how far I’ll go, but with each island I pass, the next seems even more interesting, with its movie star mansions and mega-yacht marinas. Ahead is an anchorage filled with live-aboards. Maneuvering through them, many captains watch the Heritage with curiosity, and perhaps some envy, for many of them have rowing tenders tied along side. The Heritage races past with an ease a fixed seat hull can’t dream of, and in today’s conditions I doubt these full-timers have any interest in battling the strong winds and 2 foot seas in their usual tenders. Most fixed seat dinghy’s do well at carrying lots of people a short distance. The Heritage was built for the joy and pleasure of rowing, not from ship to shore, but from here to beyond what you can see, to discover, to explore. And that’s what I’m up to today.
The next mile is open rough bay, straight into the wind. But the day is young and the trip back, down sea, will be like a jet airplane ride. I pass a sunken sailboat, probably one of many casualties from this year’s 4 hurricanes that hit Florida.
The Heritage is pounding into the 2 footers like a youngster jumping from rock to rock. I’m bone dry so far, and enjoy ?catching air? as nearly half the boat clears water between waves. Ahead is the Miami Inlet, Government Cut, and it’s angry. But the sun is bright and I’m up for the ride.
At the turn into the inlet, the confused seas are 2 to 3, a mix of wind waves, sea swell, and yacht waves. This is home for 200-foot private yachts, and several are coming and going in this busy inlet. I stay near the seawall for safety, even though the wall is causing a tremendous back swell that sometimes picks the Heritage up and set her back down a couple feet to the side of where I just was. It feels incredibly stable. The boat is actually creaking, like a wooden vessel might, because the waves are twisting the hull one direction in the front and another in the back. I’m glad this is the Classic, a double-hulled design much stiffer than a single skin boat.
There is about a mile of inlet still ahead. The sea swell is on the bow now. There is a boardwalk along the jetty packed with joggers, fisherman, kids and sightseers. Some watch with curiosity, a few with concern, but it’s the look on the yacht captains’ faces that I really notice. Perhaps it’s my imagination, but some of them look as though I’m intruding into a territory that, to them, size matters. So does horse power. Tonnage.
Probably is my imagination, but it makes me pull harder with more joy, so imagine away. My brother Steve christened my office with a plaque that proclaims daydreaming to be a natural right to oarsmen, a childhood pleasure rekindled by the simple joy of pulling on oars for a while?
Near the mouth of the inlet the waves have built to about 4 feet, made steep and close by the outgoing tide. This is the worse combination; a stiff breeze and ocean swell colliding with an out going tide. For a few moments I contemplate plan B: if I have to I could swim to the jetty, time the swells and ? Across the way against the south jetty a sport fish hooks a spinner shark, not very big but what acrobatics! Adrenaline has completely replaced fear, but not respect. This is the biggest stuff I’ve encountered, and truthfully I don’t know where the edge is for this little workboat. Still not a drop of wave or spray has come aboard. A couple times I stop rowing all together, to see how the boat will behave. It is so buoyant, like a bobber. Letting go of the oars, I set down in the bottom and test the ride. Good time for some water. Satisfied the hull is dry and safe, even without oars, its time to round the jetty point.
Making the turn to where the waves were abeam was not bad, but I wouldn’t want to be without oars just here. Just past the point I get my first few pulls down sea. The waves pass under me with ease, no broaching sensation at all. As I build confidence in pulling hard to surf down sea, a Cuda suddenly is on my tail, a good 3 footer, racing to see what I’m about. Where’s a fishing pole when you need one? Actually, I’ve still got plenty on my plate just race-surfing the 4 footers back toward the beach. The three-quarter mile is made a quarter mile much too fast, so thinking of the up sea work ahead, it’s time to come about.
Back at the mouth of the inlet, both the sea and I have built some confidence. A few faces were 5 foot, and I pulled hard to get as mush surf as I could. Thank you, Abba Father. Thank you for keeping me safe. Thank you for this incredible experience, where I have been taught a great deal about the boats we make and sell, so that we can inform others honestly and first hand.
The 5 or 6-mile trip back was a blur. I had brought a camera, but forgot about it in just living the moment. My mind was still filled with the thrill of the sea, and now heading downwind, it was like I had a motor. The journey was over sooner than expected, but the memory is one that may last long time to come.
by B. Larson