Rowers stroke in Boston, Lake Champlain

FERRISBURGH — On the third weekend of July, members of the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum’s Rowing for Racing group of Community Rowers traveled to Boston for two days of whaleboat races in celebration of the Charles W. Morgan, the last wooden whaleship in the world.
Whaleboats are the smaller, more maneuverable craft that a large whaleship carried so that sailors could row out from the ship to kill a whale and haul it back to the main ship for processing.
Already on board the Charles W. Morgan in the Charlestown Navy Yard section of Boston Harbor was the whaleboat built by LCMM’s Champlain Longboats program earlier this year. The vessel is a traditional replica of the original whaleboats, which were the vessels dispatched from the larger whaleships to actually chase and hunt whales. The Charles W. Morgan typically carried seven of these 28-foot rowing vessels during her heyday. Ten traditional whaleboats, including LCMM’s boat, were constructed by boat builders around the country this year for the Charles W. Morgan.
“It was absolutely spectacular,” said Lisa Percival of New Haven, who was one of the rowers in Boston for the weekend. “It was an incredible celebration.”
Rowers Polly Birdsall of Shoreham, Mary Hennessy of Burlington, and Uli Schygulla of North Ferrisburgh also travelled to Boston for the weekend. Nick Patch of North Ferrisburgh, who was in charge of the boat’s construction with the Patricia A. Hannaford Career Center’s Diversified Occupation students, steered during the weekend races.
The Charles W. Morgan is typically berthed at Mystic Seaport in Mystic, Conn. On its website, Mystic Seaport praised the whaleboat builders, including Patch, for having “expanded the educational opportunity to pass on traditional knowledge and skills beyond the Morgan to small boat construction, all as part of a nationally important historic restoration.”
The Charles W. Morgan was visiting the Charlestown Navy Yard in Boston as part of her voyage around New England this summer, a historical celebration and advocacy tour promoting conservation and the protection of whales. She was berthed next to the 200-year-old U.S.S. Constitution, the oldest commissioned warship in the world, during her time in Boston.
In addition to being a cultural, historical celebration, Percival described whaleboat rowing as a fun, demanding athletic activity.
“It’s good cardio exercise and a whole body workout,” said Percival, who practices with the Rowing for Racing group, which arose as a subgroup of LCMM’s Community Rowers this year.
She said Rowing for Racing is “demanding — we push a lot harder and practice with races in mind.”
Percival said she also enjoys rowing with the more relaxed Community Rowing group one night per week.
In addition to the workout, Percival added, rowing still remains an activity of, “great companionship and sense of community.”
The weekend of racing in Boston was preceded by another weekend of nautical festivities for Community Rowing Club members. On the weekend of July 12-13, LCMM hosted a weekend of rowing and racing at their Ferrisburgh location, where owners of a type of four-oared boat called a St. Ayle’s Skiff were invited to join in a rowing race and swim on that Saturday, as well as the opportunity to participate in the Lake Champlain Challenge Race on Sunday.
Crews traveled from all around the Northeast and Canada to participate, including 20 rowers from Ontario, six from Pennsylvania, and two teams from Connecticut.
The following day, July 13, the visiting crews joined in Lake Champlain Maritime Museum’s annual Lake Champlain Challenge Race, where 65 rowers, kayakers, paddlers and pedalers (of “sea cycles”) completed the three-mile course across the lake and back. For the first time, the race featured a St. Ayle’s Skiff division.
“It’s a non-gender-specific or age-specific sport,” said Percival, who participated in the skiff racing and Challenge Race weekend as well.
First place in the six-oar division was won by a team from Gloucester, Mass., with a time of 31:07. First place in the St. Ayle’s four-oar division was LCMM Community Rowing in “Perseverance” with a time of 34:01. First place in the woman’s recreational kayak division was awarded to Mieko Ozeki with a time of 34:57. First place in the men’s recreational kayak division went to John Duncan with a time of 33:42. Lisa Bedinger and Bonnie Aharion earned first place in the racing canoe division with a time of 34:58. The winner in the “Other” category was Elena and Joseph McSherry pedaling a sea cycle.
Lake Champlain Maritime Museum’s Community Rowing Club and Rowing For Racing meet weekly at the Museum’s Ferrisburgh campus. The museum is open daily from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. through Oct. 12. Additional rowing and racing events take place in the autumn and early spring. Find out more about LCMM or rowing opportunities at www.lcmm.org, on Facebook, or call 802-475-2022.

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