I've been saying for over a year now that I wanted to learn how to row in Venetian style. Every time I see a small boat of rowers in the canal, something in me says I should try it. Every time I attend a Venetian festival where people are all in boats in the canals, I find myself wishing I were IN a boat instead of on the sideline watching the boats. A few weeks ago, I finally did it.
My friend Sally, a British expat with similar desires to give rowing a try, and I got the guts up to schedule a rowing lesson with Jane, also an expat, from Australia, who after 20 some years of rowing in Venice started teaching others and formed an organization, Row Venice. Bright and early on September 17, I got myself dressed warmly and on the vaporetto headed over to our meeting location in Cannaregio. Halfway there my phone rang- it was Jane telling me the weather conditions were not good for a beginning rower that morning- winds were too strong. Disappointed, I headed back home. By the end of the day all three of us had put our schedules together and arrived on a suitable reschedule date, September 25.
September 25 dawned with gorgeous skies and fairly nice temperatures. Hmmm.. the gods had been good to me by forcing a delay it seemed. Again I donned something appropriate for rowing and set off for Cannaregio. Excited. Nervous. A little bit scared even, but ready.
Jane came down the canal rowing a traditional Venetian boat, the batela coda di gambero (or, Shrimps-tail). She tied off the boat, jumped onto the fondamenta and began giving us some basic instruction on rowing technique. Next thing I know, we were in the boat, Jane, Sally and I, rowing down the canal. Sally and I took turns in the front of the boat rowing prua with Jane on the back, rowing the poppa. Before we knew it were out in the open lagoon, where Sally and I had our own experiences on the back of the boat.
Sally was a natural. Me, on the other hand, had a bit of a learning curve. Nonetheless, I loved every minute of it. Being in a small boat rowing down the back canals of Venice filled me with emotions I don't have words for yet today, more than a week after the experience. There is something uniquely magical about Venetian canals. And to be out in the lagoon.... oh my god, I cannot wait to be out there again.
Sally and I compared notes the following morning. We both agreed we felt aches in our shoulders and arms we didn't quite expect. But that didn't put off our resolve to do more rowing. Next up- membership in a rowing club and continuing lessons.
I've often wondered if perhaps I was a Venetian in another life. After being on the water with an oar in my hand, I wondered it even more. Could it be possible?
Note: Grazie to Jane of Row Venice (http://rowvenice.org/), and to my intrepid partner, Sally.