Author Dale McKinnon, in her sliding-seat equipped light dory, makes her way into a headwind and waves,David Scherrer,

Author Dale McKinnon, in her sliding-seat equipped light dory, makes her way upwind.

Sailors want wind; rowers don’t. Rough water can be a challenge to a rower’s skills, but I’ve found a few techniques that can help you reach a safe haven when conditions on the water take a turn for the worse.I had the first difficult row of my wilderness-rowing career 10 years ago in Wright Sound, British Columbia. I was into the third week of rowing my 20' dory from Ketchikan, Alaska, to Bellingham, Washington, a distance just shy of 800 miles. Halfway across the entrance to McKay Reach I encountered swirling gale-force winds and waves coming at me from all directions. As my fear increased, my grip on the oars grew tighter. I was tiring quickly and my hands, forearms, and back ached. I knew that if I didn't regain my composure and relax, fatigue would add exponentially to the danger I was in. To reach the safety of even the nearest lee I would have to conserve energy. I kept pulling and calmed myself. I loosened my grip and soon felt my body begin to relax. As my spine became less stiff, my hips could adjust to the wild gyrations of the hull. My head no longer swayed with every wave, and my growing dizziness subsided. My blades stopped getting slapped skyward off the tops of waves, and my tendency to  “catch a crab” disappeared. I could feel the water on each blade and adjust more quickly to the waves’ erratic shapes.

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