Open water rowing is flat water rowing's schizophrenic cousin. Water conditions can vary by the minute – smooth silk to whitecaps and waves to rippled seersucker to silk again. All of which can make it kind of hard to give a concise answer to the inevitable question one faces when arriving back at the dock: "How is it out there?"
So, with all due respect to Sir Beaufort, creator of the famed Beaufort wind force scale, Stefan and I came up with our own descriptive scale for open water rowing conditions.
Here it is, complete with Beau's equivalent for handy translation.
Boring (Beaufort scale 0 to 3, wind 0 to 5 mph)
Gorgeous flat water with a glassy, smooth surface offering
the ability to actually row with rhythm and grace. "Boring" is
Stefan's term; I call these conditions "heaven."
Interesting/Refreshing (roughly equivalent to Beaufort scale 4 to sub-5, wind about 8 to 15 mph)
Beaufort describes these conditions as "small waves with breaking crests." I have less polite terms for them.
As "interesting" becomes "refreshing"(for those of you who know the SF Bay, think the tide rip in front of Yellow Bluff), said small waves are creeping over the riggers and splashing my back. At this point I start to swear and Stefan is no longer bored.
Invigorating (still equivalent to Beaufort scale 4 to 5 but with even bigger tidal waves thrown in)
Wind gusts, strong tide, and we're pretty much taking a bath – head to toe – while rowing. Thank god Maas boats (like the double we row) have self-bailers or we'd be swimming.
Exciting (or what I call "Crazy")
Exciting/crazy water comes in two flavors – fun and frightening. Fun is big, glassy swells that swallow the horizon and make for the occasional, glee-filled "wheee!" as we surf our boat up and over them. Trust me – this is tremendous fun.
The frightening kind borders on heart-stopping. Picture lots of white caps, waves, and chaos. It's all we can do to grab hold of the water with our oars and push against it to make some sort of progress.
We do our best to avoid this kind of water but we've been in it a time or two (or three or more). Let's just say Stefan handles this better than I do.
Speaking of which, we were in some exciting water this morning. I would've taken a photo but the tide was sweeping us out the Gate at 8 knots and I'd be writing this from the Farallon Islands if we'd stopped rowing.
So, in lieu of the shot I didn't get this morning, here's one of Stefan in some "invigorating" conditions at the bridge a few weeks back…