Up north, on the boundary waters between Canada and the United States, is a log cabin that my grandfather bought in the 40s. It's a beautiful place, full of memories and home to finest rowing shell in my mini fleet – my Owen flyweight single shell.
The shell winters in the cabin kitchen, its 27 feet of drop-dead, wooden beauty, suspended from the rafters like the piece of art it is.
They broke the mold when they made this scull – really. Ron Owen, a master boat builder, built the boat for a lightweight national champion back in the day when whisper-weight wooden shells, sleek as greyhounds and fast as cheetahs, were the racing scull of choice.
Ron lived in the Pacific Northwest and he left the mold for the boat outdoors. A freak snowstorm blasted through one night and the mold cracked. So I feel pretty lucky to have one of the few Owen flyweights around.
I don't get up to the cabin every year; it's hard to do from California. But when I do, I take the flyweight out on the lake, rowing amidst loons and carving through the glassy waters while eagles fly overhead. It's heaven. You can see for yourself: there's a photo of me rowing the Owen on my bio page.
Carbon is cool, but a wooden boat is classic. Speaking of classic, check out the video below featuring the legendary rowing gods George Pocock, another master boatbuilder, Harry Parker, the famed Harvard coach, and Olympic champion Ted Nash,
Like George says: "Rowing is the finest art there
is, a symphony of motion. It touches the you of you." Absolutely, especially in a wooden boat.
P.S. I bought my Owen from my friend Nancy Wright, an amazing rower and friend who died of lung cancer. I think of her every time I row it. The shell is equal parts beauty, grace, and grit – just like Nancy.