Row your oats

Dear Ace: Cruising down Earlysville Road on my way to work each day, I always see a fleet of long, skinny boats next to the reservoir. I’m tempted to take my smokin’ date for a moonlit boat ride next Saturday night. But I wonder, who owns those boats and how can I use one?—Boatless Romantic

Boatless: With a little of his trademark investigating, Ace discovered that these boats are actually sculls. (No, not like in Hamlet, you Philistine—that’s s-k-u-l-l.) “Scull” is the sophisticated term for a particular kind of boat in which the rowers use two oars. The Rivanna Rowing Club owns an entire rowing flotilla complete with four eight-person sweep boats, three four-seater sweeps, and several smaller sculls. The club operates from their dock on the reservoir and is open to all ages and ability levels.

   Gail Kongable, president of the Rivanna Rowing Club’s board, gives props to rowing for three reasons. First, she emphasizes “the camaraderie, because you’re learning something new and you’re all together.” Second, “it takes you completely away from your regular life. You’re out on the reservoir, it’s beautiful, and it’s peaceful.” And last, but certainly not least to Ace (who prides himself on his excellent physique), “you get a good, all-over workout. You can work as hard as you want, it’s aerobic, but it’s not stressful on your joints…. It’s just a wonderful thing.”

   Kongable encourages beginners, like you, Boatless, to attend a “Learn to Row Day.” She makes it sound positively delightful: “Anyone who’s just kind of interested can come down and sit in the boat. They can row and they can get some kind of sense of what rowing is. Then they can decide if they want to do it.”

   If you do, go online to and fill out a membership form. At first Ace balked at the cost (memberships start at $125 annually), but Kongable explained that membership fees cover “access to all boats at any time, coached sessions in the morning and evening so you can get instruction and feedback, and the Learn to Row class.”

   Who said love was cheap (certainly not Ace!)? You’ll need to pay up, Boatless, if you want to get that lovin’ feelin’ on the scull. Hey, it beats a fork in the eye!

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