Rowing past San Quentin

Saturday, June 20, 2009

I don’t want to give away the part it plays in my story, but I spent last weekend researching the sport of sweep rowing, especially as it’s practiced in the waters around San Quentin State Prison. The Marin Rowing Association has its boathouse up Corte Madera, in Larkspur, just a few hundred yards west of the prison. Over a year ago, I started following their website. Then, on my last visit to San Francisco, I dropped by and watched the activity as the teams returned from a big race, cleaned up the equipment, and put it away. I tried to stay out of their way, but picked out one fellow to catch in the parking lot with some questions. It was my great good fortune to pick Ron Arlas, Larkspur city councilman and former mayor, with rowing experience going back to the 1960s. He has gone over-and-above, not just answering questions, but taking an active interest in my story, offering suggestions, and opening doors. In short, he’s become a friend.

So last Saturday, with the weather perfect, I got to ride along with the coach in a launch as we followed the morning workout. In this shot, we had already been out near the Richmond/San Rafael Bridge, and were headed back. That’s Ron in seat three from the bow, and East Block of the prison directly over his head.

My pen-pal on Death Row mentioned once that from his cell he could sometimes see the teams practicing. My angle was so much better.

On Sunday, I went back for the two-hour Learn-to-Row workshop that MRA offers. I’ve rowed rowboats and canoes, but these boats offer a different feel, and I wanted to experience it. We began with an hour of land-based instruction, and then proceeded to launch into Corte Madera, four novices with four veterans and our coxswain-instructor.

Research done, now it’s back to writing.


So how did you like it? Are you going to take up rowing now?

caedmonstia said...
June 28, 2009 at 6:25 AM  

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