*WARNING: THE UNITED STATES ROWING ASSOCIATION ADVISES ROWERS TO NOT ROW IN FOG UNLESS YOUR VISIBILITY TO SHORE IS AT LEAST 100 YARDS.
Rowing in reduced visibility can be a frightening task. Picture yourself thick in the pea soup Brit fog of a Sherlock Holmes plot or running from a Scooby Doo villain, the problem is that you just can’t see where you are going.
As a college rower I remember receiving the “Practice is canceled due to fog” text, the one that every rower secretly desires and I happily welcomed at 4am. I relished getting a couple more hours of the best kind of sleep, stolen from a cancelled responsibility. The text always followed with an OYO (On Your Own) erg practice. It didn’t matter. I knew at the time guilt would provide the momentum to get to the erg at my own convenience. Oh what a thought free will at that. And the simply delicious feeling of stolen sleep would be long lasting too.
I also have been tasked with steering a crew in fog that appeared never ending. Fog crept out of nowhere swallowing the sightline whole. I was able to cox our home course relying on memory using treetops to navigate back to the dock.
Here are R2R’s Tips for Coxing in Reduced Visibility
1. Common Sense. Be aware of your surroundings, instinct and responsibility. If something doesn’t feel right, don’t do it.
2. Regardless of your coach’s demands, only take a crew out on the water if you personally feel comfortable.
3. Know your course. Become familiar with the curves of the river, where sand bars, channel markers and rocks are and be aware of the level of traffic expected at the time of launching.
4. Remember fog can become thicker without warning and fog will most likely thicken as the sun begins to rise.
5. Remember that others on the water have limited sight distance too. Be cognizant of stopping especially if another crew is directly behind you. Anticipate that another crew may stop in your path.
6. Do not alter course often or erratically. Do not be afraid to stop, plan, and get your bearing if needed. Solicit your bow to turn around and help with the line of sight.
7. Wear bright colors.
8. Bow light and Stern light: Make sure they are in working order before you head to the dock. R2R Quick tip: Velcro stern lights using the loop of the coxswain’s hat or around a ponytail holder for 8+.
9. Change the workout. Avoid starts, sprints and any other fast workouts where rowers could potentially lose focus. A practice of drills like Cut-the-Cake mixed in with some Slow Steady State is best.
10. Listen. Listen for boat traffic and for other crews on the water.
11. Communicate. Communicate to other crews around you but also communicate to your crew make sure they are fully aware of the possible danger fog can cause. Maintain zero talking in the boat unless there’s an immediate danger. Use your voice to remind the rowers to stay alert, focused and calm.
12. Cell Phone. Always bring a cell phone out with you in case of emergency.