|Stern-Men and Bow-Men|
ur guest of honor today is Craig Lambert, out west to flog his new book, Mind Over Water. His book is about the art of rowing- but the watercraft he writes about are quite different from the canoes and kayaks that we see on our West Coast rivers and estuaries.
Now, you will have noticed that Craig's boatmen are stern-men, that is, they face rearwards as they propel their craft. By contrast, we of the West are se quisque fulcire ipse debet ("A man must be his own fulcrum"). The suntanned hands that hold a paddle can be both lever and fulcrum.
Finally, the left half of our country has much more range of altitude than the right half, nearly fifteen thousand feet compared to barely six thousand. This means the average declivity of our rivers is greater, which in turns mean that boaters under Western skies must be prepared to deal with the rapid approach of rocks- a threat more nimbly fended off by a four-foot freeheld paddle than a nine-foot fixed oar.
Thus are three damn good reasons for Westerners to be bow-men. But I should note that some Westerners are bow-men. You see, those East Coast eight-man rowing shells usually have a ninth person- a coxswain- facing forward and steering the craft with stern determination toward some goal. Likewise, the West Coast canoe often has an attractive fellow or girl lying languidly on cushions in the front, facing sternward and admiring the muscular paddler who guides the craft. The paddler, like the cox, has his eye fixed on a goal, but in this case he's looking for a suitably soft grassy bank where picnic delectables can be sampled and kisses stolen. Both paddler and cox are energized by testosterone, but one in an Eastern way and the other in the manner of the West...
All this being said, we Westerners must admit an admiration of you stern-men for the gentle civility of your riverine culture. We suspect that that civility translates to enlightened dinnertime conversation, so we welcome you, dear Craig, to the Gough House table!(printer friendly version)