Rowing is an elegant sport. It’s marvelous to watch sportsmen working in unison as they glide a shell of a boat — that appears to be a large pencil cut in half from end to end — across Lake Lanier or the Chattahoochee River.
Spectators often wonder why shells don’t tip over … and if the rowers will fall into a flock of nasty gar if they do flip.
Those were the biggest concerns for rowers from the Lake Lanier Rowing Club (LLRC) until Sunday, January 27, 2013, when a fishing boat collided with a four-man shell — known as a “quad.”
The good news is no one was seriously hurt, according to LLRC officials, although all four rowers were tossed into the cold water because of the collision. Each suffered some degree of hypothermia from exposure to the cold water.
Every story has two sides. According to LLRC, the quad was “staying to starboard and at least one member was wearing bright clothing. The fishing boat operator admitted that he was not paying attention, and was not able to get the boat in reverse quick enough to avoid a collision. The bow section of the shell was damaged, Gary Sickinger in the bow seat narrowly missed being hit by the motorboat. The fishing boat that caused the damage transported three rowers back to the boathouse. Another fishing boat arrived to help tow the shell to the dock, where other rowers carried it back into the building.”
This could have easily been another report of multiple deaths on Lake Lanier.
Fishermen, kayakers, rowers, paddle boarders, people training for triathlons and swimmers share Lake Lanier with water skiers and jet skiers. As on any shared pathway, there are inconveniences and dangers. Large wakes, for example, can easily tip rowers and kayakers into the water; winter months add the risk of hypothermia. Petty territorial disputes are inevitable. Life-threatening accidents can be avoided through courtesy, awareness and following rules of navigation.
Everyone who drives a motor vehicle or who rows/paddles or windsurfs a boat should pay attention to others on the water or roads. The life you save may be my own. Thank you.
Those who row (row, row) their boats would be wise to read and heed the safety policies and guidelines posted on Lake Lanier Rowing Club’s website.
LLRC’s Cold Water Safety Bulletin
The purpose of this Bulletin is to increase member awareness of the dangers of cold water rowing and to insure that Lake Lanier Rowing Club, its members and employees, will not be held liable for accidents, injury or death resulting from exposure to extreme conditions. Hypothermic conditions can exist because of low air temperature, low water temperature, high wind, waves and other environmental factors. Cold water is especially dangerous because loss of body heat occurs 25 times faster in cold water than in cold air. The potential danger for hypothermia is greatest during the period between 1 November and 1 April when the water temperature is below 80 degrees F. and becomes very dangerous when the water temperature is below 50 degrees F.
During scheduled practices, coaches and launch drivers should be aware that each skiff is equipped with 10 wearable life jackets plus one throwable personal flotation device (PFD). When large groups are practicing under less than ideal conditions, extra PFDs should be carried in the launch. There are bags of extra PFDs in the Safety Gear locker. There are also bags of blankets in the Safety Gear locker. Each bag has two synthetic blankets and 8 space blankets. A blanket bag should be taken out with each launch.
It also advisable to boat groups, especially the more novice rowers, in the larger boats (4s, quads and 8s) to minimize the chances of capsizing. All boats should try to stay in close proximity to the safety launch to enable the launch to respond quickly to an emergency situation.