One of the mysteries of racing boats I had not yet been able to solve practically was how on earth the thing is steered. I knew there was some pedal involved, but had imagined it rather to be like in a soaring plane. So Saturday was the day where I was to learn how it works! I was on the water with three club mates from the “old boat” (the 60+ regatta team), and because I was by far the youngest, they wanted me to steer the boat, which involves quite some neck twisting and turning!
The steering ropes were not adjusted too well, so the rudder was somewhat sluggish. You work it by moving the tip of your toe either to the left (like this, the boat moves towards the river bank to your left) or to the right (vice versa). What makes it a little complicated is that the rowing shoes installed in the boat are about size 48 (at least that’s how I feel it), while my feet are a mere 41! Because they are quite soft, it is difficult to exert enough pull on the ropes; but somehow we managed. My teammates were very patient with me when I kept asking them to row stronger on starboard or port to adjust for my serpentine course, or to stop so I could look behind me to see whether there were any ships or boats we had to circumnavigate.
I had ample opportunity to practice: A group of about 40 kayakers benefited from the lovely day and shared the river with us (yet without paying any attention to navigation rules), so we ended up slaloming around them. After a while, this was great fun—and great practice as well 🙂 Eventually, we even managed to land the boat in one piece (and without doing any harm to any kayaker or his/her boat). An interesting experience, after all.