Friday 26 February 2010

Old wooden oars

The rowing team lifts weights on Mondays and Wednesdays, runs on Tuesdays and rows on Fridays and Sundays. The weight training takes place in a 43 foot container on the fish dock. It’s pretty cramped in there with 8 or 9 blokes hefting iron, not to say smelly. Sometimes we drag all the weights outside and train under the stars.

The Friday night row is full on regatta training in 'el Ibrit' but on Sunday mornings anyone who feels like it can take out the other boat—the old llagut. All the carbon sandwich oars are aboard 'el Ibrit' and the llagut now uses old wooden oars.

These oars have long handles, large oblong looms, an elliptical shaft and slender blades. Very similar to the oars that have always been used on traditional Catalan fishing boats, they are crude, heavy, clumsy looking levers that might have been hacked from a single piece of wood with stone-age tools.

They’d always held a rude appeal but I’d never tried them until the other day. There was plenty of elbowroom with only four of us in the boat. Our cox for the session, the 8-year old son of one of the team, zigzagged us out towards the horizon.

Carpet Slipper (he’s not in the ‘el Ibrit’ team, but he comes along on Sundays to make up the numbers) told me that these old oars were real ‘arm wrenchers’. However, I found them easier to pull than the broad bladed racing oars. They were well balanced and light to use despite their intrinsic weight. Being shorter they have to be held at a higher angle on the pull stroke but with the long blade immersed they could really make the boat shift. The only thing lacking was a real wooden boat.

We splashed out to sea, each more or less in his own little world, until Carpet Slipper started on a long yarn about a Swiss man that came to live in the town one summer in the early 80’s. Masquerading as a woman he seduced a local buck who was so embarrassed when he found out that he’d pulled a bloke that he never mentioned the matter. ‘Well would you?’ asked Carpet Slipper, going on to assure me that 'she' was a real stunner.

Little by little more men fell prey to her charms but bound by an embarrassed bond of silence none warned their mates. ‘There are plenty of men round here that went to bed with her. Bigwigs too. They won’t talk about it though, not even now.’

The 8-year old looked on in wonder.

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