Woodside, near San Francisco, CA

I was up at five o’clock this morning to drive up to town for my maiden row on San Francisco Bay. It was dark and cold as Quackers and I headed up I-280 and through the slowly-wakening city to South End Rowing Club.

Paul greeted me at the door and showed me to our craft – a clinker-built wooden boat called Valhalla. We launched her off the end of the quay and set out at a brisk clip for the island of Alcatraz.

It was distinctly rough and chilly – the temperature round about freezing – but any potential grumbles died on my lips when I saw open-water swimmers ploughing along beside us, their pink-cold arms arcing up from the choppy waves. Brrrrr! No right to complain.

It wasn’t a comfortable row. When I rowed the Atlantic I deliberately planned to have no overlap between the handles of my oars, not wanting to bash my hands together. This morning my arms were crossing over at the wrists – a BIG overlap – so soon my following hand was bleeding, I was punching myself in the ribs, and I kept catching crabs (getting the oar caught in the waves).

But, strangely, it was fun. It was a beautiful sunrise, and it felt good to be out on the open water rather than rowing on a machine. I’m not going to be back in the Bay Area for a couple of months, but I’m looking forward to spending more time out rowing with the SERC.

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