I began rowing as a teenager living in the New Forest where I joined Lymington Rowing Club. We rowed in coxed fours: coastal boats built of two or three skins formed from thin mahogany strips glued together to form a strong laminated shell. They had sliding seats, similar to fine river boats but were a little shorter and slightly more beamy. A favourite training run, especially on a summer’s evening, was from the town quay, out of the Lymington River and across the Solent to Hurst Spit. The Isle of Wight Ferry, in those days, was a paddle driven ship that set up rolling waves in its wake. We found we could almost surf on these if we got our timing and positioning right, making it quite easy to keep up tipping along on the rollers and, when we reached the river, we would use our saved energy to overtake the ship.
The Isle of Wight Ferry
If only I was young and rowing carefree
In warm evening light on a mill pond sea
Where shall we go lads where shall we go?
We’ll go for a row lads; go for a row
And where shall we row lads, where shall we row?
We’ll row out to sea lads; we’ll row out to sea.
We’ll go down the river, down to the sea,
Past the moored money, all varnished and spree
Past the yacht club bar where they sip G and T
The banker, solicitor and men who have made it.
We’ll go out to sea lads; out to Hurst Spit
And wait there to see the Isle of Wight ship
Coming from Yarmouth; cars back from a trip
With paddle wheels churning to push on its way.
We’ll wait for the ferry lads, we’ll wait in the bay
To admire the distance we covered that day
Then row back to the river and race to the quay
Two giant paddles. Our four oared cohort.
We’ll ride the rollers that follow that juggernaut,
We’ll ride on the rollers till it’s nearly at port
And then we’ll row past lads, all in good sport
And the skipper will toot a friendly hurrah.
The years have passed lads; have you gone far?
Where are you now lads? In the yacht club bar?