My Big Row This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

September 19, 2012
When nine of my friends and I, all members of Sea Scouts (a water-centric co-ed version of Boy Scouts for high schoolers), rowed 60 year-old surf boats into the port in Vineyard Haven, I doubt anyone gave us a second look. We were just another group of faces in the crowd. A daily occurrence, really. But it did not feel that way to us. After all, we had just rowed there from Falmouth.

They say the longest journey begins with but a single step. Cliché, yes, but true. A few months ago, the very idea of traveling to the Vineyard sans motor power would have given me high blood pressure. I mean, rowing? In this day and age? I did not think anyone had rowed that distance since the Pilgrims at least. But gradually, with instruction and practice, it seemed plausible.

My cohorts and I practiced as much as we could. Out of everyone, I felt that I had the greatest disadvantage having never rowed a boat with more than two people in it. But bit by bit, I learned all the oar maneuvers, technical terms, and how not to the hit the oar of the person behind you, and each time we rowed a little bit further. On the last practice, we even got so close to the Vineyard that we could even make out the houses by Vineyard Sound.

Of course, the magnitude of what we were setting out to accomplish did not hit me full force until the day before we were scheduled to row. A plethora of worst case scenarios flooded my mind. What if we didn’t make it? What if the boat leaked? What if the boat sank? What if the tides were against us? What if we ran into bad weather or rough waves or man-eating sharks? If those burning questions weren’t enough to give me a heart attack, I had to pack half of the contents of my house into a duffle bag.

Finally, the day of our adventure came. Being equally nervous and excited, I could not tell if that day had come too soon or not soon enough. I was the first to arrive at Falmouth Harbor, and as everyone showed up, I noticed that they were all unusually quiet. I am sure that the fact that it was early morning had something to do with it, but I think we all had our own secret anxieties about the trip.

After an hour or so of preparation, we all said our goodbyes to those that had come to see us off and got into the boats. A strange thing happened as we left that harbor. Every worry I had vanished and instinct took over. It was just me and those worn out, chipped oars. More than that, everything seemed to be in our favor. The weather was mostly good, the temperature was just right, and the tides were with us. The water wasn’t rough and stormy as I had imagined, but beautiful and inviting, the sort of ocean you see on a post-card. We did encounter some peril along the way - barely getting ourselves out of the way of the Island Queen. And even when we did avoid getting run over by her, she left a few waves in her path that nearly flipped the boat over. Yet, we never lost our motivation or our concentration. The moment we could no longer make out much of the mainland, the Vineyard began to come into view. I do not know if my friends were also overtaken by instinct, but I do know this - our journey was expected to take from three to five hours. We made it in two and a half.

Oddly enough, when we landed safely in Vineyard Haven, I did not think much of what we had just done. I was physically and mentally numb from all that rowing. After awhile, it hit me. We had just rowed from Falmouth to Martha’s Vineyard, relying on nothing but the waves, the wind, and ourselves. No one had accomplished this feat in over 40 years. A rush of euphoria raced through me as I realized we had just written our own little chapter of Cape Cod history.

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