Friday, August 20, 2010

Queen of Awkward Meets Queen of Hearts

Life is filled with so many exciting twists and turns. Hop off the straight and narrow whenever you can and take the winding paths. Experience the exhilaration of the view from the edge. Because the moments spent there, that take your breath away, are what make you feel truly alive." ~  Stacey Charter"

I must confess, I am not very coordinated.  I've always stayed away from aerobic classes for this very reason.  I've always blamed my awkwardness on the fact that I'm left handed, who knows if this is true but it seems like a valid excuse!  So when I decided I was going to attempt to row a dory, something that I put on my summer "to do" list and something I knew would take a fair amount of coordination --- I was a wee bit scared. Probably more scared I was going to make a fool of myself than anything else!

All ready to give it a go.

I arrived at the Cape Sable Island Causeway on a Tuesday night, ready to take on this challenge and to take part in The Queen of Hearts Dory Club Fun Night. This event was started this year by the Club to allow visitors and locals alike to try their hand at rowing a dory, experiential tourism at it's best!  I met Nicole Jones-Hurlburt, my dory mate for the night down by the shore. Nicole is a 15 time International Dory Champion, I wasn't putting my first time in a dory in just anyone's hands -- I was putting it in the best!

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Nicole putting me at ease.

Nicole started rowing over 10 years ago and won her first International Championship in 1999 with her teammate Chrissy Atwood-Rose.  Together, they went on to win two more titles after that.  Nicole then started training with her sister Natalie, and together they have won 10 International Championships.  Nicole informed me that there are two International Championships held each year. One in Gloucester, Massachusetts and the other in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, with elimination races being held in each place prior to each championship. Nicole has also won 2 Mixed International titles, so she is a seasoned pro to say the least and a great ambassador to the sport of dory racing and to our Province.

2009 International Dory Racing Champions - Natalie & Nicole Jones (Photo courtesy of Nicole Jones)

There was quite a crowd gathered at the Causeway for the Club's Fun night, despite the fog and a little breeze, everyone seemed anxious (and maybe a bit nervous like me) to give this sport a try. Nicole told me to go ahead and jump in the dory we were standing by - there was no build up to this experience, just jump in and do it!  There were three other dories on the shore, each one with their own name, The Miss Cockawitt (which is a nickname given to the near by community of Wood's Harbour), the Miss Newellton (a Cape Island community) , the Sea Dog and the Lady Sarah, which I had just not so gracefully "jumped" in to. I got myself all settled into the stern of the dory, well, that was after Nicole told me I had to turn around and face the other way.

Onlookers and visitors gathered to watch and take part in the Fun Night Row

I was expecting the oars to be much heavier than they were, but they were surprisingly light and fairly easy to maneuver , much to my delight.  With a push off from another Club member, we managed to make our way past the anchored sailboats nearby and set our course up the edge of the Causeway. Nicole informed me that because I was in the stern of the dory, I would be the one setting the pace.  I told her to expect it to be a slow one!  My awkwardness showed up in full force as I struggled a bit with getting both oars in the water at the same time, but Nicole was very encouraging which was a huge help.  She suggested we trade spots, thinking I might have better luck in the bow of the dory and using her new oars.  She was right - I had a much easier time following her lead and the new oars seemed to fit me much better.

Getting a feel for things.

Nicole and I talked about the history of the Club which was started in 1997 by David Eldridge and Wylie Blades to provide recreational dory rowing opportunities in Shelburne County, and to promote and bring back the tradition of dory rowing and racing to our area. This year the Dory Club has approximately 50 members and Nicole told me they are all very interested in volunteering their time for events such as the Tuesday Night Fun Nights, promoting the tradition of dory rowing and seeing the club grow  This weekend a lot of the members are traveling to Lunenburg to take part in the Elimination Finals in the hopes of moving on to the International Dory Championships in Lunenburg in September. Where Nicole hopes to add to her list of titles.

Fun for the whole family - everyone can take part. (Photo courtesy of Nicole Jones)

By this time we had managed to turn ourselves around and head back to the shore. Nicole was very encouraging and was making my first experience very rewarding.  I was actually doing it...and not too badly, I might add.  It helped that I had an exceptional teacher!
We talked of the clubs plans for the future, and the hopes of making the club more accessible to it's members and visitors with the plans of infrastructure, building membership and more International titles. All in the hopes of keeping the sport of dory racing alive and well, not only in Shelburne County but in Nova Scotia.

Rowing at Sunset - Cape Sable Island Causeway (Photo courtesy of Nicole Jones)

Before I knew it, we were back on shore and there was someone else ready to take my place in the Lady Sarah for their first time.  I thanked Nicole for the great experience and told her I would probably be back to try it again. Possible new member? Maybe! If the Queen of Awkwardness can do it - so can you! Give it a try every Tuesday night at 6PM at the Cape Sable Island Causeway, Nicole and the rest of the Queen of Hearts Dory Club will be ready to meet you and make your first time a truly enjoyable and unforgettable one!

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 To learn more about Dory racing, rowing history and building visit the following links:

Queen of Hearts Dory Club

Dory Building History & Heritage in Shelburne County

The Birth of International Dory Races

The Dory Shop Museum - Shelburne, Nova Scotia