Twenty-three years ago, Hargy Heap, of Yarmouth, who was then in the paint business in Massachusetts, decided to sell the beloved family catboat, a twenty-two-foot Crocker keel model. Two growing Heaps were disenchanted with the cruising scene and Hargy and his wife, Judy, decided their cruising days were over. No sooner was the boat's sale accomplished, however, than Hargy panicked. "I just had to get out on the water," he recalls.
A sailing friend suggested that Heap go see Arthur Martin, the Boston naval architect and sculling enthusiast who was just then moving to Maine to manufacture ocean rowing shells in a labor of love that was to make him widely revered as the father of modern recreational rowing. After delivering his old catboat to Rye, New Hampshire, Heap took off on a four-mile row in Martin's wake.
"Like a lot of others who went rowing with Arthur," Heap reports, "I was hooked!" Within a couple of months, he had purchased one of Martin's Alden shells and had become sufficiently accomplished to enter Martin's annual, seven-mile, open-ocean Isles of Shoals race. He's been rowing Alden shells and participating in the race, which he has won four times, ever since.
In 1975, Heap transferred his rowing full time to Maine after he bought a decoy-making business in Freeport, later moving it to Bowdoinham. He sold that business in 1990, and the following year combined avocation with vocation when he took over an Alden dealership, selling shells from the top of his car and taking them to the Yarmouth Town Landing for demonstrations. Car-top selling proved frustrating, however, he reports, so the next year he made a deal to install a float and a runway in a shallow portion of Ralph Stevens' Yankee Marina in Yarmouth, creating the Casco Bay Rowing center. The center, now with two floats and room to stow a growing fleet of shells, fulfills a longtime dream of rowers in the Portland area, making it easier for scullers to launch their boats. From May through October, Heap offered rowing lessons, rentals, and sales at the center to a growing clientele of rowing enthusiasts of both sexes and all ages. For many, he says, rowing has become an important part of their fitness regimen as well as a relaxing pleasure.
A couple of years ago, Heap tried taking his shells south to Florida for the winter, but he has decided to discontinue the practice. "I'm a cross-country skier," he says, "and I missed skiing and the Maine winter," This past winter in Maine suited him just fine, but Hargy and a lot of his clients are getting itchy right now for those first mild days of May.
by: Hargy Heap
This was the title of an article in the Maine Sunday Telegram February 27, 2000 by Roberta Scruggs. It was an interesting article about avalanches in general, why people get caught in them and the causes. It brought back memories and thoughts about some of the risks I have taken in an Alden Ocean Shell, the more noteworthy being the 1997 Isles of Shoals (IOS) race.
I have had numerous rows where I have had several inches of water splashing around in the boat and the self-bailer held its own. On two specific events, both in the same year, the boat became fully flooded, going through the tops of the waves. I was able to make sufficient headway to make my destination, both times upwind, and as I gained a lee from shore the self-bailer removed most of the water in the boat.
The day of the 25th IOS dawned bright, cool and clear with the wind moderate from the NW. I remember hoping that the wind would remain light enough to run the race to the Shoals. I suspect that several things were going on. At the start, we had some lee from the islands and the mainland and as we got further out to sea, we got less and less shelter and the wind was also freshening. I know I did some serious surfing that day, many times broaching and running off in the trough until I could return the boat to the course. For me, the conditions going out were a dream come true. Downwind, surfing, I was in heaven. I did not appreciate how windy it was until I headed into the wind after crossing the finish line. The harbor, open to the NW, must have had 2-3 foot waves. The wind must have been in excess of 20 knots. Most of us adjourned to the lee in Smuttynose Harbor. I'm sure I was on a drug trip with the endorphins and whatever from winning my fifth IOS race in 25 years plus the exhilaration of a great row. I remember thinking: the trip back will not be fun, let's get it started and over with. After 20 to 30 minutes I suggested to others that we get started. For a few, I was the pied piper.
We checked in with the race director and started back.. Just trying to get out of Gosport Harbor should have given me the message that this was crazy. When Seth Shattuck, another old salt, turned around, the madness should have been crystal clear. At first the self-bailer did not even keep up. Then things settled down and seemed OK and I(we) kept on. We kept a steady state for about an hour until I stopped to tend to nature's call and resumed rowing. I caught up with Mike McGill as whe was bailing his boat by hand. By this time, the wind was spuming the tops off all the waves.There was little point in bailing because while you stopped to bail, the boat tended to turn sideways and pick up more water. In fact,at that point, Mike's boat seemed to be to be lower in the water than mine was. Shortly after we got underway again, we hailed a 20 foot outboard that fortunately was well handled. He picked Mike and his boat up and caught up with me. I kept moving, albeit slowly, to keep my self-bailer working. After about half an hour, while we waited for a larger boat that could not find us, I was picked up by the boat that Mike was aboard.
I can honestly say that I am usually very careful on the Maine coast with northwesters. They usually freshen until late afternoon and make it easy to row or sail down wind. They are always a challenge to row back in.
If you row at approximately 5 knots downwind in a 15 knot breeze, you have an apparent wind of 10 knots. Seems OK? When you turn around, you add the wind speed to whatever through the water speed you can generate, which usually is substantially less than the downwind boat speed. Let's use 3 knots through the water. You now have an apparent wind of 18 knots. Your through the water speed returning is, in the example, one half your down wind speed which means you have a 2 hour slog back, if you can maintain that headway 2 more hours. That example does not allow for the fact that the wind will probably freshen and the wind and waves will become larger and the rower will fatigue.
Why do people who know better get themselves into these kind of situations? I suspect egos and endorphins are major factors. For many years, the more distance I rowed (or XC skied) the more I wanted to do. Drug trip and ego? I'm sure they helped.
I also must consider what drove me to buying an Alden Ocean Shell 28 years ago. I had read about Arthur planning the IOS race. What went through my mind then was something to the effect that while I knew very little about rowing I knew a fair amount about getting from one place to another on open water in a small boat. Well, gang, I now know I knew very little. I am still learning and it's been a glorious trip.