Rowing. Para – rowing.

The weekend introduction to rowing didn’t exactly go as planned.

Pia kindly accompanied me to East London Uni for the 2 day taster.

We arrived on Saturday morning, did the morning lecture, did the adapted ergo row tests – at which I was ok – tho arms only is so very much harder than using your legs and core plus arms.

I was hoisted into a ‘tank’ boat and taught technique, in a safe, fixed environment. People helping were everywhere. It was noted that I fall to the left, and a fix thought of – a sweater wedged under my left skinny buttock.

Seemed to work ok.

So, into a boat – a single. It was shown and explained to me that it was impossible  that this boat could tip over. It had outriggers sticking out 60 cm either side with very bouyant floats on the water attached.

No one had ever gone over in one of these boats.

Not once, not ever.

They were used all over the country, and in races the world over.

There was a safety boat in the vicinity just in case.

I was totally safe. Which was good, given that I was very firmly strapped to the seat  and the back rest,  potentially making releasing myself under water a little tricky.


I rowed along for 15 mins or so, taking directions from my lady coach on the bank. It was going ok, not easy without the ability to sit myself  up straight as I tended to fall to one side and forward.

I did several turns, my experience as a canoeist helping me with oar logic.

All of a sudden I started to tip.

To my dodgy left side.

The outrigger just kept going down.

I was under the water, vertically pointing down, in the murky water of the dock, strapped firmly to a seat with lap and chest straps without the capacity to wriggle free, in a boat that upside down, with outriggers and a 6 foot man strapped to the seat, 50 metres from the shore, in deep water, was going to be virtually impossible to right.

I clawed at the straps for about 10 seconds, to no avail. At that point I realised that I was in all likelihood going to die.

Its amazing how much you think in about 20 seconds, when you’re faced with your last 20 seconds. I  reasoned that as I’d wanted a way out/ wished myself dead so very many times over this last year, but not been able to commit the act myself, then this was the perfect way to go. It wasn’t suicide, it was an accident. It  was the perfect solution.

I thought it would appear pretty awful to my friends, that ‘having achieved so much’ I end up drowning at a rowing camp.

Then I thought of my daughters, of Lily and Amber, and the sadness that id not been able to say goodbye properly.

I then heard muffled sounds, and felt hands on my shoulder straps, straining to pull me up. The panic in the hands was evident to me. It wasn’t working, the very outriggers that were supposed to keep me upright were preventing my being rescued   After maybe 15 seconds, as I was just about to take that lungful of water, my face felt air and I had one little breath before going under again.

I was pulled up again, and I could hear panicked voices. More half breaths.

Then my boat was being righted and I could see the safety boat and the docklands.

I was released and dragged into the safety boat. The two guys were ashen pale. I imagine my face didn’t look too good either. My shirt was all torn from the effort.

Sheer desperation had given these guys the strength to get me out.

I’m not sure what I felt.

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