Rowing tour affords a new way to look at England

August 22, 1994|By Liz Atwood | Liz Atwood,Sun Staff Writer

Meg Mitchell distinctly remembers her reaction when a friend told her she was forming a rowing club and asked her to join.

"I thought it sounded as exciting as watching grass grow."

But the 12 years since she helped start the Annapolis Rowing Club has changed her mind. Mrs. Mitchell, a business teacher at Archbishop Spalding High School, now can hardly wait to come home from work, push her shell out onto the calm waters of College Creek, and lose herself in the quest for the perfect stroke.

"Rowing makes everything right," she says.

Her enthusiasm for the sport last month took her to England, where she, her husband, Stanley, and three others rowed more than 100 miles on the Thames River.

Mrs. Mitchell's assessment: "It was definitely not dull."

But when a friend called the Mitchells last winter and asked if they wanted to join the trip down the Thames, Mrs. Mitchell was skeptical.

"I thought she'd been smoking something," she said.

Mrs. Mitchell was accustomed to rowing a few miles a day. The Thames trip would require them to stroke 15 miles a day.

Mr. Mitchell, an assistant crew coach at St. John's College, was more accustomed to long outings and was quicker to agree to the plan.

They persuaded their friend Susan Rush, an Annapolis nurse, to join them on the adventure.

Ms. Rush was reluctant at first, wondering how much sightseeing could be accomplished in a rowing shell. Now she's satisfied that she saw more than most tourists.

"I thought it was a wonderful way to go and see the country."

The ages of the five rowers on the tour ranged from 47 to 69. They started their journey at Lechled and rowed past Windsor Castle, coasting through 37 locks along the way.

They kept up a leisurely pace of 3 mph and completed the route in eight days.

"Each day was as good as the next," Mr. Mitchell said.

"I remember the wonderful, beautiful inns," Mrs. Mitchell said. "Each day was like another day in paradise."

Although the Mitchells had visited England many times before, the tour along the water presented sights they'd never seen. The locks were adorned with flowers, and swans glided majestically beside the shells.

"It took us back to an England we didn't know existed," she said.

Both of the Mitchells have long been sports enthusiasts, but they say there is something almost spiritual about rowing.

Mr. Mitchell prefers to row in the morning, putting his scull into the water in front of the St. John's boathouse about 6 a.m.

As he strokes onto College Creek and the sun begins to rise in front of him, he says he loses himself in thought. "You're in another world," he said.

Mrs. Mitchell says that she didn't immediately fall in love with the sport. She had trouble learning the stroke and staying in sync with the other rowers.

"We just got in and flailed around," she recalls.

After a while, she improved and began to enjoy the sport. "It gives you a great feeling when everyone is synchronized," she said.

Ms. Rush, became interested in the sport about 10 years ago when her son was on a crew. Now she rows three or four times a week with a crew of women, putting into the water as early as 5 a.m. on weekdays. "I think it is a beautiful sport," she said.

This week, the Mitchells are continuing to work on their strokes at a rowing camp in Maine. They go there each year, socialize with other rowers, and look for ways they can improve their technique.

"Rowing is something you can never really perfect," Mr. Mitchell said.

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