On Friday, June 21, in the mid-afternoon, I arrived at Erik and Meredith Breilands’ place. I parked and unhitched the boat trailer, then spent the evening socializing with Erik and Meredith and their vivacious daughters Elsa (age 5) and Margo (2 1/2), and long-legged dog Pogie (1).
I don’t recall too much else about my first hours with Breilands. I hope I didn’t do anything too stupid or embarrassing. The days of travel and the long miles had caught up with me, and I was flat-out exhausted. I slept 9+ hours that night, rare for me, and arose on the 22nd still feeling drowsy.
I rigged the Pocock, BETTER ANGEL, and took the cover off the Owen so people could see it, too. For at my suggestion, Erik and Meredith had invited several members of their Green Mountain Rowing Club to come see the woodies.
The Breilands live on 6+ acres with 400 feet of frontage on the Lamoille River. They have a beautiful home built mainly with their own hands. They have a low profile dock nestled along a protected stretch of the river. They have a wide grassy ramp that slopes gently to the dock. They and others store their singles, doubles and sculls in a large barn atop the ramp. They have miles of smooth water and little other boat traffic. They have a rower’s paradise.
On that clear warm Saturday morning the main attraction was BETTER ANGEL. I invited Erik, an excellent sculler, to row it first, and four more club members of varying degrees of expertise followed. Not everyone had rowed a wooden racing shell before. Everyone agreed the boat was grand. One woman dubbed it a “celebrity”.
It was fun to watch their enjoyment, although, admittedly, I was occasionally nervous. Scullers in general are cautious about allowing others to use their personal boats and I am particularly fussy, especially with these tippy, rare and valuable wooden racing shells. Prior to June 22, only the boat’s builder, Steve Chapin, my late double partner, Stu Brown, and I had ever rowed BETTER ANGEL.
But if I am to drive across America showing these precious boats, what kind of host would I be to say to rower’s, “I’ll row. You watch”? And anyway, isn’t opening up a theme of this trip?
It boils down to trust. I trust my friends the Breilands. They know rowing. They know rowers. They know what this boat means, and they would not expose it to danger. If they trust someone, then so do I. So what might have been a leap of faith was no leap whatsoever.
During several of these test-rows a 19-year-old recent high school graduate had been out rowing a nice little Oxford 2 he had built for his senior class project. He pulled in at the dock just after the last adult docked BETTER ANGEL.
He stepped out of his boat and onto the dock. I asked if he wanted to try my boat. He looked a bit nervous then said, Yes. He took it for a spin, his first in a racing hull. He did fine.
Below: Erik Breiland and BETTER ANGEL on the Lamoille