Snuggled on the couch with a cat watching NCIS
That didn’t last.
“Mom. Mom! There’s a snake on the car!”
“A snake. On the car.”
I popped my head over the balcony.
There was a snake.
A big snake.
Not anaconda big.
But bigger than I wanted it to be.
I live in the damn suburbs.
Practically in the city center.
Why is there a snake on my car?
I was not going to be deterred, neither did
I wish to see it killed by the very freaked out people in the street.
I got this.
I grabbed the braai tongs and stalked out
to care of business.
Aunty Pam, who worked at the snake park,
made it look really easy.
Turns out, picking up a snake with some
tongs is not easy at all.
Snakes are very wiggly.
My children watched with fascination from the
safety of the balcony.
Anyway, I coaxed it in the direction of the
A very irritated owl huffed at me from the
light pole and flew off.
I think I ruined his dinner.
People keep asking me what kind of snake it
It was a SNAKE people! Who cares!
I assumed, based on a recent neighbourhood Facebook post, that it was the non-venomous type. Probably just a brown house snake.
Some research proved me wrong. Turns out it was probably a stiletto snake. At least, this is the picture it most closely resembled. And stiletto snakes are very bad news. I’m somewhat glad I didn’t know this when I was channeling my inner Steve Irwin.
Not very awe inspiring in snake fetish circles, but plenty of excitement in mine.
My son said, “That is the most kickass
thing I have ever seen you do.”
I don’t want to admit that I’m too scared
to drive the car, in case it went back into the engine bay.
The old men sat in quiet comradery, sipping tall glasses of lager and reminiscing.
“Did I tell you about the time I caught a shark?” asked Jack.
The assembled company sighed. They’d heard it before and didn’t believe anymore upon its frequent retelling.
“I was fishing at the
pier, when all of a sudden my line went taut. It was fierce battle between man
and beast. My muscles strained, my arms ached, but the same fighting spirit
that got me through the war prevailed. After an hour of this, I reeled it in. A
They rolled their eyes. “Your round, Jack.”
I heard this story quite often at my Grandpa’s knee. I admit, that I didn’t believe it. It was a fishy story. And then I found this photo. Sorry Gramps. You did catch a shark.
You’ve probably been to a regatta by now. Chances are that you took way too much or far too little. There is a balance between nothing and the kitchen sink. While your child is packing boats on trailers, you’ll find yourself doing much the same thing.
Another rowing mom shared her regatta ready plan with me (Tx Carla) and I’ve used it ever since. She bought a big black storage box on wheels. In it lived a cooler box, water bottles, chairs, hats, umbrellas, first aid and about a ton of sunscreen.
These days you can get a Jolly Trolley. If you’re in this for the long haul, invest in one. They’re better than my big black box on wheels, because they’re like a 4×4, they can handle any terrain. And there’s plenty of terrain. It doesn’t look so bad when you get there, but it seems to become more treacherous as the day goes on.
Put on your best parental take-no-prisoners voice in the morning and get your child to put on sunscreen everywhere before putting on a tri-suit. If they say that they’ll do it later, they will come home looking like Donald Trump. Not a good look. The glare coming off the water, even if it’s overcast, can roast a chicken in under an hour.
A camping chair. Your rower will sit with their crew and come off the water shattered. They need somewhere to relax and recover. Some schools only allow the Opens to have their own chairs, in which case send along a camping mat and a pillow.
A towel. Just in case. You never know. Also, if they have to have an ice-bath, they are going to need one.
Water. I used to cart along a 5 litre bottle, but now I just freeze a lot of 500ml bottles the night before. The water at Roodeplaat Dam is not safe to drink and rowers get dehydrated very quickly. It’s worthwhile adding a sachet of Rehydrate to the water.
Chocolate milk. I don’t know why, but after a race this perks them right up.
Food. Rowers eat a lot and they need a lot of protein to recover. Make sure you pack some biltong (for the protein) and fruit. Once they come off the water they’re hot, exhausted and faintly nauseous. They can buy a prego roll when they want to, but make sure they have healthy snacks to munch on all day.
Ice packs. These will keep the food cold, but are also excellent to cool down an over-heated rower.
Sunglasses. Your rower will need a good pair on anti-glare glasses to wear on the water.
Hat / cap: Obviously, their school one.
School uniform. This isn’t always essential, but at the big regattas, they will need to change into their formal uniform for prizegiving. Put it on a hanger and cover it with a garbage bag to keep it dry and clean.
Sandals or slops. I call this ‘Save the socks!’. On the trip to and from the jetty your rower’s socks (that you just bought) will quickly become holes held together by pieces of thread. Just get them some slops.
Dustbin bag. In a vague attempt to help them keep their site clean so that you don’t have to clean it up before you can all go home.
Data. They will need some. Or a lot.
A book. For when their phone battery dies. Some try to do their homework, but I’m not sure any work done in this environment is going to be worthy of an A+.
A first aid kit. With disinfectant spray and plasters.
Cash. For food and more water.
What to pack for you
Camping chair. Go for lightweight over plush comfort. These will probably live in your car boot for the duration of the rowing season, so the smaller they are, the better.
Hat + Sunglasses + Sunscreen
Something to do. Rowing is
like war, there’s a lot of waiting around followed by short bursts of extreme
stress and excitement.
Binoculars. Or, you’ll end up like me gamely shouting motivation at the wrong rower from the wrong school in the wrong race.
Dress code. This isn’t a day at the polo or the races. There are no prizes for the best dressed. Dress in light layers – 6am is chilly, then it rapidly becomes the fires of hell, then there may be a thunderstorm.
Shoes. Wear very comfortable shoes that you don’t mind getting a little dusty. The ground is rocky, so unless you want to look like a baby giraffe about to fall over its own feet, don’t wear heels. Trainers, thick-soled sandals – oh hell, probably Birkenstocks or Crocs are possibly best. If, like me, this offends your sensibilities, do, like me, get over yourself.
Cash. Although you can use
Snapscan or your card at some regattas, you’ll need cash for entry and it’s
Children. Pack a little pup tent so that they have somewhere to escape from the sun. If you can, let them sit it out at a playdate or at Grandma’s. It’s a long day for small people. Larger, non-rower members of the family might like to ride their bikes around the reserve.
Patience. You’ll need a
lot of this, more as the day goes on and peaking when you have to watch your
rower pack boats at a snail’s pace before you can go home.
You’ll probably be sitting with your team support crew (aka other rowing parents) under the school or club gazebo. So, you don’t need this weighing you down.
Rowing at Roodeplaat Dam
Get to Roodeplaat early. And I do mean early. Aim for at least 06:30am. You need to put ‘Roodeplaat Rowing Club’ into your GPS. ‘Roodeplaat Dam’ could take you to entirely the wrong side of this body of water.
Once you get to the gate, you may find yourself sitting in a long queue with a panicking rower freaking out about being late. You can either throw them out and make them walk or make a plan for the future.
My advice is to buy a season pass. It may seem like a hefty investment, but it will save you time and money. It also lets you drive in the out and bypass the traffic jam with a superior smirk on your face.
Need a sanity break?
There is a Spar down the road if you need more snacks. Turn left at the Roodeplaat exit and you’ll find it a few kms down the road on your left).
There is a Tops there too, in case you need to hang out in the refrigerated beer section for a bit.
For long weekend regattas like SA and Gauteng Champs,
you may decide to stay over.
The camp grounds
at Roodeplaat are basic, but not bad. I’ve never booked, but always found a
spot. The sites by the water have no
power and the mozzies swarm down there. I tend to pick a caravan site with
power and in close proximity to the loos. The upside is that you’re close to
the action and can sleep in a little longer. The downside is in the extreme
heat, you will start to melt and tempers will get frayed.
There are some excellent places nearby, but they get booked up very quickly, so if you plan on it, book now. As the years go by, you will learn to place your bookings about a year in advance.
Hengelaars Vriend (AKA Joy Unspeakable): this is right next door. Literally. It’s at the 2km start line.
As you slowly watch your child’s hands degrade from soft and supple to something out of Freddy Kreuger, you will doubt the wisdom of this sport.
Get used to it.
Cheese grater hands are par for the course.
Don’t indulge any wallowing, it’s just attention seeking martyrdom.
You will cringe.
There will be
There will be
There will be raw
There will be
They will be worn
with pride and displayed with glee.
Yes, there are
rowing gloves, but only the wussies wear them, and rowers aren’t wussies. Also,
they don’t provide enough grip on the blade and the friction inside the glove
can lead to even worse blisters.
Blisters aren’t all they’re cracked up to be
A lot of the time,
blisters can be avoided by simply paying attention to gripping the blade
correctly. It’s supposed to be a loose, relaxed grip, but most novice rowers
confuse this with the Darth Vader death grip. I don’t really suggest telling
your rower this. They tend to get quite aggressive about the fact that their
parent is not their coach. Sometimes, we just have to bite our tongues.
Hygiene is the
most important factor to avoiding infection. Washing hands before and after
rowing. Carefully washing down the blades and handles after every session. If the
rower before has ripped open their skin on the handles, do you really think it’s
hygienic to put yours on top of it? Again, we may want to drum this into our
children, but like the application of sunscreen, sometimes we fail.
The Blister Kit
The blister kit is
something every rower should have in the bag along with their spanners. Contrary
to popular belief, the coach and the cox do not offer an endless supply of plasters.
Zinc oxide, micropore surgical or sports tape. If you’re going to tape it up, make sure to tape around the fingers so that it doesn’t get all mushed up around the palm during rowing. It’s worthwhile keeping this in the boat. Change it after the session, otherwise it’s just gross.
Small pair of scissor or nail clippers to cut off the flappy bits. EEW. You’ll also need to do this once the blister dries. It’s horrible and cringe-worthy, but the dry bits can catch and rip away even ore skin.
Treating the blister
If the skin is torn or rubbed away, wash it with good old soap and water. It hurts, but it works.
If the blister is raised and filled with fluid, sterilize a needle and pierce the blister from the side to drain it. Leave the skin on top as far as you can. It forms a natural plaster and a barrier against infection.
Apply your antiseptic treatment.
If training, cover it up with a fabric plaster or tape.
At home, let it breathe! (You can sing this to the song from Frozen if you like).
You want the blister to dry out.
There are a few
old-timey home remedies that can also help.
A soak in Epsom Salts will help dry it out. It’s also
great for sore and aching muscles.
wrapping a slice of raw tomato
around the palm and leaving it for the night also helps. I haven’t tried this, because
my rower regarded me with horror and revulsion upon its very suggestion.
There are a lot of online resources to help you out
You can Google ‘rowing
blisters’ and some excellent sources come up. At the end of the day a rowing
blister isn’t that different from any other kind of blister, so use your
parental common sense. If it looks dicey go the doctor.
it up, buttercup
As a rowing parent, I have to admit that I have to bite back a smile when my child screams over disinfectant, but can row 2km with raw, bleeding hands. Or in one case, a dislocated ankle!
PS: Avoid surgical spirits and peroxide.
They do more harm than good.
Rowing season has started and it’s your first regatta. All around people will be talking in a lingo that is utterly alien to you. Your child will spout off terms that leave you bemused and leave your child looking at you as if you are a complete idiot. I know. I’ve been there.
If you’re going to survive here is brief
breakdown of what will soon become your second language. Trust me as daunting
as it seems, this isn’t half of it.
Let’s start with the type of boat you child will be rowing in. As a general rule of thumb, they’ll start off in sculls and only move to row sweep in U16.
Reading the draft draw
When you’re trying to decipher the draft draws you need to be able to read the event. The draft draws are available on here on ROWSA.
1x = Single (scull)
2x = Double (scull)
4x = Quad (scull)
8x = Oct (scull)
2 = Pair (sweep)
4 = Four (sweep)
8 = Eight (sweep)
JM = Junior men
JW = Junior women
So, if your daughter is rowing a quad in the under 14 age group , you’ll need to look for: JW14 4x
You can keep track of the results on your phone through Regatta Results. Sometimes, there is delay in posting the results so don’t panic, this can be for a lot of reasons, mainly confirming the computer’s results with the umpires on the water.
There are many brands all over the world.
These are the ones most used in South Africa. Your child will want a Filippi or
a Hudson. Of course they will. You’ve been warned. Plan to sell a kidney on the
Back down: This is when
the crew rows facing forward usually to turn or to come into a jetty.
Backstops: Most often,
this refers to Position 1, when the rower sits with legs straight and the blades
held at the chest. It’s also the term for the gizmo that stops the seat from
coming off the rails.
Blade. An oar. Like scuba
divers calling them fins and not flippers or frog feet. It’s a thing.
Boys on the boat: This is
a great book. You will soon own several copies of it. Everyone will now give it
your child thinking it’s the perfect gift for a rower. We have 4.
Bow: This can be
confusing. It is 1: The forward part of the boat – the nose that crosses the
finish. 2: The rower in the 1-seat, closest to the bow. 3: Also Bow Side, which is basically port or
Button/Collar: This is the
wide collar on the blade that keeps it from slipping out into the water.
Catch: When the blade enters
the water and the stroke starts.
Canvas: The covered
section of the boat that is from the bow to the rower and from the rower to the
stern. Often used to as a description of how much a race was won or lost by.
Cox/Coxswain: The person who
steers the boat. They are essential to the crew. If your child is a cox listen
to this song _ Hurt
Crab: For about 6 months I
thought ‘to catch a crab’ was to catch a literal crab. It’s when the blade catches
in the water as the rower tries to take it out. This can make it smash into
their jaw, but is more likely to smash their pride.
Crew (rowing): The team of
rowers in the boat is called the crew. In America, crew is what they use when
they speak about the sport of rowing. It’s the jelly, jello thing.
Drive: This starts at the
catch as the rower pulls the blades through the water and ends at the release.
Ergo/Erg: AKA The machine
of torture. Do not call it an indoor rowing machine. You will most likely end
up owning one.
Feather: When the rower
extracts the blade from the water, they swivel it, so that the spoon skims
parallel over the water during the recovery.
Finish: The part of the
stroke cycle just before the oar is taken from the water.
Frontstop: The end of the
slide nearest the stern. It’s also used interchangeably with 3rd Position
which is when the rower sits with their legs at 90-degrees and the blade spoon at
the furthest point to the bows.
Gate: Gates must always
face forwards and keep the blade in place.
Go for home: From the 100m
mark on, you’ll hear everyone yelling “Go for home!”. This is the last intense
push for the finish.
Head race: In a head race
the boats are let off in 10 seconds intervals and the fastest time goes through
to the next stage. They’re essentially racing against the clock and not against
Heads: This an important
one to know. If you hear someone shout “HEADS!”, duck. Duck quickly and decisively
or get beheaded by a boat.
Push for 10: This is an
intensive push using everything they’ve got for 10 strokes to get ahead and
then maintain their speed.
Rate: The number strokes
Recovery: This is the last
past of the stroke. The blade is feathered and out of the water and the rower
must go slowly down the slide to recover before the next stroke begins.
Rigger (also Outrigger): This
is the triangular metal framework that holds the blades apart.
Rigger jigger: A small
spanner used for attaching and adjusting riggers. These are as rare as
diamonds. You’ll end up buying many size 10 and 12 spanners. Keep a set in your
car for emergencies.
ROWSA: The sport governing body for rowing in South Africa
Rudder: The cox uses the rudder
to steer the boat.
Scull (discipline): There
are two types of rowing: Scull and Sweep. Sculling is when one rower uses two
blades. Hence – sculler. It’s also used to describe the type of boat.
Slide: The slide are the
runners on which the seat sits. Going up the slide is the term used to describe
the recovery section of the stroke. You’ll hear a lot of, “Slower up the slide!”
Split: The split time is the amount of force applied to each stroke. You
want this to be consistent and not jump up and down.
Spoon: The end of the blade
that goes into the water.
Square or squaring: The rower
will swivel the blade from feathered to squared. Squared is at a 90-degree
angle to the water and where it should be for the catch.
Stroke: Here’s another of
those wonderful terms that mean multiple things. 1. The cycle of the rowing
motion – the square, catch, drive, finish, release, feather and recovery. 2.
The rower who sits closest to the stern and sets the pace. 3. Another way of
saying the rate.
Stroke Coach: This
expensive piece of equipment allows a rower or crew to keep the rate and split
consistent during practice. Someone should make an app for this.
Stroke side: As a rower
this is the right, or starboard of the boat. For a cox it’s the left. It’s also
used as a blanket term for all the rowers on the left of a sweep.
Sweep: In a sweep boat,
each rower only uses one blade – in pairs, fours and eights.
Tie-downs: These are used
to tie-down the boats on the trailer. They will go missing with startling
regularity. If you have your own boat, buy your own and guard them with your
Trestles: These are the
portable stands used at regattas to rest the boat on.
Tri-suit: You will buy a
lot of these in all sorts of shades and combinations. The most important one
will be your school tri-suit. This makes it easy to see what school is in what
boat on the water. It becomes confusing when so many are black and white.