CHESTERTOWN -- As soon as their four-week Learn-to-Row class ended, Patricia and Vic Pfeiffer, Josh Gannon and Bobbi Pippin were back at the Washington College boathouse on the banks of the Chester River on a Saturday morning, ready to row in long, sleek shells as members of the Chester River Rowing Club.
“It's harder than it looks, but it's great fun,” Patricia Pfeiffer said as she and her husband got ready to carry a pair of single-seat shells to the water.
“I've found a new sport with new lingo, I'm using new muscles and, best of all, I've made new friends,” Vic Pfeiffer added.
Pippin, meanwhile, was ready to help lift a 60-foot long eight-seat shell from a boat rack, hoist it onto her shoulder, and carry it down to the water with more experienced teammates. Delighted that she has found a sport she plans to enjoy for a long time, she said, “I finally accomplished something I've been wanting to do for years.”
And Gannon, a lanky teenager with a long, strong stroke, had been tapped to join the crew in a quad. He smiled mischievously and said, “It's the 'funnest' thing to do on the water.”
Then off they went, down the gravel path to the launch dock and out into the river.
In all, six men and eight women, from teenagers to 60-somethings, completed the two-sessions-a-week class – plus an optional row on Saturday mornings. About half of the class immediately joined the club so they can continue to row as often as they like.
The class included one married couple, the Pfeiffers, and a mother and her son, Joyce and Noah Jones.
Under the tutelage of Caren Saunders, a Washington College rowing coach since 2001 and a Kent County High School history teacher, the novices started out learning the basic stroke in the indoor rowing tank at the boathouse. After one or two tank sessions, Saunders shifted her “classroom” to the river, where the novices learned to handle both kinds of shells: sculls, where each rower handles one oar in each hand, and sweep boats, where each rower handles one larger oar with both hands.
The graduates are Charlyn Fisher, Andrea Fowler, Ron Friedhoff, Josh Gannon, Joyce Jones, Noah Jones, Amy Nisonger, Eva Parchuke, Patricia Pfeiffer, Vic Pfeiffer, Bobbi Pippin, Jenny Randolph, Pat Thompson and Melody Twigg.
“Every class is good and every class is different,” said Dinah Riordan, who has been racing ever since she learned to row in the club's novice class 10 years ago. “This class, though, had a special chemistry,” Riordan added. “I was really impressed with their energy and commitment. They're a great bunch of people, and it's super that so many have decided to stick with it.”