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Transporting Rowing Equipment: Over-invest Today To Do It Safely Tomorrow
July 11, 2020
Mike Davenport,

Following is another excerpt from Mike Davenport's posts designed to help rowing folks make the most of this downtime in the sport, as well as keep their programs on the water at any time; read the full article at Transporting Rowing Equipment: Over-invest Today To Do It Safely Tomorrow.

First, I heard the sound. It was sickening.

Looking in my rear-view mirror I saw the shell just as it came off the trailer, snapped in two, and crashed to the road.

It'd been a heck of a day and it just got worse. Much worse.

I left the boathouse at 4 am and drove through pouring rain to the race course

We battled rain and cold through the entire day. When we left the course to go home we were soaked. Frozen. And with marginal racing results to show for our efforts.

We had just moved 50 people hundreds of miles, got them on and off the water safely, and now just miles from home a rowing shell had died on my watch.

One battered-ego later we figured out what happened

Since we left the course we had been driving into a stiff-and-gusting crosswind. An older boat strap holding the bow of the boat couldn't take the stress and it snapped.

The wind then shoved the bow off the trailer. The stern boat strap, a new one, held tight. The sickening sound I heard was the boat breaking at the good strap.

It was a mess but thankfully no one was hurt.

To help keep something like that happening to you here are three questions you need answer

Transporting rowing equipment safely requires you to over-invest. What I mean by over-invest is thoughtfully, critically, and methodically to get the equipment ready for travel.

Over-investing Question # 1: Is your transporting vehicle ROAD-ready?

Here are six different areas to dig into:

A) Tires

B) Brakes and bearings

C) Lights

And while your at it, check to make sure your flags are abundant and prepared. Each shell should have one, on trailer or car top. The improvement in visibility of having lights and flags is huge (notice that this trailer does NOT have its running lights working).

D) Trailer Hitch/Connector

E) Insurance

F) Plates and registration

For info on trailer regulations, read this excellent post by the late Mark Schofer.

Over-Investing Question #2. Is your vehicle EQUIPMENT-ready?

A road-ready vehicle is one thing. An equipment-ready vehicle/trailer is even better. A few critical items to check:

G) Racks and pads

H) Other Equipment Storage:

The bottom deck of a trailer gets no respect. And what about that storage box you throw all your gear in?

I) Boat Straps

Over-investing Question #3: Is your DRIVER ready?

Someone has got to drive the stuff... are they ready? Don't under-estimate (NEVER under-estimate) the power and impact of this. Your equipment and lives (I'm not kidding here) depend on it.

I was standing at a race one day, getting ready to go home when I overheard a conversation between two coaches. The head coach told his assistant (who self-professed OUT LOUD that he had never... EVER... driven a trailer) to go, and hook up the truck to the trailer and then "drive that beast home." Then the head coach spun around and tool off—leaving a bewildered assistant in his wake to fend for himself.

I was dumbfounded... to put it mildly.

A fully loaded shell trailer is longer than most tractor trailers. It's a challenging monster to drive. A car-top with a double has a very dangerous overhang. Both vehicles take SKILL, PATIENCE, and a confident driver to navigate safely on highways full of distracted drivers and numerous challenges.

Add to that a layer of exhaustion from race day and a disaster can be just around the corner—literally.

Now is the time to train drivers.

All this might sound over-whelming, heck it IS over-whelming. But it's all critical. It's a big... scratch that... HUGE responsibility transporting rowing equipment.

A few suggestions, things that I do, when getting things ready to roll:

  • Make a paper checklist, and check off items as you go. Scribble notes as needed
  • Bring a co-worker. Yes, misery loves company, but many hands (and brains) will also make all these actions easier, and dare I add, more effective
  • Bring a camera/phone and take pictures of questionable items, broken things, important numbers and pieces of paper
  • The little stuff counts…all the stuff counts…so take your time, make it right

In the end, stuff... bad stuff... can still happen. But by over-investing today (right now!) you are going to reduce the odds (greatly I might add) that you end up having a bad (or much worse) story to tell than mine.

To learn more about rigging and equipment care, check out Mike's site, sign up for his newsletter, or consider a consult (or one of his books) at

During these unprecendented times, row2k is working hard to keep rowing coming to you; please help us keeping it coming by supporting our work!


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