I live in Pune which is surrounded by rivers like Mula, Mutha, Pavana, and few dams built on them around the city, also creates nice water bodies. This is monsoon season, and it has been raining particularly heavily this year. The rivers in the city are swollen now, which is a great sight. Anyways, due to these rivers, boating as a sport is, certainly, not new to the city. Pune’s premier engineering college College of Engineering, Pune(COEP) has its own boat club(which is nearing completing 100 years of its existence), and the other famous boat club is British era Royal Connaught Boat Club, which got established 1868. CEOP’s annual boat festival is called Regatta, which is quite famous. It happens in March every year. The other notable boat club is by National Defense Academy(NDA) at Peacock Bay, off Khadakwasla dam. It is also more than 50 year old facility at picturesque location on the backwaters of the dam, for sailing, rowing, yachting etc.
I got exposed more closely sports involving boats during my trip to Lakshadweep back in 2001. That is where I met Dr Vishwas Yewale who has been avid sportsman on water. We had plenty of chats on the sport. In fact, he also explained many details of a typical sail boat, as we happened to see one on the banks of one of the islands in Lakshadweep. Later he went on founding unique sail boat expedition called Jaldindi between Alandi to Pandharpur. I even tried kayaking in the blue shallow waters of the seas off Lakshadweep
During my one of my trips to Philadelphia, I happened to USA’s largest urban park called Fairmount Park situated off the river Schuylkill. I saw boating club, boathouses during the visit. During my last visit, I accidentally met the author of the book detailing the history of this boathouse row. The titled of the book is Boathouse Row: Waves of Change in the Birthplace of American Rowing and author’s name is Dotty Brown.
It so happened that, I went to Rittenhouse Row Spring Festival middle of May this year, on one weekend in Philadelphia. During the walk, I came across a shop, seemingly a book store, named Shakespeare & Co. Being a book lover, I got curious and stepped inside. I saw a notice about an event which was to happen in next few minutes, which titled Meet the Author-Dotty Brown. I choose to stay back and attend the event. To my surprise no one turned up for that event which was to take place on mezzanine floor on the shop.
The author herself was there. We started chatting. She was to talk about said book. It was so great talking to her and sharing my experience with her about my visit to Fairmount Park, and also hearing from her about the making of the book. The rower herself, I could see passion on her face about the history and the sport itself. I thought I was very lucky to meet this cheerful author of the book that day. The book also has been done nicely. A coffee-table style book, with lot of bygone era photos and details of the history through the years, and also about various people(such as painter Thomas Eakins, Olympics medal winner rower John B Kelley Sr) associated with this Boathouse Row, in some or the other way.
During the conversation with Dotty Brown, I happened to learn from her about the book The Boys in the Boat, which has chronicled the history and events around USA winning gold medal in Berlin Olympics in 1936 in the row boating sport. The book is written by Daniel James Brown. I got curious. The book had a similar title to that of humorous boat trip book called Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K Jerome which I had read long time back. I reached out for that book in the same book store. The winning team of USA in that Olympics came from Seattle’s University of Washington(UWash) boat club. I was quite delighted. My next stop was going to be at Seattle during that trip of USA, and incidentally, I was to stay in University District itself. I decided to visit boat club in UWash in Seattle once I land there.
The UWash itself it situated off Lake Washington. When checked it on the web, I found that there is a museum of this feat of their crew in that Olympics. But to my bad luck, the guided tour to museum was not available the day during my 3 week visit to Seattle. I did visit surrounding Huskies stadium, and many other buildings of beautiful UWash campus(more about all that in another blog later). It was summer time so I noticed many in the waters of lakes (Lake Washington, Montlake Cut), around the campus, having fun with boats during sprint/summer time. Great sight! I, of course, promised to myself, to visit the museum during my next trip.
Anyways, coming back to India! One of the famous boat race sport in India is Kerala’s Vallam Kali which has long history, which happens during festival of Onam(typically in the month of September). Visiting Kerala during that time to see it, in on my bucket list!