Rowing recreation

Local club seeks to get people involved

Marquette Pilot Gig Rowing Club members and a few last-minute participants help lower the Lark boat off a trailer and down to the water. Every Monday evening, the public is invited by the club to experience the joys of rowing at the Marquette Yacht Club. No experience, special gear or fees are required to participate. (Journal photo by Corey Kelly)

MARQUETTE– Row, row, row your boat swiftly down the lakeshore. Every Monday evening the public can experience the joys of rowing a 32-foor Cornish pilot gig boat, launched in the waters near the Marquette Yacht Club.

All the necessary equipment to get out on Lake Superior is provided by the Marquette Pilot Gig Rowing Club. Participants just have to show up.

“The learning curve is really short,” club Director Mike Potts said. “It doesn’t take any special training or special clothing. It’s a safe boat; we can go out in virtually any weather.”

A few years ago, Potts was approached by community organizers to build a 30-foot Mackinaw boat, which has historical significance in the Great Lakes region. Potts liked the idea but wasn’t sold on building the heavy and hard-to-operate vessel.

“They are difficult to use and maintain. It would have been more like a museum piece,” Potts said. “We needed something to do with it after it was built. We needed a way to use the boat and maintain it.”

A crew of eight sets out on the Lark. (Journal photo by Corey Kelly)

Potts suggested a Cornish pilot gig, a traditional six-oared rowing boat. The gig is similar in appearance to the Mackinaw and shares a similar history, but is easier to handle. Today, it is used all over the world for sport.

Potts and a handful of volunteers spent five years constructing the boat called the “Lark.”

“We wanted a boat that was seaworthy so people felt comfortable because Lake Superior is a little intimidating,” he said. “We wanted to offer something to people that was safe — that an average person could row — so that every time you went rowing you could be successful and have a good time.”

This summer the club is involved in regatta races around the Upper Peninsula. In September, the Lark will be a part of the Munising Regatta, held in conjunction with the third annual Great Lakes Mackinaw Boat Symposium. The two-day event will have lectures, talks and hands-on activities. The regatta will be a traditional small-boat gathering involving rowing and sailing. Event location and other details are being worked out at this time.

Competing is not a requirement to participate in the Marquette club, but it is encouraged.

Rowing club member Bryan Delein, front left, steadies the bow as other club members wait for direction. (Journal photo by Corey Kelly)

“It’s pretty informal at this point, I hope one day that we have something a little more formal,” Potts said. “Right now, I am just excited to get people out on the boat. It was all built by volunteers labor and donations. I just want to give that back to the community. The intent was that it’s community-built and a community-used boat.”

The club meets until mid-October when the Marquette Yacht Club removes its docks for the winter. For more information, visit the Marquette Pilot Gig Rowing Club’s Facebook page.

Corey Kelly can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 243. Her email address is ckelly@miningjournal.net.