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Lots of boats come to Oriental, some tie up at the Town Dock for a night or two, others drop anchor in the harbor for a while. If you've spent any time on the water you know that every boat has a story. The Shipping News on TownDock.net brings you the stories of the boats that have visited recently.

Lewis Colam
Rowing From Miami To New York
June 20, 2012
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A
small craft advisory was in effect one day in late April. Winds were forming white caps on the Neuse River near Oriental. Fisherman Keith Bruno didn’t venture out that morning because of the conditions. But his guest did.

Keith Bruno helps Lewis Colam push off from Endurance Seafood. The creek there was calm as glass, but rougher waters awaited on the Neuse River that morning..

Lewis Colam got in to his 15-foot boat at Endurance Seafood, near Pecan Grove Marina, and began rowing. He was a man on a mission — Miami to New York — and anxious to be on his way north. He rowed and rowed, aiming to put in a 10 or 20 mile day.

Lewis Colam rows north during a small craft advisory on April 26.

The conditions didn’t allow that. A mile in to that day’s journey, a wave swamped his heavily-laden light-weight rowing scull near the entrance to Whittaker Creek. It would be another three days before Lewis Colam would leave Oriental.

From There to Here and Here To There

How he came to be in Oriental in the first place is a story that began last fall. Lewis says he was working as a management consultant for a retail grocer in London. 24 years old, he says he was looking for an adventure, doing something he hadn’t done before. The Plymouth native also wanted to raise money for a charity, and to to do this without encountering cold weather. It had to be in a place warmer than an English winter.

Lewis Colam.

He’d seen his girlfriend’s grandmother suffer from Alzheimers, and decided to raise funds for the Fisher Center For Alzheimer’s Research Foundation. His experience on boats was pretty much being on the occasional ferry and despite not liking to swim, he decided to take to water. He’d row a boat, which met his criteria of something he’d not done before. His warm winter route would be the ICW between Miami and New York. (It was that or New Zealand, he says, but he recalled a trip he’d made to the southern US —from Tennessee to Texas — a few years earlier and wanted to return to this part of the world.)

Lewis Colam at Keith Bruno’s Endurance Seafood. He made repairs to the boat there, namely fixing a hole created days earlier when the rowing boat ran in to a metal rod on the ICW near the SC border.

Lewis gave notice within a day or two at his job. He packed up his London flat, and two months later, he was in Florida where Little River Boatworks was giving him a boat to row.

He took off on March 3 without a compass or even charts, just pointing the boat in a direction he thought was north. He says he had to ask sometimes. He eventually got a chart book, tearing out a page at a time for his day’s travel and then throwing it away once he completed that length.

He had been at it for almost two months and was more than halfway in to his 1400 mile row when he pulled up to Keith and Marianne Bruno’s yard at Endurance Seafood on April 24. He had some repairs and retrofits to make and was anxious to resume his trip after a day on land.

Rowing off of the Oriental waterfront.

As it would turn out, he spent four days in Oriental and we caught up with him for a few moments to talk about his trip to that point:

“Either Boring or Dramatic”

After a month and a half, he said he still has to think about which side of the boat is port and which starboard. But he came to realize one thing of being on a boat:

“It’s either boring or dramatic.” He discovered that as he was trying to capture some of the voyage on video. “If it’s boring, I don’t think to record it and if it’s dramatic I’m trying not to capsize. Seems to go from one to the other very quickly.”

Small boat, wide river. Lewis Colam approaching Whittaker Point. His rowing boat would swamp near there, and another repair became necessary, putting off his departure for three days.

“The whole thing is very slow. Sometimes uneventful,’ he says of life at 3 miles an hour. “It’s amazing to see things, just to be living a slower life. I’ve seen lots of wonderful nature.”

That said, it wasn’t a solitary Walden experience he was after.

Encountering – Not Fleeing — Society

“The main reason I’m doing this isn’t to get away from society and back in to nature. It’s like the complete opposite. It’s to meet more people, to meet as many people as possible.. really have that human interaction.”

“The best thing about doing these things is getting a chance to meet people you’d never meet. If you went on holiday you’d stay in a hotel, eat in a restaurant. You’re not meeting local people.”

Along the way, strangers have taken him in and given him a comfortable bed in their homes for the night, as was the case at the Brunos’. (It was someone he met in Wilmington who put him in touch with the family in Oriental.)

Keith Bruno goes through the basics of the bowline. (Lewis says he didn’t know knots going in to this trip.)

“When you see someone’s house.. it’s just interesting to see how people are living on the other side of the world.”

But there have been stretches of the trip where he’s gone 3 to 4 days without seeing anyone at all.

Moby Dick and the ICW

“Something I didn’t absorb in England is that 100 miles on the map with no development may not sound a lot but when it comes to it, when you row 3 miles per hour that can be four days.”

The challenge he’s faced is carrying enough food and water. “I carry everything I need on the boat.”

The handle of an oar on the boat, after hundreds of miles up the East Coast.

The boat is a light 100 pounds, but with his stores of food and clothing and gear, the weight doubles. When he has to, he’s used the boat as his bunk for the night, removing the rowing seat and stretching out in the middle of the boat. For protection from the elements he says, he put a “canvas sheet” over the open area.

Another challenge during those long days of rowing, he says, is “to make sure you don’t go insane.” How does he combat that? Lewis says he’s been listening to audio books.

“I finished Moby Dick two days ago and I just started “Nicholas Nickleby” – Charles Dickens – which is nice. It’s good. I mean I would never read a Dickens at home, cos it’s just too long.”

Not so with the audio book version.

“It must be abridged. It takes 3 hours. I start at 6 in the morning, by 9 I’m finished. It zooms by.”

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Posted Wednesday June 20, 2012 by Melinda Penkava


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