An Oar in the Water

One day last fall, my neighbour invited me out onto the canals of Amsterdam. It was her and her twin sister’s birthday, so we packed some decent cheese, a bit of homemade bread and a good bottle of wine and headed out on a boat for the afternoon. Ever since then, we’ve been thinking about seeing the city from a different vantage point. She’s been living in Amsterdam for twenty years, and I’ve been here for six and a half, so it’s about time for both of us.

We decided to take a rowing course, not in one of those fancy, serious clubs with initiation fees in the five figures, but one run by the city, around the corner from us, on the Amstel River.

Every Sunday morning for the last eight weeks (barring a couple of weeks when the Amstel froze over), we’ve set out in a four-man boat to haul ourselves and down the river.

For the moment, we’re not really good enough to enjoy seeing the city from a lower, water-based perspective, and our equally humourless instructor won’t pause long enough for me to take a picture of the view while sitting in the boat. We only have time to concentrate on our strokes and rhythm – anyone who’s rowed knows how precarious the boat can be if one person is a second off on their timing.

But once we get better, maybe my neighbour and I will be able to laugh mid-stroke, or let our eyes wander up for a glimpse inside the houseboats that line the canals, gain a new understanding of the layout of the city, and appreciate the landscape of water in Amsterdam. For now, it’s still work, but I’m hoping we’ll be able to turn it in to play soon.