You just launched for practice. On your clipboard is the perfect practice plan.
Healthy lineups sit in a fleet of singles before you. Gorgeous rowing weather is all around.
Then…your engine stops. It won’t start.
You try and try to get the motor going. You curse. You pray. But it refuses to start.
You grab your paddle and inch your way back to the dock, creeping along as your rowers waste time—valuable time.
Then a few days later…
You are having a wonderful practice…things are splendid.
Suddenly…you notice a police boat behind you …the officer is telling you to stop.
“Where is your registration?” he asks. “Your life jackets, your sound device?”
As he writes you a ticket your rowers sit…wait…missing yet another chance to get better.
No one wants to lose practice opportunities
…especially to coaching launch issues that are preventable.
It’s amazing how many coaches don’t bother to make sure their coaching launch is ready for success… until there’s an issue.
THEN the launch gets the attention it deserves—usually way too late.
Do yourself a Big. Fat. Favor.
Get your launch ready for success. Here’s exactly what I mean by SUCCESS: invest time, effort, money so you have a coaching launch that is:
- mechanically fit
- meets regulations
- is safe
- fits your coaching style
You need all four of those. Not just one. Not two. And not-I’ve-got-three. You need ALL four!
Point blank…this is not just about having a productive practice. This is about reducing injuries. Avoiding headaches. Saving money. Being a positive example.
And not destroying your back from tugging hundreds-of-times on the pull-cord of a motor that has absolutely no intention of starting.
That’s what I mean by success
To help you get there I’m going to recommend 12 critical actions for you to take. Do each—they are based on things I learned the hard way. They are best to do before the season starts, but if you are already rowing then do them now.
Coaching launch maintenance is important (scratch that…CRITICAL). Lets you get to success.
Step 1. Get your coaching launch mechanically ready
A lot goes into having a coaching launch that runs well…day…after day…after day. Like a car, a coaching launch needs regular maintenance. Too often it doesn’t happen.
Sure, good excuses abound—but your launch doesn’t care about your excuses. Instead, your coaching launch DEMANDS regular and methodical attention. And it will let you know if it is not getting it.
For this step here are three actions to focus on:
Action 1) Outboard motor: Get the motor serviced. The manufacturer prescribes how often it should happen. Follow that schedule closely. Call your local outboard motor shop. Trailer the launch and make a delivery. Or if that won’t work, have them come to you.
Ask the mechanic to tank-test the motor, tune it up, and give it a prop check. And if your prop uses shear pins ask if they should be replaced, or at least pick up a few spare ones to put in your tool box.
Action 2) Gas tank & hose: Have the mechanic test your gas hose and tank(s). Those items wear and break so you need to make sure they work, and are clean on the inside. (Don’t wait for your first practice to do this.)
When the launch is ready, get a full supply of oil that you’ll need for your rowing season. (If you mix gas and oil, you’ll probably need 50:1. If you don’t mix, get the amount of oil you need.) Stash it safely. Motor oil has a way of walking off.
Action 3) Launch hull: What’s the condition of your hull (inside and out)? Does your launch need:
- bottom paint?
- seats repaired?
- holes patched?
- interior cleaned?
Those repairs can take longer than you think so it’s best to do them now—in the middle of season there won’t be time.
Those three actions (outboard motor service, tank & hose checked, and keeping your hull in good shape) will go a long way to keeping your launch ready and willing when you need it.
Step 2. Check your coaching launch registration & insurance
For this step here are three actions to focus on:
Action 4) Registration: On most public waterways a motorized boat will need to be registered. It’s upon the operator to make sure the registration is updated and properly displayed. If you are unsure what this entails, contact your local authorities since they can vary by location.
Keep any boat registration cards handy and in an easily accessible place. A copy on your phone is probably a good idea.
I have been pulled over twice, checking the bow numbers on my launch and my registration. In both instances everything was updated and that saved me tickets and fines.
Action 5) Insurance: Is your launch insured? Many aren’t, but it might be worth considering if yours isn’t.
Step 3: A safe coaching launch
A launch and safety go hand-in-hand. Here are four actions to take:
Action 6) Paddle. When your launch stops running—as it invariably will despite your best efforts—how will you get to safety? You’ll use your paddle, right? Where exactly is your paddle?
I can’t tell you how often coaches fib and say, “Oh yeah, there’s a paddle in the launch,” when that paddle is stashed somewhere in the boathouse in a pile of junk or in the trunk of their car.
Before you reach for your paddle in time of need, locate it. Write your name on it. And then stick the paddle in the launch. And every time before you shove away from the dock make sure there is a paddle is in the launch with you.
Action 7) Launch lights. Let’s talk about being in the dark, specifically rowing in the dark.
Several times per year (or more often than that) most of us find ourselves rowing in low light. Or in fog. Times when we need to have lights for the launch and shells. I’ve seen too many coaches brush off the importance of lights, or just wing it…y’know…like using one flash light for a launch and four eights.
This is a critical safety issue.
If you row in low-light times, or in fog, you must have lights. And lights that meet regulations. So, first of all, find out what the regulations are for where you row. Then get the launch lights you need. Then, since you are on a roll…get lights for each shell. Several manufacturers make reliable and durable lights. Search them out and get what you need.
Action 8) PFDs. Know the requirement for PFDs, meet it, and stay compliant. I’m of one mind about having and wearing life jackets. YOU do what YOU must but I can share that I know of three coaching-friends who would have probably drowned had they not been wearing their life jackets. I’m very grateful they were.
Action 9) Communications. When you are miles away from home on an isolated stretch of water, how are you going to reach out when something goes wrong (and something will go wrong)? Your communication device (phone or radio, or better yet…BOTH) needs to be in good working order and fully charged before each time on the water.
And don’t forget a sound generating device. Bring a whistle…the batteries never run down!
Step 4: Set up your coaching launch to fit your coaching style
Action 10) Your coaching style. You have a physical style of coaching you are comfortable with. Are you the coach who must drive, coach, time and do everything under the Sun? Or do you prefer to just coach and have someone do the driving and other things?
Do you prefer coaching standing up, or sitting? Coaching from one side only, or all over the place?
I am most coaching comfortable, and at my best/safest, not driving and sitting in the front of the launch, coaching the boats from all sides.
If you know your preferences then set up your launch for you. Be comfortable, be safe and you’ll coach your best.
And here are two bonus actions to consider:
Action 11) Lock it up. You know what sucks…getting ready for an early morning practice, walking down to the dock to put things in your launch, and discovering your launch is missing. Like gone.
If you keep your motor attached to the launch, is it securely attached? Locked on so only the right person at the right time can remove it. Small outboards hanging off a launch transom parked off a remote dock are prime targets for thieves. And is the launch secured? And the gas tanks and hoses?
A word to the wise from someone who has had two launches stolen from him—lock it up.
Action 12) A dry launch. Launches are great at collecting rainwater. Unless you have set up an automatic/electric bilge pump, or you have a self-bailing launch, someone is going to be doing some bailing. Get it done before practice starts. Coaching WHILE bailing is no fun.
All these coaching launch maintenance actions may seem like little things but you and I both know that in this sport little things matter greatly.
Keeping your launch healthy, safe and comfortable for you will go along way to helping your practices be more productive.