Safety Manual


Before the Row

On the Water

Emergency Conditions

After the Row

About this Manual

Safety Committee

Chain of Command

Safety Responsibilities

  • All Members
  • Safety Committee and Coaches
  • Rowers
  • Coxswains and Scullers


Medical and Emergency Information

Equipment Maintenance

Practice Cancellation

Usage of Club Rowing Equpment

Rowing Shell Equipment

Floatation Devices

Safety/Coaching Launch

  • Usage
  • Training
  • Equipment

Safety Communication Equipment

  • Two-way Radios
  • Backup Cellular Phones

Maps/Directions/Phone Numbers

Club Practice Course Map

General Waterway Traffic Rules

Capital Rowing Club Waterway Traffic Patterns

  • General Rules
  • Launching/Landing Area
  • Traffic Pattern

Weather Conditions

  • General
  • Tides and River Level
  • Wind
  • Fog
  • Lightning
  • Hot and Cold Weather

Lighting Conditions

Water Temperature


Swimming Test


  • General
  • Cold Weather
  • Hot Weather

Safety Checklist


Warm Up

Safety in the Boat

Additional Safety Responsibilities for Coxed Boats

  • Coxswains
  • Crews

Weather Conditions

  • General
  • Wind
  • Fog
  • Lightning

Running Aground

Lost Skeg

Broken Equipment




Man Overboard

Rower Injured

Shell Damaged and Not Sinking

Shell Swamped

Shell Capsized

Shell Broken and Sinking

Another Boat in Distress

Emergency Actions Plan

Cold Weather

  • Hypothermia
  • Cold Water Emersion

Hot Weather

  • Hyperthermia
  • Dehydration
  • Heat Exhaustion
  • Heat stroke

Cool Down

Incident/Damage Reports


APPENDIX 1: Practice Course Map

APPENDIX 2: Coach’s On the Water Emergency Action Plan

Before the Row

About this Manual

This manual was created to communicate basic club safety guidelines. Appendix 2 of this manual contains Emergency Action Plans for coaches that should be used in conjunction with the entire contents of this manual.

Safety Committee

The Safety Committee is comprised of the club President, the Vice-President of Resources, the Program Representatives and the Webmaster.

Chain of Command

The senior coach present will assume command in the event of an emergency and will direct and control operations until the arrival of appropriate authorities. At that time, this coach will identify themselves to the authorities and continue to liaise with authorities and direct Capital RC personnel accordingly.
Inexperienced operators or improperly equipped individuals will not be allowed on the water during an emergency situation.

Safety Responsibilities

All Members

Familiarize themselves with all the contents of this safety manual, and any other additional rules, safety guidelines and notices Capital RC provides.

Follow all of the Capital RC and Anacostia River rules, at all times.

Follow the instructions of Capital RC coaching staff, coxswains and Safety Committee.

All new rowers and coaches in Capital rowing programs will receive written instruction in safety procedures prior to involvement in rowing. In addition, all rowers and coaches will attend a review session of rules and safety procedures at the commencement of their season/program.

All new rowers training in Capital RC rowing programs will be informed and made aware of the rivers feature’s including safe beaching locations, danger spots, obstructions and other safety hazards, prior to their involvement in rowing.

Safety Committee and Coaches

Hold annual safety meetings with all participants.

Have all members view the US Rowing safety video, “Ready All Row” r prior to rowing with Capital.

Maintain rowing equipment with safety in mind, unsafe equipment should be prominently marked and removed from use.

Post local safety rules and traffic patterns at the compound.

Provide copies of safety rules available on the web site.

Provide access to electronic copies of the safety rules and emergency procedures.

Provide working, reliable safety equipment such as radios, noisemakers, flotation devices etc.

Establish and discuss the emergency action plan to be followed in the event of an emergency. All coaches and rowers should know what to expect and how to respond.

Know first aid and resuscitation techniques, including CPR.

Know where telephones are located near the water.

Become a member organization of US Rowing to receive copies of current publications and safety information.

On the water the Coach to rower ratio shall never exceed 1:27 for experienced masters rowers and 1:19 for Novice and Junior rowers.


All rowers must complete the online registration form and complete the US Rowing safety waiver for each year. On the registration form, the rower must note any medical conditions that might affect their ability to row and any special needs in the event the rower requires medical attention.

Scullers shall properly fill out the logbook prior to an outing and follow the Capital RC Sculling Guidelines as well as the contents of this manual.

Physical Conditioning/Health
Capital RC recommends that new or returning rowers should consult a physician before starting any form of exercise, including rowing.

The rower should notify their respective program coach and coxswains if they have any medical condition that could impair their ability to row or that requires special attention.

All members with special medical/health conditions shall take precautionary medications in the boat with you while rowing (i.e. asthma inhalers).

Coxswains and Scullers

All coxswains and scullers should learn the hazards and traffic patterns of the Anacostia and Potomac Rivers.

Stay clear of bridge abutments, barges and other man made or natural obstacles. Do not turn near any such obstacles.

Make frequent checks on both sides of the boat and to the rear and listen for other river traffic.


All rowers and coaches must be cleared by the VP of Membership, with all necessary paperwork; insurance information must be included for any rower to participate. This insurance information will be kept with the team at all times (in the medical kits that are at the boathouse and travel with the team to competition.) Coaches’ insurance information should also be included in case of emergency.

Capital Rowing Club -Vehicle insurance cards must be with Transportation Capitan for any and all team travel, this includes but is not limited to trailer and tow vehicle and college vans.

Medical and Emergency Information

The Safety committee in conjunction with the club VP for Membership shall collect and keep copies of the following information for each member at the boathouse and travel with the team to regattas:

• Known medical Conditions that affect rowing
• Allergies
• Personal Medical Insurance Company and Number
• Emergency Contact Information
• Current CPR/First Aid Training Qualifications

Equipment Maintenance

The equipment will be maintained in the best possible way to insure athlete safety and water safety as well as to insure the prevention of injuries to the rowers. Any and all damage must be reported to the head coach as soon as possible. Failure to report correct issues with the equipment could risk athlete safety and is unacceptable.
A fall and spring safety audit will be conducted by the VP of Operations. This will include the safety and workability of all team rowing equipment, as well as an inventory of all safety equipment in launches as well as at the boathouse. Any needed equipment or repairs will be done as needed.

Practice Cancellation

The President, Vice Presidents and coaches have final say on whether conditions are safe for rowing for all members using Capital RC equipment.

The Head Coach of each program present at the time in consultation with the other Head Capital program coaches present and the present members of the Safety Committee will make all final decisions about appropriate rowing weather conditions. That being said, no assistant coach will make a decision about appropriate launching conditions. All coaches will use their best judgment and to insure the safety of the rowers, they and all Capital R C equipment.

No crew coaches will launch during these listed weather advisories: SCA (Small Craft Advisory); Wind Storm Advisory, Lightening Storm Advisory, and any other questionable weather conditions, including rapid current or flooding advisories.

Usage of Club Rowing Equipment

Racing shells are designed to be used in protected waters under ideal conditions and under the supervision of an experienced coach.

Sculling boats can only be used in accordance with the Capital RC Sculling Guidelines.

Rowing Shell Equipment

All boats must be equipped with the following:

  • Bow balls
  • Quick-release shoes with Velcro closure and heel tie-downs.
  • A sound making device (i.e. horns or whistles).
  • Shells being rowed in the dark must be equipped with lights.

Floatation Devices

The rowing shells and some of the individual oars have been designed to provide floatation. (Note that adjustable handle oars do not provide flotation). They are not Personal Floatation Devices (PFDs). They are only emergency floatation devices. The Safety Committee recommends that all unaccompanied boats carry Coast Guard approved PFDs. A copy of the Coast Guard Regulations concerning PFDs in rowing shells is available upon request from US Rowing.

Safety/Coaching launches are required to carry one Coast Guard approved Personal Flotation Device (PFD) per rower plus one additional PFD per rider in the launch.

All Capital RC coaches in launches are required to wear a PFD. There will be no exceptions.

Safety/Coaching Launch


The safety/coaching launch provides safety supervision when rowing and support assistance in an emergency situation.

Shells should stay “within hail” distance of their safety launch.

Number of passengers in the launch should not exceed the limit for that particular boat.

No passengers/rowers are allowed in the launches, unless special exception has been given. Launches are provided for safety and coaching only. In the event of an emergency additional passengers in the launch could represent extra shuttling time between the land and the rowers in the water, therefore this situation should be avoided.

The launch driver has the responsibility to ensure the safe operation of the launch in compliance with local and federal laws. When possible, use a trained person as the driver to allow the coach to focus attention on rowers.


The driver must be trained in the proper use and operation of the powerboat. Classes are offered through DC Harbor Patrol and the Boat US website at

Know how to have rowers enter the coaching launch from the water. Rowers in the water should be approached from the leeward side, keeping outboard propeller away from any victims. Turn off the engine as soon as contact is made. Avoid overloading.


  • Affix lights to all launches for use before sunrise or after dark.
  • Emergency blankets in a water tight container
  • Personal Flotation Devices (PFD’s) **
  • Tool kit *
  • First Aid Kit
  • Lifeline
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Flashlight
  • Bailer
  • Radio or cellular phone
  • Noise maker (whistle/air horn)
  • Towing line
  • Wrenches

*The tool kit should contain wrenches, appropriate nuts, tape, washers and other materials needed to make small repairs.
**Ensure that the launch carries a floatation device for all on board plus one for each person on the water.

Safety Communication Equipment

Two-way Radios

Capital RC provides two-way radios made by Motorola for Safety use. The Safety two way radios are provided so at the push of a button all Coaches on the water for Capital RC can be notified in case of emergency.

One Capital Rowing Club Safety Phone will be present and turned on in each Safety launch during a supervised practice.

When two coaches are on the water, each coach is responsible for maintaining contact with the other coach regarding safety, weather and location time as required.

The Coaches are responsible to replace the phones in their charging harness to insure that they will be ready for use at the next practice.

These Safety Phones will not be used for personal calls and will be used during practice for safety reasons only.


Backup Cellular Phones

At least one coach on the water must personally carry a backup cellular phone at all times.

Emergency phone numbers will be carried in each launch, will also be in each medical kit, and will be posted in the boathouse.

In the event that a coach does not have access to the cell phone or the Safety Phone fails, they must radio the other coach for immediate assistance.

Maps / Directions / Phone Numbers

Maps and directions to area hospitals will be posted in the boathouse along with all emergency phone numbers.

Written directions to the boathouse and safe beaching areas from major roadways will also be posted in the boathouse and will be carried in medical kits.

All emergency phone numbers will be posted in the boathouse and will be carried in launches. This list will include, but will not be limited to: Fire/Rescue, Coast Guard, Harbor Patrol, President, and VP Operations.

Club Practice Course Map

Capital RC rowing map can be found in the following locations:

  • under “Resource Library”

General Waterway Traffic Rules

The U.S. Coast Guard has developed right-of-way rules. Vessels with the least maneuverability have the right-of-way, but should always play it safe and take action to avoid all other types of boats. All members should familiarize themselves with shallow water, stumps, rocks, buoys, seasonal problems and landmarks.

Stay clear of bridge abutments and other man-made or natural obstacles. Do not negotiate a turn near such an obstacle. No turns should be made within 100 feet of any bridge abutments.

Be courteous to others on the water. Be aware of powerboats and treat them with respect.

Capital RC Waterway Traffic Patterns

General Rules

Stay to your starboard shore. Veer from starboard lane to avoid sandbars or other obstacles only after checking carefully for oncoming boat traffic.

Be alert at all times for oncoming traffic that may be outside of the normal traffic pattern when avoiding sandbars or other obstacles.

Right of way goes to less maneuverable boats; scullers must yield to eights and fours.

Avoid turns near bridge abutments or other obstacles that block lines of sight.

Boats shove off and approach the dock for landing while moving downstream.

The coxswain or single sculler should make frequent checks on both sides and listen for oncoming traffic.

Launching/Landing Area

Before launching and after landing, place all oars clear of the dock

After launching, paddle downstream through the downstream 11th St Bridge before either stopping to get tied in, or before turning to go upstream.

Incoming (docking) crews have right of way over launching crew.

When launching and docking, always use the most downstream section of available dock space and walk the boat down as space opens up.

Boats may not turn in front of or between the docks.

When other crews are waiting for dock space, tie in and adjust foot stretchers on the water.

Traffic Pattern

Rules for Navigating Bridge Arches for Downstream and Upstream Traffic: (Arches are numbered below starting from the Capitol Hill side of the river.)

South Capitol Street Bridge
Eight Arches
Downstream: Arches #2 through #4
Upstream: Arches #5 through #7
Downstream and upstream traffic are divided by large wooden structure on middle abutment between Arches #4 and #5.
Please avoid using arches #1, #4, #5 and #8 whenever possible.

11th Street Bridge
Five Arches
Downstream: Arches #1 and #2 (but beware of dock traffic with Arch #1)
Upstream: Arches #4 and #5 (but Arch #5 is generally very shallow)
Do not use Arch #3

Pennsylvania Avenue Bridge
Six Arches
Downstream: Arches #2 and #3 (be careful of recreational boat docks)
Upstream: Arches #5 and #6 (be careful of upstream sandbar)
Do not use Arches #4 and #1

Railroad Bridge
One Arch
Exercise caution
Only transgress arch after checking for traffic from other direction

East Capitol Street Bridge
Five Arches
Downstream: Arch #1 and west side of Arch #2
Upstream: East side of Arch #2 and Arch #3 (and #4 if passable)
At low tide, Arch #2 may be the only passable arch; exercise caution

Benning Road Bridge
Two Arches (Follow arches on road bridge, not metro bridge)
Downstream: Arches #1
Upstream: Arches #2 and #4 (and #5 and higher if water level allows.)
Be careful of docking posts and sharp turn on upstream side of bridge and Metro bridge pylons.

New York Avenue Bridge
Four Arches
Downstream: West side of Arch #2 (and #1 if passable)
Upstream: East side of Arch #2 (and Arches #3 and #4 if passable)
At low tide, Arch #2 may be the only passable arch; exercise caution
Arches #1 and #4 are often too shallow and not passable


Weather Conditions


All members should be aware of weather conditions. Check for gathering clouds, changes in wind speed and direction, temperature changes or other boats returning home before heading out.

Up to the hour weather forecasts can be found on the Capital Rowing Club web site, or by calling 202-936-1212 or by using a weather radio.

A weather radio is stored at the boathouse. All weather alerts will be given the utmost consideration before any crews are launched for practice.

No crew coaches will launch during these listed weather advisories: SCA (Small Craft Advisory). Wind Storm Advisory, Lightening Storm Advisory, and any other questionable weather conditions, including rapid current or flooding advisories.

No crews will row on water in white cap conditions.

No crews will be allowed on the water in the dark hours without appropriate lights: Stem and bow.

Tides and River Level

Be aware of the river level. Low river levels reveal submerged hazards such as sandbars. High river levels increase the speed of the currents, especially near constrictions such as between bridge abutments.


Do not row in high wind whitecaps under any circumstances.


Do not row in fog unless the visibility is at least 100 yards.


Do not row in an electrical storm.

Hot and Cold Weather

Use your judgment about rowing in hot or cold weather.

Rowing in hot weather with warm temperatures, sun exposure or high humidity poses a challenge to your body’s regulation system. If sweat is excessive and fluids are not continually replaced , dehydration may occur.

Rowing in cold weather poses potential danger for hypothermia when the water temperature is below 80 degrees and very dangerous when below 50 degrees.

Lighting Conditions

The greatest danger while rowing is collision caused by limited vision or carelessness. Great care should be taken when rowing in darkness or near-darkness. Take extra care to look and listen. Minimize conversation. Be careful not to get too close to shore or known hazards. Only row in familiar waters under these conditions.

There should be an all round white light available for each rowing shell when rowing between sundown and sunup. It should be sufficient to warn approaching vessels. It is recommended that reflective tape be placed on the top of the gunwales and splash boards.

Carry a sound-making device.

You must attach a visible red light to the bow of your shell before sunrise and after sunset. It is advisable to wear light colored tops, especially scullers, bow rowers and coxswains. A green light (either blinking or constant) marking the stern of the boat is also required.

Scullers should also wear bow red and stern white lighting on their person as back up in the event the lights fail. Please notify the VP of Operations through the repair log if lights are not working.

Water Temperature

Water temperature should always be monitored.

There are two water thermometers at the site of the Anacostia Community Boathouse: a thermometer is hanging from a string tied to each ramp down to both the upstream and downstream docks. If one has broken off its string, please report to the VP for Operations or the Small Boats Representative.

Water temperatures below 50 degrees Fahrenheit are considered extremely dangerous.


Scullers logbook: All small boats going out without must sign out in the log book posted on the wall of each compound or in the boathouse. Small boat members must list a monitor who knows when they are out on the water, when they will return and how to activate an emergency response, including calling DC Harbor Patrol (202-727-4582).

Coxswains of all Sweep boats must sign the Supervised Sweep Boat practice log book.

Swimming Test

All rowers must certify that they know how to swim.

Adults must certify by checking the appropriate box in the online registration system that they are able to swim. This certification indicates that that they are able to pass a swimming test equivalent to treading water for ten minutes and swimming 25 yards.

Capital members under the age of 18 must take a swim test and submit a swim test card every three years certified by a trained Red Cross life guard.



Clothing should be flexible, form fitting and appropriate for athletics. Loose or baggy clothing that can get caught in the slides of the seat or hooked by an oar or other parts of the boat should not be worn.

Clothing should be appropriate for the weather conditions.

Clothing should not prevent the rower from swimming if the event of an emergency.

Expensive jewelry and accessories that can be lost or caught on equipment should not be worn.

Cold Weather

Wearing several layers of clothing works best.

Polypropylene in cold weather is best next to the skin. It wicks moisture away from your skin.

Wool is the next best material in cold weather, since it also dries from the inside out.

Wearing a hat in cold weather is advisable. Heat is lost very fast from the head.

A windproof jacket / wind shirt helps to reduce wind chill.

Hot Weather

Light clothing cotton or preferably quick-drying synthetics like cool max.

Use layers

Safety Checklist

  • Each person is 100% responsible for the whole boat and 100% accountable for his own oar, rigging, foot- stretchers, seat and slides. Check to make sure that all equipment is functioning properly before leaving the dock. If you aren’t sure, ASK!
  • Nuts on the rigging, the position of your foot stretchers and the smoothness of your slide are acceptable.
  • Forward end of the slide is blunt and will not gouge your calves.
  • Rowers in front and behind you have sufficient room to complete their stroke.
  • Wear socks.
  • Seat fits your body. Adjust with seat pads or a different seat.
  • Oar is the proper size.
  • Rigging is not too high.
  • Clothing cannot become tangled in your moving seat or oar handle.
  • Proper safety devices on board.


Before ever getting into a shell on the water, a rower must understand the following terminology: bow, stern, port, starboard, “Weigh enough,” “Ready to row?,” “Row!,” “Port (or starboard) to row/starboard (or port) to back!,” “Tie in,” “Untie,” “Stop!,” the stroke, bow person, seat numbers in between, and which seat number he is in that day. The term “Stop!” should be used only when talking to a specific crew in a race. When a coxswain or coach wants a crew to stop immediately, the proper term is “Weigh enough! Hold water!”

Which seat and which side you are rowing, and whether you are in the bow or stern pair/four.

Warm Up

Land warm-up should become part of your training ritual. Before rowing, get your body up to the proper intensity by taking three minutes before you touch the boat to get your body warmed up by jogging, jumping rope or running in place. Follow that workout with seven minutes of basic stretching.
Water warm-up should be used to gradually and safely build you up to full intensity. An example would be building up gradually from no pressure “arms and back”, “1/4 slide”, “1/2 slide,” “full slide”, then adding pressure until proper workout intensity is reached.


Safety in the Boat

Rowers in multi person shells should always be quiet and attentive to the Coxswain, Coach or Program Representative.

All Capital RC members must comply with instructions given by Capital RC coaches and program representatives.

Oarlocks should be kept locked until everyone is out of the shell.

At least one hand should be kept on the oar at all times while on the water.

Turn on lights.

Close bow and stern hatches.

Additional Safety Responsibilities for Coxed Boats


The coxswain is in command of the boat at all times, and should be given complete attention and respect. The primary job of the coxswain is to safely guide the boat by steering the boat and commanding the crew.

The coxswain is responsible for following the traffic pattern at all times. The coxswain is responsible for being aware of, and avoiding other traffic, which may or may not be following the traffic pattern.

Before new coxswains go on the river in a Capital RC boat, they must be aware of the traffic patterns and Capital safety guidelines and be handed a copy of the river traffic pattern. If they have never been on the Anacostia River, a new coxswain must go out on the river in a coach’s launch to understand where the obstacles are and which bridge arches to use.

The program head coach has final authority to determine whether it is appropriate and safe for a new coxswain to take a Capital boat out on the water. Coaches of all programs must consult the Coxswain Representative and inform the Program Representative before sending a new coxswain out in a boat.

As in many programs, rowers at Capital are often needed to cox a practice. Before coxing, all rowers must become familiar with the river traffic pattern. New rowers must row with Capital for four weeks before being asked to cox a practice, to allow time to familiarize themselves with the river.


Members of a crew should not talk while the boat is moving: it makes it harder to hear commands and distracts the coxswain from their primary job: the safe guidance of the boat.
Any rower, who sees a hazard that they believe the coxswain does not see, should notify the coxswain immediately.
If any rower hears thunder he or she should notify the coach immediately. The sound of thunder is usually masked by the noise of the engine

Weather Conditions


Be aware of changing weather conditions. Watch for gathering clouds, changes in wind speed and direction, temperature changes or other boats returning home. If on the river, be aware of the tide and check the current direction (look for floating objects or kelp). See also, Emergency Action Plan, Appendix 2.


If sudden winds come up, return to the boathouse if the trip is safe, or take the boat to the nearest shore and wait for the winds to calm.


If fog sets in while on the water, move slowly and be prepared to stop quickly. In situations of poor & visibility, use sound making device (horn, whistle) to advise other boats of your location. When in fog use the following:

Shells at intervals of not more than two minutes, one prolonged blast, followed by two short blasts.

Power launches making way through the water one long blast at least every two minutes.

Power launches underway, but stopped in the water two long blasts with two seconds between blasts, every two minutes.


If you are on the water and see lightning, hear thunder or notice your hair standing on end with static electricity, head for the nearest shore. If the storm is not yet upon you, follow close to the shoreline and quickly return to the boat house. If the storm is upon you, take your boat ashore and wait for the storm to pass.

Running Aground

If you have run aground on a sandbar, stop rowing immediately at your coxswain’s command.

The coxswain should try backing out if the boat is not too far up on a sandbar. If you have become too stuck on the sandbar to back off if it, rowers will have to get out one by one on the sandbar until the boat becomes light enough to push off of the sandbar.

Rowers assisting from the water in pushing the boat off the sandbar should try to remain on shallow ground, being careful of sudden drop-offs. The rowers should then carefully get back into the shell and return the boat to the boathouse.

Once back on land, the hull of the shell should be carefully checked for damage.

Lost Skeg

If a shell has lost a skeg while on the water, the rowers must return to the dock immediately. The incident must be reported to the VP for Operations and in writing on the damage report log.

Broken Equipment

Rowers must not take out any equipment that is considered broken. Any damaged equipment should be reported immediately to the VP for Operations and in writing and on the damage report log.


All significant crabs should be reported to the VP for Operations in writing on the damage report log (list boat and seat number) located on the shed door in the north compound.


If approaching wakes are higher than the gunwale, the shell should be turned parallel to the wake to avoid having parts of the shell unsupported by the water. It is possible to split a shell under these conditions. Rowers should stop rowing and lean away from the approaching wake, with oar(s) on the wake side lifted slightly.

If wakes are lower than the gunwale and widely spaced, continue to row without a course adjustment. Closely spaced wakes that are lower than the gunwale may be taken at a 90 degree angle with the bow directly toward them.

Turning in waves is tricky; allow plenty of room, energy and time.

No wake buoys. You may wish to take the bow number (registration) of any boat violating these rules and report the incident to the DC Harbor Patrol.



Under no circumstances should a rower in the water leave his floating boat. Even if a swamped boat is within a swimming distance from the shore, the rower should swim the boat to the shore. Do not leave your floatation, even if you consider yourself a strong swimmer.

In an emergency condition, the first action to perform is stopping the boat. Someone should give the command “Weigh enough, hold water!” Don’t ask questions; just respond immediately by stopping all forward body movement. Square the blades in the water to bring the boat to a halt.

Use these distress signals to communicate to other boats: wave the arms or a shirt above your head or raise one oar in the air.

Man Overboard

Immediate command “Weigh enough, hold water!”

The stroke removes oar from the oarlock to throw to the person in the water. Note this is only for non-adjustable handled oars. Oars with adjustable handles do not provide flotation. .

Person in the water should lie across the oar and remain close to the shell.

The launch picks up the person and determines if the rower returns to the shell. Another rower may be required to enter the water to assist with first aid.

Rower Injured

Immediate command “Weigh enough!” Signal launch if first aid is needed.

Shell Damaged and Not Sinking

Immediate command “Weigh enough!” Make adjustments or signal launch for assistance.

Shell Swamped

A shell is swamped when the interior water reaches the gunwales. If rowers stay in the boat, the floatation ends may cause the boat to break apart.

If the shell is swamped or taking on excessive water, with rescue imminent:

  • Immediate command, “Weigh enough!”
  • Coxswain directs rowers to untie, signal launch and unloads rowers by pairs – starting in the middle of the boat – as soon as possible in order to avoid damage to the boat.
  • Pairs should form “buddies” and keep watch on each other. The coxswain should buddy with the stern pair.

If rescue is not imminent, take the following steps:

  • Remove oars or place them parallel to the shell. All persons should move to the two ends of the shell (it is dangerous to roll a shell when near riggers)
  • Then roll the boat to form a more stable floatation platform so rowers can either lie on top of the hull or buddies can hold onto each other across the hull
  • Do not attempt to roll the boat if rescue is on the way. Remember that body heat loss occurs 25 times faster in water.
  • A launch can shuttle rowers to the nearest shore. Be careful not to overload launch.

When the boat has been brought to shore, remove the oars. If the ends of the shell have filled with water, they must be drained before the boat can be removed from the water. Remove the shell carefully to avoid injury or damage. A boat full of water is very heavy, so try bailing first, then roll it slowly and remove it from the water.

Singles should be rowed with a “buddy” boat or launch. The rescue boat will stabilize the re-entry. Entering the shell directly from the water may cause splashboard damage. Swim the boat to shore, lying in the stern, using the shell as a paddleboard. In very cold weather you can abandon your shell and lie on the stern deck of your buddy’s boat to be taken to shore. The loss of muscle control can occur very quickly and dramatically in cold water. The stern deck rescue may be your only option.

Shell Capsized

Immediate command “Untie!” This rarely happens except in small boats. Be sure that all rowers and coxswains are accounted for. Stay with boat until assistance arrives!

Shell Damaged and Sinking

Immediate command “Untie!” Get out of the boat and follow the same procedures as for a swamped shell. Do not leave floating boat. Hold onto your oar and use it as a floatation device if boat sinks.

Another Boat in Distress

If a distress signal is seen and insufficient assistance is near that craft, maneuver your shell to the distressed boat. Attempt to summon other launches or stable boats with distress signal. Assist in any way that does not jeopardize the lives in your boat.

Emergency Action Plan

Capital RC provides an Emergency Action Plan as an Appendix to the material provided in this document. It is meant as a supplement to all the information provided in this Safety Manual.

All Coaches and coxswains are required to be familiar with and adhere to the Emergency Action Plan located in Appendix 2 as well as all the information in this manual.

Cold Weather


Occurs when a victim is subjected to cold temperatures, cold water, ice or snow. There is a potential danger for hypothermia when the water temperature is below 80 degrees and very dangerous when below 50 degrees. Call 911 (or channel 16 on VHF Radio).

If the victim is conscious, warm him or her by removing wet clothing and wrapping in warm blankets (Rub them and give warm liquids – no alcohol).
Warm them with warm blankets or the body heat of another person. Prevent the victim from losing more body heat. Do not warm extremities (see below).

If the victim is not breathing and there is no pulse, clear the air passage and begin mouth-to-mouth rescue breathing and external heart massage (CPR) IMMEDIATELY. Once you begin CPR, do not stop until medical assistance is obtained.

Don’t give up. Drowning victims may look dead. Their skin is blue and cold to the touch. There is no detectable heartbeat or breathing. The eyes are fixed and dilated, and there is no other sign of life. However, if the water was cold, there is still a good chance of survival. Even in a near-drowning, individuals must always be assessed by a medical provider.

Symptoms: Feet cold, turn bluish and shiver first, followed by numbness, apathy, lethargy, disorientation and loss of mental capacity

Action if cold and shivering:

  1. Get out of the water quickly, even on top of a capsized boat. Heat loss is 25 times greater when in the water.
  2. Huddle with others.
  3. Drown-proofing (dead man’s float) is not an acceptable survival technique. Keep as much of the body as possible out of the water.
  4. Move to shelter quickly; remove wet clothing and warm body. In mild hypothermic conditions, warm in a shower, tub or with warm blankets.
  5. Do not give any liquids to drink; treat for shock.
  6. Continue to warm and always obtain medical assistance as soon as possible.

Action if cold and shivering has stopped:

  1. Treat as above but DO NOT WARM EXTREMITIES! If victim is no longer shivering, the torso must be warmed first to avoid circulating cold blood to the heart. This can kill.
  2. Wrap the victim in a blanket and apply heat to underarms and groin area; wrap again in a separate blanket. Wrap each arm and leg separately to prevent warming.
  3. Hot packs should not be placed directly on the victim. A thick layer should be used to protect the victim’s skin from this heat source. If hot packs are not available, place the victim in a sleeping bag with a warm person.
  4. Administer artificial respiration and CPR if necessary. Always obtain medical assistance as soon as possible.

Cold Water Emersion

Be aware that in very cold water, people have survived as long as one hour under water. Recover a victim immediately and even though there may be no signs of life, begin CPR efforts until medical assistance is obtained.

When air is below 40° and/or water below 50°, keep launch within 100 yards of all shells. In these conditions, hypothermia can set in quickly.

Try to keep your head out of the water. Swimmers will retain heat best if they remain huddled with others and wear a life jacket. The body cools rapidly when swimming in water < 50°F. Remain as motionless as possible. Stay with your boat even if land appears within easy reaches; holding still in the water is preferable to swimming. Physical ability is hampered and judgment is impaired in cold water.

Use the Heat Escape Lessening Position (HELP). Help or Huddle procedure can cover areas of high heat loss and lead to increase survival time. Both methods resulted in nearly 50% increases in predicted survival time (see drawings).

“Buddy up” so that all rowers are in groups of two or three. This partnership provides a way to monitor each person and to support or assist one another in a time of emergency.

Get out of the water and onto an oar or overturned shell if you can.

Hot Weather


Occurs when there is an increase in body temperature, usually when the air temperature is above 76 degrees, and the victim is exposed to sun and heat in combination with a decrease in fluids. It may occur when a) sweat cannot easily evaporate; b) the body is being heated by the environment; c) water loss from sweat and respiration is not replaced and dehydration occurs. The following serious conditions may result:


  • Drink water before, during and after practice. During exercise, fluid intake should match fluid loss.
  • Carry drinking water in the boat when rowing.
  • Limit your time in the sun, wear a hat, and use sunscreen.Wear lightweight clothing.
  • Plan activity level consistent with the degree of heat, amount of sun exposure or humidity.
  • Do not take “salt tablets”. Consumption of sodium salt increases potassium loss. Moderate potassium depletion will cause weakness and fatigue while severe depletion can result in fatal heart irregularities.

Heat Exhaustion

  • Symptoms: Throbbing headache, nausea, cool skin, chills, sweaty, pale, rapid pulse. Impending heat exhaustion or heat stroke may not present all of these signs, Decreased athletic performance and deterioration of muscle coordination can also be indicators.
  • Action: Drink water, shade from sun, and treat for shock.

Heat Stroke

  • Symptoms: Heat Stroke is life threatening – behavior changes, unconsciousness, hot but not sweaty, flushed warm skin and rapid pounding pulse.
  • Action: Douse with cool water, shade from sun, fan, ensure that the airway is open, and always get medical assistance as soon as possible.


Cool Down

Paddle-down at the end of your workout. It is important to your health that you don’t race up to the dock. Once the boat and oars are stored, it is important to go through basic stretch exercises to heal any unnoticed sprains or strains that began during your row, thus eliminating soreness and unnecessary pain.

Incident/Damage Reports

Report any damages or maintenance that may be required.

If that crew/sculler’s log indicates that you are the last one in, turn off lights and close doors.

An Incident Report Form must be completed if any of the following occurred:

  • Person(s) overboard or swamped
  • Any personal injury
  • Any collision
  • Major damage to equipment


Wash hands (suggested)

Return all equipment to its proper place.

Information for Novice Rowers


Welcome to Capital Rowing Club!


We’re happy you decided to row with us, and we believe you will be too. Your decision to join our team and learn to row will have a positive impact on you for the rest of your life.

We are located in the Anacostia Community Boathouse at 1900 M Street, SE, Washington, DC, between the 11th St. Bridge and the Washington Navy Yard.

How To Get to the Boathouse

We are located in the Anacostia Community Boathouse. 100522-7271-edit-2


From VA: Take I-395 North across the 14th Street Bridge. Proceed past the Maine Avenue exit. Get into the LEFT lane and head towards I-295. Proceed past the South Capitol Street exit.  Take the next exit for 6th Street SE/Navy Yard. At the bottom of the ramp, go through the two lights. At the next light, make a RIGHT onto 8th Street SE. Proceed to M Street SE and take a LEFT. Go straight through the traffic lights, and continue on M St for about a mile. The boathouse is the compound with the black fence just after the construction site.  The gate is located before the boathouse itself.


From MD: Take I-295 South. Pass exits East Capital Street & Pennsylvania Avenue. Take the exit for Suitland Parkway. DO NOT GET OFF THE RAMP.  Follow the ramp around a full 360 degrees and re-enter I-295 North. Take the first exit for Washington Navy Yard & I-395.Go over the bridge and get into the right middle lane. Merge right following signs for the Washington Navy Yard, immediately after crossing the bridge.  Take the fork in the road to the right. When you get to the stop sign where the road ends, take a right onto M St.  Follow M St until you get to the boathouse on the right.  The road narrows and runs along the railroad tracks. Keep going past the Washington Yacht Club on the right. Please be careful.  The bike trail merges with the road, so you may need to make way for runners and bikers.   After you pass under the Pennsylvania Ave Bridge, you will pass a construction site.  The boathouse is the compound with the black fence just after the construction site.  The gate is located before the boathouse itself.

MetroThe nearest Metro is the Potomac Avenue Station (Blue/Orange line), a 15 minute walk. Exit the metro and turn left, walk down Potomac avenue 2 blocks, take a RIGHT on Kentucky for one block to it’s end, then take a left and walk down the hill and across the crosswalk on to the Anacostia River Trail. This is a bike path that goes over the train tracks and to the water, and you’ll see the boathouse on the water as your walking over the tracks. This is a good way to bike too!

What to wear…

Basic workout clothes are all you need – a pair of shorts (or fitted and comfortable pants), a teeshirt and sneakers work fine. Do not wear baggy and/or long shorts or long, loose shirts; they might get caught in the sliding seat while you row.


WEAR OR BRING SOCKS. You’ll want them when we get in the boats. The boats have their own shoes, so you don’t need any special footwear, but we’ll be warming up with running and calisthenics, so running shoes are a good idea.


We highly recommend a hat or visor, and sunglasses to keep the sun and glare from the water out of your eyes. The first class will be entirely on land, but after that you’ll be on the water for the better part of your class.


And, finally, it’s best to leave jewelry at home. You’ll find that anything dangly will just get in your way, and rings may give you blisters when you row.


What to bring…


Bring a water bottle, you can fill and/or refill it on site. There is room in the boat, under your legs to store water, so bring two if you get very thirsty. You will be on the water for over two hours and you will need to stay hydrated.


Sunscreen! You’ll need it, even in the spring. It’s very easy to get sunburned on the water.


That’s all you need! It’s a good idea to leave everything else at home, or in your car. The less you bring, the less you’ll need to worry about.


What to expect…


We’ll meet in front of the boathouse the first day at 9 am, so look for a crowd of people. You’ll meet your coach, the volunteer assistants, and all your novice teammates.


The first class will be on land. We’ll get you familiar with the boats, and how to handle them and carry them. We’ll also get you familiar with the rowing machine, (also known as ergometer, or, the “erg”). We’ll teach you the basics of body position on the ergs before we get on the water.


Please do not get on a rowing machine before you come down for your first coaching session. It is very easy to row incorrectly and cause an injury, especially in your back. Wait for an expert to give instructions on the proper technique.


The second class, we’ll get you out on the water in barges (large and stable) or in 8 person shells, coxed by an experienced rower. And after that, you’ll be on the water every class for most of the class. Don’t expect to get a strenuous workout during this period. You’ll be working on technique and body position and, most important of all, rowing together.


Although you won’t be working out hard, you will be working muscles in ways that are new to you, even if you work out all the time. So expect some sore muscles, especially in the beginning. Stretching is important, and we’ll devote some time to that at the beginning and the end of each class.


Also, rowing is rough on your hands in the beginning. You can expect to get blisters at first. Your hands will eventually toughen. After the first day of rowing, you may want to put tape on the spots that are particularly sore. Your coach will go over this at the time, and we have tape at the boathouse, so don’t worry about bringing that.


If you would like to do some reading about our sport, consult our website,, or other websites such as Also, there’s always youtube. Here are a few videos:


Tips from Team USA Olympic Rowers

Some basic videos on how to row/erg featured here, here, here, and here

And, if that doesn’t do it … watch team USA take gold in London, summer 2012


We are also available to answer any questions by email:

Rachel Humphreys, Novice Coordinator:

Abigail Potter, VP Membership: .


Most of all, be prepared to have fun! We’re happy to have you with us, and we hope you are excited to be a part of our club and the rowing community.


Welcome to Capital!

Glossary of Rowing Terms


Types of Rowing

SWEEP: Rowing with one oar on one side of the boat. The length of the oar is about 12 feet long.

SCULLING: Opposite of sweep. Sculling is rowing with two oars (an oar on each side of the boat). The length of each oar is about 9 feet long.

Sweep Boat or Shell



There are four different SHELL SIZES, distinguished by the number of rowers in the shell (8, 4, 2, or 1). The symbol following the shell size indicates whether with a coxswain (+) or without a coxswain (-), or whether it is a sculling boat (x). The image above is of stern coxswained eight-oared shell (8+).

SHELL: Another term for a boat, specifically, a boat used in racing.

BOW: End of the boat closest to the direction of travel. See diagram. Also can be used to refer to one-seat, or in conjunction with either four or pair. Bow-four refers to seats four through one. Bow-pair refer to seats two and one.

STERN: End of the boat farthest from the direction of travel. See diagram. Also can be used in conjunction with either four or pair. Stern-four refers to seats eight through five. Stern-pair refer to seats eight and seven.

PORT: Side of the boat to the coxswain’s left and to the rower’s right. See diagram. The oar sticks out to a port-rower’s right.

STARBOARD: Side of the boat to the coxswain’s right and to the rower’s left. See diagram.

BLADE (HATCHET OR SPOON): The face of the oar that pushes against the water.

OARLOCK: Square latch to hold the oar and provide a fulcrum for the stroke against the rigger.

RIGGER: An apparatus on the side of the boat to provide a fulcrum for the lever (oar).

FOOT STRETCHER: Part of the boat where the shoes are attached and where the rower pushes his legs on the drive.

SKEG: Fixed plastic piece beneath boat for stabilization (keel). The rudder is mounted on it. Also called a fin. The skeg (incl. rudder) can break off in shallow water. It can also break off by hitting the dock when putting the boat in the water or taking it out. Please be careful!

SLIDE: The tracks in which the seat rolls.

BACK STOP: A small block on the bow end of the slide, which holds the seat on track.

FRONT STOP: A small block on the stern end of the slide, which holds the seat in place.

KEEL: The steadiness of the boat. If the boat alternats from side to side, it is a sign of bad technique.

RUDDER: A little fin on the bottom of the boat that the coxswain can control to steer the boat.

COXSWAIN: A very important member of the crew. Their primary job is steering but they also provide feedback during races about location on the course, relative position to other crews , and stroke rate per minute. They serve as an in-the-boat coach during races. They call power 10s and encourage the crew. However, they do not say, “Stroke, stroke, stroke.”

COX BOX: A small electronic device which aids the coxswain by amplifying his voice and giving him a readout of various information, such as stroke ratings.

The Stroke

STROKE: One full motion to move a boat. Consists of the catch, drive, finish, and recovery. Can also be used to refer to 8-seat.

CATCH: The part of the stroke where the oar enters the water.

DRIVE: Part of the stroke where the rower pulls the blade through the water using legs, back and arms to propel the boat.

LEG DRIVE: Term used for driving the legs against the foot stretchers on the drive.

LAYBACK: Term for how much you lean back at the finish. Too much is bad, too little is, well, bad also.

FINISH: Part of the stroke after the drive where the blades come out of the water. The rower removes the oar from the water, by first pushing downward then away with the hands.

RELEASE: Another term for finish.

FEATHERING: Rotating the oar in the oarlock so that the blade is parallel to the surface of the water. Roll the blade with your inside hand (hand closest to the blade) so the blade is parallel to the water, concave upwards. This is done at the start of the recovery, and the blade is slowly squred again before the end of the recover. Feathering makes rowing easier especially in windy, choppy conditions because the blade doesn’t slap the waves as much and because air resistance on the blade is decreased.
RECOVERY: Part of the stroke where the rowers comes back up the slide slowly towards the catch. The oar is pushed away from the body by extending the arms, reaching the body forward and compressing the legs so the shin is vertical, preparing for the next Catch. The oar should not drag on the water.

STROKE RATE: How fast a stroke is being taken, in terms of strokes per minute.

Rowing Commands or Terms

READY ALL, ROW: Coxswain call to begin rowing.

WEIGH ENOUGH: Command for rowers to stop. Usually given a 2-stroke warning, as in, “In two, weigh enough.” Rowers know that in one (said at the catch), rowers complete one full stroke; and in two (said at the second catch), rowers complete this second full stroke and end at arms away, blades squared, boat balanced. Generally after performing the command, the coxswain say, “And down,” to which the rowers will feather the blades and set the boat. Saying “And down” depends on the cox–some coxswains prefer that rowers automatically set the boat after weighing enough. However, weigh enough means ending the stroke at arms away and not down. Whatever the cox’s policy, it should be clear and consistent Note: In an emergency, the command is “Weigh enough, hold water!” Stop whatever you are doing and hold water.

CHECK IT DOWN: Coxswain call that makes all the rowers drag their oar blades through the water perpendicularly. Blades are squared and partly buried, effectively stopping the boat. Used in landings, turns, before race starts, etc.

HOLD WATER: Coxswain call similar to “Check it down.”‘ Akin to braking hard. Blades must be square and buried, oars held tightly to break the boat’s momentum. Very important in emergency situations, also used before race starts, turns, etc.

LET IT RUN: Coxswain call for all rowers to stop rowing and pause at the finish, letting the boat glide through the water and coast to a stop. Used as a drill to build balance.

ONE FOOT UP, AND OUT: Command for exiting a sweep boat. Procedure is as follows: The outside hand hold the oar away from the body. The inside hand holds the gunwale to the dock. The inside foot is removed from the foot stretchers and placed on the step-in board, the body weight is shifted forward as the rower stands supporting himself on their inside leg. The outside is placed on the dock, as the rower gets out of the shell.

POWER 10 (or 20 or 30, etc.): Coxswain call to take a certain number of power strokes. A power stroke is a stroke that musters all the strength the rower can give.

RUN: The distance the boat moves after a stroke. Long run is very good. Run can be visually measured by the distance between the last puddle made by two-seat and where eight-seat’s blade enters the water.

SET (the boat): command to Balance the boat. Generally used when rowers are not rowing but sit relaxed with both hands on the oar as it floats feathered on the water. Each rower setting the boat is actively maintaining a constant oar handle height, thereby keeping the set/balance of the boat steady and centered. Rowers’ body leans (or lack thereof) also affect the side-to-side balace. Sometimes all rowers are setting, other times only some rowers set. If someone is rowing behind you while you’re setting, move your seat up to avoid getting hit in your back. Rowers also “set” the boat when they pause or weigh enough and let the boat run with oars in the air – the oars and bodies are again used to balance the boat so it doesn’t rock side-to-side or run with either port or starboard side down.

SQUARE: The blade is perpendicular to the water. Rowing square blades is rowing without feathering during the recovery.

Technique-Related Terms (Mostly things you want to avoid doing)

catching a crab: slang; getting an unexpected tug or jerk on your blade, sometimes boat-stoppingly violent. The blade gets “caught” in the water and may be quickly sucked in from rushing water, making the oar handle fly up or towards you or even behind you. Crabs happen because of poor technique, often getting the blade in the water at the wrong time, but sometimes one rower’s skying/ruining the set can cause another rower to crab, and crabs are more easily caught in choppy water (including motor boat wakes). Do the best you can to maintain proper control of your blade, especially in race situations, and improve your technique to avoid catching crabs.

check: the interruption or braking of the boat’s forward momentum. Things that cause check during a race include poor bladework, rushing the slide, and hitting the front stops.

digging: The blade is too deep in the water during the drive. This really affects the set, and it’s hard to get a crisp finish. Sometimes seen with skying. The blade should not be entirely buried in the water during the drive, but rather remain at the same depth as when the squared blade is just floating (no hands on the handle).

hanging at the catch: A pause in a rower’s rhythm as s/he is about to drop the blade into the water. This happens when you rush the slide and get to the top before the other rowers, and then your blade just hangs in the air while you wait for everyone else. Hanging at the catch means you’re rushing the slide more than you need to and thus slowing the boat, it’s inefficient because you’re wasting energy hurrying, it throws off the “swing” or unified movement of the other rowers, and also makes it very hard to catch with the other rowers.

missing water: This happens when you don’t raise your hands as you come up to the catch, but jam the oar in the water when you’re already at the top (front) of the slide. When you do it right, you see water splashing behind your blade. When you do it wrong, the first part of your stroke is actually out of the water, and you lose a lot of power -that’s your strong leg drive you miss out on, which is why this is important. Don’t worry about slowing the boat with your little backsplash – worry more about not missing water.

rushing the slide: Coming up the slide too quickly and/or accelerating up the slide. The recovery should be a slow deceleration, and rushing the slide creates momentum in the direction opposite to the where the boat is going. Whether or not you bounce on your legs or hit the front stops at the top (front) of the slide, rushing the slide slows the boat. Use your legs to brake the recovery. Rushing also wastes energy; it’s better to pull hard twice (and relax/breathe during the recovery) than to pull hard three times in the same time (and spend even more energy hurrying up the slide, and slowing the boat by rushing on top of that) – you wouldn’t last very long aerobically, and you’re not being efficient. If the stroke rating is fast, bring up the rating in the water by pulling harder, and concentrate on keeping the recovery smooth and decelerating. It’s ideal to have the recovery take twice as long as the drive (this is having a good ratio).

skying: The blade is too high off the water. This strongly affects the set of the boat, and may lead to digging besides. Usually seen at the end of the recovery, when the rower lowers the hands as s/he comes up to the catch, sometimes in too bent-over a position (when tired). The rowers should instead sit up more, and raise their hands into the catch.

shooting the slide: Starting the drive with your rear end first (not the center of your back), leaving your shoulders in back behind initially. This ends up being a quick jerk of the seat backwards, a result of a too-explosive leg drive and not moving the blade through the water as your legs push. This is very wasteful of your powerful leg drive, puts your back in a very inefficient position for transferring leg drive to driving the blade, may strain your lower back, and even causes the boat to “check” or jerkily slow down. [The checking the action/reaction of the boat to go in the wrong direction resulting from the jerky movement of your butt (and nothing else) in the right direction.] The drive should have a firm start, but be controlled and smoothly accelerating all the way through. Think of the oar handle and the seat being joined by a bar that maintains a constant distance between them during the first part of the drive.

tea-bagging: pejorative slang. Just dipping the blade in the water during the drive, applying little or no effort to move the boat forward. This is basically going through the motions of rowing without doing any work. The cox and others can tell if you’re tea-bagging because there won’t be a puddle left on the water after your blade leaves it. Rowers who pull hard will leave a large puddle behind their finish; tea-baggers are basically dead weight and better replaced with rowers who make an effort.

Miscellaneous Rowing-Related Terms

ERG (ERGO/ERGOMETER/ERG MACHINE) – A rowing machine designed to simulate the actual rowing motion; used for training and testing.

REGATTA – An organized crew race.

HEAD STYLE RACING is done in the fall and can be done on river, where there are twists and turns. The shells do not line-up, but race against the clock, after starting one behind the other. You need not pass another crew to beat it, but if you pass someone that started in front of you, you have surely beat their time. The race distance is usually 3 miles long.

SPRINT RACING is done with the crews starting with the bow of their shells even a racing parallel to each other. They start together, and the first crew to cross the finish line wins. We do this racing in the spring. On the collegiate level and internationally, the race distance is 2000 meters. Master rowers (age 27 and older) race 1000 meters.

NOVICE – a rower in their first 12 months of rowing. Since it takes most people a while to refine the basics of rowing and racing, they can row against others of similar experience level.