Masters rowers of the VIRC take their conditioning inside at the Vashon Island Rowing Club Indoor Facility at Sunrise Ridge on Jan. 16. (Kate Dowling/Staff Photo)

Masters rowers of the VIRC take their conditioning inside at the Vashon Island Rowing Club Indoor Facility at Sunrise Ridge on Jan. 16. (Kate Dowling/Staff Photo)

Camaraderie and conditioning never stops at the Vashon Island Rowing Club

The Vashon Island Rowing Club does not allow weather to prevent them from keeping in top condition.

After a season of earning gold, silver and bronze medals from competitive regattas in both the Masters and Juniors levels, what do the Vashon Island Rowing Club members do in the off-season? It turns out the rowers in the club are just as busy as they are during the season.

The Beachcomber was invited to see what happens on a typical day in the off-season for the Masters program at the VIRC. Although the aim all year long is to get out on the water as often as possible, bitter cold and high winds over ten miles per hour during the winter months can move the team inside. At the facility at Sunrise Ridge, the VIRC members continue not only with their conditioning, but also their camaraderie.

John Jannetty, 74, has been rowing with the club for 18 years. He spoke with The Beachcomber after the practice and talked about how much he enjoys coming to practice.

“The team shows up for each other,” he said.

Coach Sarah Deal commended the workout in the early morning hours with 15 rowers sweating it out for an hour and a half.

Deal explained the benefits of conditioning indoors on a rowing machine. She can clearly see if rowers’ techniques and correct them in the moment — anything from incorrect postures to asymmetrical movements which can lead to injury. All of these observations can be applied to how they do their rowing strokes and help them build better habits in the shell.

“The rowing machine isn’t the greatest predictor of success because it doesn’t incorporate all of those things but it makes it a really good learning tool because it simplifies it down to just how you are feeling your body is working and that makes it really easy to address technical things,” Deal said.

Ben Steele, the coach for the Juniors rowers, takes his team inside as well. In an email to The Beachcomber, Steele said, “… focusing on strength, flexibility, anaerobic threshold are all critical training points.” The rowers spend several days a week lifting weights and doing core exercises. The rowing machines come into play for building lung capacity.

The off-season schedule for the Masters is much the same as in season. The rowers meet up to five mornings a week, Tuesday through Saturday, with additional recreational and technique sessions on Wednesdays and Fridays. They aim to have two or three days out on the water throughout the winter season.

Deal’s Master’s team ranges in age from 36 through 78, with most over the age of 60.

“These women are 69 and rocking it,” said Amy Bogaard, a member of the VIRC. “I am sold. I want to be able to do this in ten years. This is fun.”

Bruce Morser, who has been rowing on Quartermaster Harbor for over 30 years, is one of the eyes and ears on the water to let coaches know if they need to move the practice inside.

“My job is to use the large binoculars to take a reading on wave height in all those rowing locations and let the coaches know,” he said in an email to The Beachcomber. “I commute to rowing most days by paddling my little 8-foot kayak alone through the dark. Basically, if my gut says ‘don’t kayak today, you idiot,’ we shouldn’t row, either.”

Deal — who is used to rowing on a river in Portland where the water gets much colder in the winter — said the harbor offers days throughout the off-season when the team can still get out on the water.

“When it is warm enough trying to get three of those five days a week on the water but depending on wind and warmth — we don’t really go out if ambient temperature with wind chill is below freezing,” she said.

Water days, when possible, are scheduled at 7:30 a.m. when it becomes light enough to see in the winter months. Both Deal and Moser are up an hour before daybreak, looking at the water and the wind gauge by the harbor. If not, onto the rowing machines they go, rowing eight to ten kilometers on an average day, smack-talking each other in an encouraging way that is only seen in the closest of relationships.

“I love these men,” said Mark Burns, a member for two years. “The most wonderful group … I have ever met.”

Spring season begins Feb. 24. For more information on learning to row courses, or to join the Masters or Juniors, visit

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