Ten boats, two rowing enthusiasts and an African continent
Ever thought of carting a load of rowing boats across Africa? For Carole and Dennis Howard it turned out to be a unique adventure.
In a conjunct project between World Rowing and Rowing South Africa, The Howards transported boats that had recently been donated to Zambia where the Kafue River and Rowing Centre will be based.
When World Rowing contacted the South African Rowing Federation about the plan to find and deliver boats that would be moved to the Kafue River and Rowing Centre once it is completed, the Federation jumped on board.
After Rowing South Africa collected the boats, two rowing enthusiasts, Carol and Dennis Howard, handled the necessary boat repairs, the restoration of a rowing trailer and the organisation of the road trip. Carole is Rowing South Africa’s Team Manager and Dennis is a South African university coach. Together, they embarked on a massive 7,000km journey from Johannesburg to central Southern Africa, crossing five countries in three weeks with ten rowing boats in tow.
“We shared the road with some interesting things, from elephants to sheep and goats and zebras. Africa is a wonderful place to travel because of all the different experiences that you see on the road,” says Dennis. “While driving through Botswana, we were fortunate to see at least a dozen elephants on the side of the road even with some of them crossing the main highway ahead of us.”
As it was the first time that rowing boats were being transported by road into this part of Africa, the Howards faced some unique challenges. “None of the highway police had ever seen a rowing trailer filled with boats before. As you can imagine, every policeman stopped us just to enquire as to what we were transporting. Some of them thought that we were transporting items such as aeroplane wings and military equipment. None of them gave us too much trouble once we had all of our safety checks done,” explains Dennis.
The first destination on the way to Zambia was Lake Malawi at a town called Senga Bay. “Here we found a very active and passionate rowing club that had been training for about a year without even seeing a rowing boat,” says Dennis. “The passion that the members of this club showed will forever leave an impression on me. The club has been training on ergos and on the land, doing as much rowing specific training as they could in anticipation of receiving their boats.”
One single and one double were donated to the local Malawian rowing club. “The 12-person strong rowing club took to the new boats as if they had been rowing for years,” says Dennis. “The most remarkable thing that I witnessed that day is that none of the rowers capsized. The fact that each of them just jumped into the boats and could row immediately is something that I have never seen before. This illustrates the water competency of the Malawian people. As a rowing coach, it is very seldom that you find an athlete that needs very little teaching on how to do the basics in rowing.”
After leaving Malawi, the Howard’s made their way across Zambia and up north to a town called Kitwe, which is in the heart of the Copper belt region of the country. “Here we found a very beautiful dam that has over 3.5km of flat rowable water with a lovely little boathouse,” relates Dennis. “This was the venue that will be storing the boats until the Kafue River and Rowing Centre is up and running.”
This project was supported financially by the World Rowing Federation in conjunction with Rowing South Africa.
For more about World Rowing’s Clean Water Kafue project, here.