And the Prize for the Trailer that Traveled the Farthest Goes To…

…A 3,100-Mile Drive for a 3-Mile Row


by Stephen Mansfield – Posted on October 22, 2016

The Head of the Charles Regatta attracts clubs and rowers from all over the world. Most of the competitors coming from a certain distance fly into Boston. This creates a problem unseen to many of the Regatta’s attendees. Boats cannot be shipped through the mail or carried on to a plane. Many crews rent boats and oars from the many equipment manufacturers on site. But for some, there’s nothing like rowing your own boat. And for these crews coming from the other side of the country, the trailer driver just may be the team MVP.

One of these drivers is Martha Fitzpatrick, who spends most of the year working as the boatwoman for Lake Union Crew in Seattle, Washington. She has been taking the 3,100-mile trip from coast to coast in a red Ford F250 for seven years now. Her husband Rich has joined her on the past three.

These years of experience come in handy, because the trip is, as Martha describes it, “a challenge.” Over the years they have run in to every weather hazard from rain to wind to snow. While these can be annoying and potentially dangerous for anybody on the road, it becomes an even greater challenge when hauling a trailer full of 60-foot boats across Interstate 90.

Weather isn’t the only challenge they face either. Traffic is a major problem, and they have even been pulled over by state patrolmen who insist that they are driving a commercial vehicle. All of these issues mean that they have to plan in advance and be prepared for anything. They keep a log book detailing “which exits are easy in and outs” and which gas stations can accommodate their trailer. And when choosing hotels to sleep at, “we choose our stopping points based on how big the parking lot is,” she said.

They are similarly organized when it comes to food. They keep a list of good food stops in the log book, and her husband, who Martha calls the “snack master,” packs snacks into small containers before they leave.

Having two people along for the ride gives them the benefit of being able to switch drivers. This allows them to start the trip by going 36 hours straight until they hit Minnesota. They then take it easier the next two days, only driving for twelve hours. Spending 60 hours in a truck together also gives them the ability “to chat with each other, without all the everyday interruptions.”

When they’re not talking, they are listening to podcasts, music, or books on tape. This year’s trip included a lot of TED Talks, podcasts of NPRs “Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me,” and a books-on-tape version of Dan Brown’s Inferno. Martha’s favorite program is “The Thistle & Shamrock,” a Celtic music show which her husband “kindly tolerates.”

Lake Union Crew in competing in the Women’s Senior Master Eights, the Women’s Senior Master Fours, the Women’s Club Fours, the Women’s Master Fours, and the Men’s Club Singles this weekend. After the singles race on Sunday, Martha and Rich plan on getting the trailer packed up and immediately heading back to Seattle. After some time has passed, they’ll look back on the experiences fondly, she says. But before that there’s another 3100 miles of I-90.

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Make this year’s Head Of The Charles® a success. There are many opportunities to get involved over race weekend and before.