Featured Story

He rowed from Brooklyn Navy Yard to Southold Town Beach — in the heat

In rowing, one must look back in order to move forward. When it was finally over, with his back aching and his torn-up hands stinging, Rob Buchanan could have looked back and said, “Wow.”

Well, look at what he did:

Mr. Buchanan, 61, completed a grueling journey Sunday afternoon, having rowed from Brooklyn along Long Island’s scenic north shore to Southold Town Beach.

“It’s just one of those things I always wanted to do,” he said. “I’m really glad I did it.”

Mr. Buchanan, who lives in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, and is a part-time Greenport resident, reeled off the impressive numbers. By his calculation, he covered between 100 and 105 nautical miles in about 28 hours of rowing over three days. That’s a lot of rowing, even for a former member of the Princeton University crew team.

It is definitely one of the most beautiful coastlines probably that I’ve ever seen.

Rob Buchanan

The three-legged journey began June 25 at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Mr. Buchanan and a friend, Marcel Dejean of Manhattan, rowed 35 miles that day in their own boats, which brought them to Oyster Bay.

At that point, Mr. Dejean had had enough.

“We were both pretty spent,” Mr. Buchanan, who rowed with a tent, a thin sleeping bag, a small stove, food and water onboard. “He was particularly spent, and we just thought there was no way we could go on the next day, so we said, ‘OK, well, we’ll leave the boats here and just come back when the weather looks good for the next leg.’ And that was three weeks ago.”

Rob Buchanan figures he traveled between 100 and 105 nautical miles in about 28 hours of rowing over three days. (Courtesy photo)

In rowing, the wind is everything. So, Mr. Buchanan waited for the right conditions. Then he saw the weather forecast he was hoping for.

“What you really want for that row is a southeast breeze because it will push you, and I just saw three days in a row of either southwest or no wind,” Mr. Buchanan said. “And then I thought, ‘OK, this is my window with the weekend. Maybe I could even do it in two days if I really push.’ And so, that’s what I did.”

Mr. Buchanan took to the water again on Saturday at 5:30 a.m. Before lunch he had rowed 25 miles to Crane Neck Point, which sits between Stony Brook and Port Jefferson. “It was just so hot and I was so tired and dehydrated that I needed to get into the shade,” he said. He pitched a tent under a tree and napped.

Mr. Buchanan said it was on that day when he thought he might not make it much further. That rest worked wonders, however. Around 4 p.m., he was back in his wooden Annapolis Wherry, an 18-foot boat with a sliding seat. Finding a second wind, he churned out another 20 miles, bringing him to Herod Point, east of Shoreham, by around 8:30 p.m. It was there where he set up camp for the night.

Following a breakfast of ramen noodles, he resumed his trek Sunday at 5:15 a.m. Five and a half hours later, he reached Goldsmith Inlet in Peconic, where his wife, Noemi Bonazzi, brought him a slice of pizza and “the best peach I ever ate.”

Following a nap, Mr. Buchanan then completed his long row, arriving at Southold Town Beach, where the North Fork narrows to little more than the width of Route 48.

Southold Town Beach was not the original destination. Dam Pond in East Marion was. But Mr. Buchanan said he was so tired after the second leg that he thought Dam Pond might not be realistic. Those final two legs came on brutally hot 90-plus-degree days during a heat wave.

Mr. Buchanan enjoyed a rower’s-eye view of Long Island’s so-called gold coast. He saw giant boulders, remnants of the last ice age. He saw beautiful homes and bluffs. He saw protections people put up against coastal erosion.

“It is definitely one of the most beautiful coastlines probably that I’ve ever seen,” he said.

The rowing marathon took its toll. Mr. Buchanan said his upper back, backside and right wrist were pretty sore and his hands were like “hamburger.”

Even so, he said, this wasn’t the most physically demanding thing he had ever done.

“I once skied across the Sierra [Nevada mountain range] with five friends, and we had to carry everything for seven days on our backs,” he said.

As for his rowing tour of the north shore, he said, “I’m not doing it again unless it’s in a sailboat.”