If you're at this page, you are at least a little curious about the announcement of the traffic pattern change for the Augusta Rowing Club.
The very short answer is the change in the traffic pattern for the rowers will result in a safer experience for everyone!!!!!!! I'll go into some detail below and I welcome your comments. You can always email the club website and/or call my number directly. (club number goes to my cellphone)
The "old traffic pattern" was created in an effort to be good neighbors with the power boat traffic on the water. At that time, it was widely believed that there was some sort of "right hand rule" on the water much like there is on the roadway. First, there is no such right hand rule for powerboat traffic and this pattern also conflicted with the safe practice of launching and returning to the dock against the current. It left the rowing shells crossing over each others paths all too frequently and while serious accidents have been mostly avoided, we have had way too many near misses that could have been catastrophic.
On race day, we change our traffic pattern to a clockwise direction (see the attached map from our HOTS regatta) This has rowing shell traffic moving upstream on the Georgia side of the river, and downstream on the South Carolina side of the river. This allows safe passage for all boats at all times, NO CROSSOVER. The question was then posed; "If it's safer for the regatta, then why not all of the time?" Our safety committee did a review and determined that yes indeed, this will be safer at all times for all parties that use the river.
Question 1. Do other boaters need to follow this traffic pattern? NO. Other boaters, whether human or engine powered should continue to operate in a safe manner as they ALREADY do. This is simply for rowing traffic and to help the other users of the river to know and understand where the rowing shells will be. This will help you to watch for us. (as a side note, we know we are occasionally all over the river...that is the nature of outdoor sports and the nature of humans, we make mistakes too)
Question 2. Am I expected to move out of your way if I'm fishing or kayaking or enjoying the river? NO. The rules of the water still apply to everyone in that the boat with the least maneuverability has the "right of way", so we should move out of your way, or you should move out of ours pending the circumstances. The idea here is you should know which direction we might be coming from. If we're on the Georgia side of the river, we should be moving against the current, if we are on the SC side of the river, we should be moving with the current.
Question 3. What about the swimmers in the river? This new pattern has our rowing shells moving upstream through the swimmers. We feel this is safer for 2 reasons. 1. This will happen at the beginning of the practice session when the rowers are more alert, moving slowly, and warming up. 2. This new pattern leaves the swimmers facing the rowing shells...the old pattern had our alignment back to back so we couldn't easily see the other coming. We are very aware of the swimmers and enjoy sharing the water with other activities. We will be careful. The worst case scenario is still safer because now at least one party has the ability to see forward.
Question 4. What about the areas where the weeds are heavy? The rowers do need to avoid the heavily weeded areas of the river, but this new pattern should still leave all rowing shell traffic out of each others way. The shells should attempt to stay as close to the side of the river they belong on. For example in front of the Amphitheater the weeds are heavy and the rowers will need to move towards the middle third of the river. Any rowers coming downstream on the SC side should be near the homes and docks on that side and nowhere near the middle of the river. Safer, Fewer collisions!!!!
Question 5. What do I do if I see rowers who are NOT following the traffic pattern? Feel free to report it to me. Brad Holdren. Email the club website, or call or text me. Give me Day, Time of day, Number of people in the boat. I can usually figure out who it was from there and have a talk with the offending parties about safety. We are always trying to be better, safer, and better neighbors. We love our river, and our community. We want to share the river safely with everyone.
Question 6. Why now? Why this date? It had to happen sometime. We have some club members who have been following the old pattern for 20+ years and old habits are hard to break. This date was chosen because it's the beginning of a new fall season, a new school year. No other meaning than that. We needed a day when we could draw a line in the river and say "today" so we found one on the calendar and set it up.
River safety is everyone's responsibility. We are trying to improve ours and I'm happy to answer any questions you might have along the way.