Driving to work at daybreak, Dr. Eugenia Marcus used to look down at the shells skimming along the Charles River and wonder what it would be like to be out there with a gentle wake behind her instead of another car's grill.
But Marcus, a Boston-area pediatrician, had no background in the sport. She played some tennis and enjoyed biking and aerobics, so she figured rowing was something she could handle. Circumstances simply held her back.
"I used to watch the boats going by and think what a neat sport that was but that I'd never really have an opportunity to try it," she says.
"I do primary care, which means that I work really long hours. And because there are some days when I'm on call, I can never count on getting out of the office regularly at any particular time."
Then she heard about Community Rowing, a public club in Newton, Mass. For $50, Marcus could row three times a week for four weeks. For $75, she could get out five times a week.
"And there are all kinds of modifications," she says. "If you're under 18, it costs less. There are rates for special-needs rowers." She signed up.
First comes rudimentary training. The new rowers learn to recognize commands barked by a coxswain. And a multi-oared training "barge"--virtually impossible to capsize--helps them master the strokes and the sliding seats.
Eventually rowers progress to narrow eight- and four-oared shells. Once they are competent, they can show up at the boathouse at their convenience.
"I rowed a single one day because I showed up when they had more people than they had (four- or eight-oared) boats, and a couple of times I took out a double. I think I'd like to do more of that."
For Marcus, the aesthetic pleasure of being on the water has no match on land.
"This winter I had access to a rowing machine and I would use it every once in a while, but it just didn't appeal," she says.
"Being out on the water is like a mini-vacation for an hour. I rowed early this morning, and it was a little bit like summer camp. Maine in the middle of the summer, with a slight chill in the air."
Now Marcus sees the cars rushing along Storrow Drive from her shell out on the water. And she wonders how long it will be before a lot of other people catch on.