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Safety Policy

Baltimore Community Rowing promotes the sport of rowing for fitness, competition, and recreation for residents of the Baltimore Metro area. 

At Baltimore Community Rowing, safety is our highest priority. Every person at BCR--rowers, coaches, coxswains, staff, volunteers, and visitors is expected to operate with a “safety-first” mindset.

The contents of this policy are not exhaustive, updates will be made as needed. It is the responsibility of every rower, coxswain, volunteer, coach, and staff member to read this policy and abide by its contents.

Preparing to Row

  • Before rowing, every coach, coxswain, and rower is responsible for checking for appropriate weather, wind, and water conditions, and exercising good judgement regarding the safety of launching their boat.

  • Rowers in coached programs must use iCrew to reserve their spot at practice.

  • Bow-certified rowers rowing without a coach must use iCrew to reserve their boat and indicate their launch and return time.

  • All rowers, coxswains, coaches, staff, and visitors must complete the COVID check in iCrew prior to arriving at the boathouse.

  • It is everyone’s personal responsibility to STAY HOME if they are feeling unwell, are waiting to schedule a COVID test, are waiting for the results of a COVID test, or have been directly exposed to COVID.  Please email Karen Shackelford ( for contact tracing and further instructions for return to the boathouse.


  • Rowers should wear clothing that is close-fitting to your body and allows you to move freely. Loose or bagging clothing can get caught under the seat, on the tracks, or on the oars.

  • Rowers, coaches, and coxswains should wear layered clothing appropriate to the weather.

    • It is always colder in the coxswain seat and the launch, so extra layers should be worn or brought along for comfort, and a waterproof layer is recommended, especially during cold weather.

iCrew & Logbook


  • All boats must be reserved in iCrew either by a coach or, if not rowing with a coached program, by the bow-certified rower in charge of the shell.

  • Boats must be signed out in the paper logbook located in the storage room.

    • This applies to ALL boats regardless if the boat is BCR or privately owned.

    • It is the primary responsibility of the coxswain (sweep) or bow person (scull) to sign out the boat.

    • Coaches are responsible for ensuring that all boats are logged out for their program.

    • The logbook must note the time of departure, the expected time of return, crew, and the destination.

    • Rowers should stick to their intended destination in the logbook. In the event of an emergency, coaches and others will head in the direction noted in the logbook.

  • When the boat is returned to the rack, the boat must be signed back in in the paper logbook, noting the actual return time and how many meters were rowed.

  • Boats rowed outside of a coached program must be checked out in iCrew before the boat leaves the dock.

    • If the boat is larger than a single, the bow-certified rower in charge of the shell is responsible for checking the boat out and in in iCrew.

    • The names of the crew must be noted in the notes before checking out.

  • Bow-certified rowers rowing outside of a coached program must check their boat back in using iCrew before leaving the boathouse.

    • Rowers of a boat that is left checked out in iCrew 30 minutes beyond its intended return time will be contacted to confirm that the crew has safely returned.


  • It is every rower’s responsibility to be aware of the weather prior to launching and while on the water.

  • The following resources should be used to determine weather conditions at the boathouse:

  • Boats may NOT launch in high winds where the water is white capping.

  • Boats may NOT launch in fog.

  • Boats may NOT launch in heavy rain that may create a swamping situation in the shell.

  • Boats may NOT launch with lightning or thunder within a 15-mile radius.

    • If lightning or thunder is observed, boats must wait 30 minutes after the last sighting of lightning or audible thunder before taking a boat to the dock for launch.

  • Weather changes quickly on the Patapsco and all coaches, coxswains, and rowers are responsible for noting deteriorating conditions.

    • If winds, white caps, heavy rain, lightning and thunder, or fog roll in while on the water, boats should be turned immediately back toward the docks on the quickest path toward the boathouse.

    • Once back at the boathouse, the priority is the safety of the crew then the safety of the equipment. Boats and oars should be left at the dock in the case of a severe weather emergency to prioritize getting people indoors safely. Equipment can be replaced, your crew cannot.

    • If weather approaches too quickly to return to the boathouse, row your boat to the nearest accessible shore, leaving the boat beached, and seek shelter on land in a structure if possible.

  • All rowers, coaches, and coxswains must abide by the “Four Oar Rule”: when the combined air temperature and water temperature is 90 degrees or below, a boat must have at least 4 oars or be accompanied by a coaching launch. No exceptions.

  • Club boats will not be used during the winter rowing season without a coaching launch present, defined as the period between November 15th and March 15th.

On Land

  • A BCR boat may be taken out only when a coach assigns it or by a certified bow person.

  • Each boat should have a set of slings placed on the asphalt or grass in front of the bay doors spaced apart appropriately for the size of boat.  The slings not only provide a convenient place to rest the boat so that the equipment can be checked and adjusted but also provides a convenient place to rest the boat if it has to be removed from the dock in an emergency.

  • Check boats and oars while in slings before heading to the dock to ensure that all hardware is tightened, shoes are adjusted to fit your height, heel ties are secure, the seat slides smoothly, and nothing is broken or missing from your seat.

  • All boats must have a bow ball that is firmly attached. A boat may NOT go out without a bow ball.

  • Coxswains are responsible for checking their coxboxes while boats are in slings to ensure the battery is charged, microphone and speakers are working, and box or SpeedCoach provides rate.

  • When rowing in the dark, all boats must be equipped with a red and green bow light and white stern light.

    • Lights should be affixed at the dock as close to the ends of the boat as possible while ensuring a good connection to the hull.

    • Bow lights should be affixed so that red is to the port side and green is to the starboard side.

    • Coxswains and bow persons are responsible for ensuring proper lighting is in place. However, it is EVERYONE’S responsibility to ensure the proper lighting in place and functional before leaving the dock.

    • Coaches may not allow any boat to leave the dock without proper lighting.

  • We share our dock with other rowing teams, kayaks, canoes, and local fishermen and crabbers; check the path of travel to the dock to ensure it is clear of objects and people.

  • Everybody must lift and lower the heavy boats together.

  • When on the dock, step carefully to avoid tripping on oars and riggers.

  • The coxswain or bow person is in command of the boat. Be quiet and pay attention to commands given by the coxswain or bow person.  Act when the cox or bow says to act, not before.

  • Juniors rowers may not be left unsupervised on land. All juniors rowers must be supervised by a coach or designated adult.

  • Coaches of a coached program should supervise and control boat movement on land relative to the experience of the crew to minimize accidental boat damage and injury while moving boats.

  • All boathouse doors must be LOCKED before the last boat leaves the dock or the last person leaves the boathouse.

    • If you are the last boat down to the dock, check with the coach, coxswain, or bow person in charge that this has been done.

    • If someone is in the boathouse when you leave, check in with them when you leave to ensure that they know that they are responsible for locking up.

    • All 3 bay doors plus the side doors must be locked.

    • If you are rowing outside of a coached program, you must have your key with you in the boat to ensure that you can gain re-entry into the boathouse.

On Water

  • Always have at least one hand on your oar(s). It is a powerful lever and you must keep it under control.

  • Before leaving the dock, ensure that your oarlock is securely closed.

  • Know the traffic pattern, day markers, buoys, and the underwater hazards associated with the traffic pattern you are following.

  • In multi-person boats, be quiet and attentive to the coach, coxswain, or bow person and follow their instructions.

  • Tell the coach, coxswain, or bow person of any hazard you see, especially if you do not think they have seen it.

  • Tell the coach, coxswain, or bow person if you hear thunder, see lightning, or believe the clouds or wind are becoming threatening.

  • Know the hazards of being on the water and what to do in the case of an emergency.  

  • No juniors boats may be on the water without a coaching launch.

  • Boats within a coached program should be within sight of a coaching launch during practice.

    • It is a coach’s responsibility to modify their traffic pattern or workout to ensure that all boats under their care remain under a reasonable amount of supervision relative to the experience of the crew.


Stuff that Gets in Your Way

  • Watch for debris after a rain. Be alert to dead trees, old railroad ties, or plywood floating just below the surface.

    • If you hit something, check your hull thoroughly and turn back to dock if there is visible damage. Check your hull thoroughly upon your return to dock.

    • Show any damage to your coach, who will then note repairs needed in iCrew.

    • If not rowing with a coached program, the coxswain or bow person is responsible for request necessary repairs using iCrew right away.

  • Stay out of the way of boats and ships.  These operators may not see you, they have limited maneuverability, and they throw up wakes. If you can't avoid them, make a lot of noise. Stay far away from Navy ships. Note that sailboats have the right-of-way, even over rowing shells.

  • Do not assume another boat sees you.

  • If an approaching wake or waves are lower than the gunwale and widely spaced, you can continue to row into the oncoming wave without a course adjustment.

  • If an approaching wake or wave is higher than the gunwale, turn the boat parallel to the wake. This avoids the wake lifting the ends of the boat, leaving the center unsupported.

    • Assess the wake and turn your boat quickly. Allow plenty of room, energy, and time to turn.

    • Rowers stop rowing and lean away from the approaching wake, with oar(s) on the wake side lifted slightly.

    • Hold oar handles securely, allowing them to move with the water; keep oars in contact with the water as much as possible.

    • Follow swamping/sinking procedures below as needed.


  • Docking a boat can be a challenge, especially when there is heavy boat traffic, wind, or when returning in darkness. It is important that the crew listens and follows the instructions of the coxswain or bow person without delay.

  • When docking, ensure that your focus is on landing the boat. Shoes, water bottles, and other concerns inside the boat can be dealt with when your boat is securely on the dock.

  • On occasion you may need to communicate to individuals on the dock to clear away.

  • Approach the dock slowly and at a slight angle to ensure that your approach does not damage the boat. Use the fewest number of rowers possible to keep your point.

  • At times the wind direction may require that you approach the dock with more speed. When this is necessary, the crew should be prepared to make adjustments quickly as requested by the coxswain or bow person.

  • All crew should have their hands out to catch the dock as it approaches their seat. Be careful not to put your hand between the dock and boat or rigger without also slightly holding the dock with a little outward pressure to push the boat away.

  • Once at the dock, wait for instructions from the coxswain or bow person before stepping out of the boat onto the dock. 

    • The crew should step onto the dock at the same time and the outward oars should remain on the water until everyone is on the dock. 

    • Oars should remain in the oar locks until the command is given to remove them.

  • When lifting the boat out of the water, be mindful of the wind conditions and hold it securely.  A gust of wind can catch a boat like a sail. Make sure that everyone lifts together, using their legs to power the lift.

  • When moving the boat from the dock to the boathouse, check that the travel path is clear of objects and people. Be mindful of people and objects when turning a boat and rolling it down to slings.

  • Boats should be cleaned with soap and water after every row, including the hull, riggers, and seat slides.

  • If oars handles have blood or dirt on them, wipe them down with soap and water and follow with a disinfecting wipe.

  • After racking your boat, check to see what other boats are still logged out. Leave enough slings on the blacktop for boats still on the water.  Extra slings should be returned to the boathouse.


  • First aid supplies, including a CPR mask, emergency blankets, and cold packs, are located in the coaches’ office on the second shelf immediately to the left of the door.

  • An AED is located in the back of the first bay immediately to the right of the storage room door. A second AED is located on the first floor of the boathouse in the Rec & Parks event space.

  • To call for help, dial 911. Be ready to relay as much of the of the following information as possible:

    • The nature of your emergency

    • Whether you are requesting an ambulance or water rescue

    • Your location; if you are on the water, let them know this immediately (landmarks on the water)

    • How many people involved and if anyone is missing

    • Are victims conscious or unconscious

    • Are victims breathing or not breathing

    • Is CPR being performed/required

    • Time of incident and number of boats involved

    • Name of a contact person and contact information

  • If 911 is called, please notify the Executive Director by phone (410-215-3128) as soon as the situation is deemed under control by emergency personnel.



  • Any incident on land or water that results in a person in the water, a person with an injury, or major equipment damage (whether there is injury or not), should be filed as an incident report in iCrew.

    • All incident reports should contain the following:

      • Date and time

      • A detailed description including any resulting injuries or boat damage

      • The cause and location of the incident

      • Coached session and coaches involved

      • Members involved

      • Whether anyone ended up in the water

      • Names and contact information for nonmembers involved

      • Shells involved including damage

      • Water and weather conditions

      • First aid required including who administered first aid

      • Details of emergency action taken

      • Nonclub vessels involved

  • If an incident occurs during a coached session, the coach is responsible for filling out the report. If the incident occurs outside of a coached session, the coxswain, bow person, or individual in charge of the incident is responsible for filling out the report.

  • An incident report should be filed in iCrew as soon as possible after the situation is deemed under control, before leaving the boathouse.

Collision or Running Aground

  • In the event of a collision with another boat or object, the health and safety of the crew is paramount over the condition of the boat.  Immediately check all crew members for injuries.

  • If there are no injuries to attend to, evaluate the damage to the boat and determine whether a crew and boat can proceed safely, either to continue practice or back to dock.

  • Follow your coach’s instructions, or the procedures for swamped or flipped boats as appropriate.

Swamped Boat

  • A boat may fill with water when the wind pushes water in the boat or a boat hits a wake that is higher than the gunwale, or during a heavy rain storm.

  • If your boat begins to swamp, do not panic. Even filled with water, a shell will remain afloat at the water line as long as the bow and stern compartments are sealed.

  • Use anything you can to bail water while sitting in the boat. A water bottle, sneakers or other close-toed shoes, even an item of clothing can be used as a sponge.

  • Once you remove as much water as possible, if you are able to row the boat back to the dock safely, do so. The boat will be heavy and it will be slow going, so use as many rowers as you can while remaining stable, and alternate rowers in and out to allow rowers to rest.

  • When you get back to the dock, as much water as possible should be removed from the shell BEFORE it is lifted from the water. Unlock the air locks and remove water from them as well. You will need as many extra people as possible to lift a shell that has taken on water. The boat will be heavy and everyone will get wet.

  • If the boat is unrowable and starting to sink, exit the boat one pair of rowers at a time and work together to roll it seats down. Follow the procedures below (Flipped Boat).

Flipped Boat

  • If a boat rolls or starts to sink, remove your feet from the shoes using the quick release strap.

  • Roll the boat seats down if the boat is not already upside down. Watch for oars as the boat is actively rolling.

  • In all cases, STAY WITH THE BOAT. Do not leave the boat and try to swim to shore under any circumstances.

  • In a multi-person boat, buddy up and make sure that everyone is accounted for.

  • Get back into a single or double if possible.

  • If a coaching launch or other boat is nearby, wave an arm, an oar, or make noise to signal trouble.

  • If the water is cold, get out of the water as soon as possible--back into the single or double, or up on the hull of an upturned boat.

  • Because a panicked person in the water can pull down a rescuer, thereby drowning both, it is NOT advisable for another person to leave the boat or launch and go into the water to attempt rescue. 

  • If a coaching launch is not present and rescue is not imminent, call 911 immediately.

  • If a coaching launch is present, PFDs will be thrown. Put on your PFD and follow the coach’s instructions.

  • If you find yourself in shallow water near shore, remember that the ground is very muddy. The mud can drag you down. If the decision is made to move the boat and crew toward land, do not let go of the boat for any reason until the boat is beached on land.

Rower in the Water

  • Occasionally, an oar can get stuck in the water during a stroke, causing the handle to swing into your body and possibly over your head. This is called a crab. Rarely, at high speeds, a crab can be severe enough to lever a rower out of the boat.  If this happens to you, keep your head and body underwater until the boat has passed. This protects you from a head injury or being knocked unconscious by fast moving riggers and oars.

  • If you see a rower ejected, yell, "Weigh 'nuff, hold water!"

  • The coaching launch or shell should extend flotation to the rower using a PFD, a throw line, an oar, or a clothing item to pull the rower to the boat.

  • If a coaching launch is accompanying the crew, the rower may be brought aboard the launch, or if the rower is uninjured, it may be possible to set the boat so that the rower can hoist him/herself back in at the coach’s and athlete’s discretion.

  • Once the rower is out of the water, the rower should be thoroughly evaluated for injuries and whether the practice can proceed safely.

Weather-Related Concerns & General Illness

  • All rowers, coaches, coxswains, and staff should be aware of common illnesses and weather-related conditions that can affect rowers while on the water or on land and understand how to identify them before they become an emergency. When in doubt, call 911.

  • Hyperthermia occurs when there is an increase in body temperature, usually when the air temperature is above 76 degrees, and the victim is exposed to sun and heat in combination with a decrease in fluids. It may occur when sweat cannot easily evaporate; the body is being heated by the environment; or water loss from sweat and respiration is not replaced and dehydration occurs. Two serious conditions may result:

    • Heat exhaustion; signs are throbbing headache, nausea, cool skin, chills, sweaty, and pale pulse.

    • Heat Stroke is life threatening; signs are behavior changes, unconsciousness, hot but not sweaty, flushed warm skin and rapid pulse.

  • Hypothermia occurs when a victim is subject to cold temperatures, cold water, ice or snow. There is potential danger for hypothermia when the water temperature is below 80 degrees and very dangerous when the water temperature is below 50 degrees. Hypothermia can occur without the victim being in the water, rowing in extremely cold weather can cause symptoms. Symptoms include feeling cold, turning bluish and shivering, and followed by numbness, apathy, lethargy, disorientation, and loss of mental capacity.

Coaching Launches

  • It is the coach’s responsibility to ensure that their launch is stocked with the proper safety equipment.

  • A coached program must always have a safety launch on the water. In the event of a launch engine failure, the shells in the program should be returned to the dock.

  • Coaches must always use a safety launch when coaching their programs.

  • Operators of BCR launches born after July 1, 1972 shall obtain and carry a Maryland Basic Boater certification.

  • Coaches are responsible for checking their gas cans before practice to ensure that there is enough gas to make it through practice.

    • Coaches should notify the [Launch Captain] if their gas can is at 1/3 a tank or lower following their practice, also noting the launch number.

  • Everyone in the launch must wear a PFD at all times.

  • Launches must have the following safety equipment on board

    • 12 life jackets

    • 12 space blankets

    • A whistle or air horn

    • A cell phone

    • A strap useable as a throw rope

    • A megaphone, either powered or cone

    • A bailer

    • A paddle

    • An operational set of bow and stern lights

    • A ladder to attach to the side of the boat for water rescues (skiffs only)

    • A spare parts kit

    • A bow line

  • Coaches are responsible for notifying the [Launch Captain] of broken, used, or missing pieces of their safety equipment so that it can be replenished.


  • All violations should be reported to the Executive Director (

  • The Executive Director will, in consultation with the Board of Directors, determine best action depending on the severity of the violation.

  • Violations resulting from an equipment failure or damage will be resolved as quickly as possible, with program modifications in the meantime if necessary.

  • Personal violations may result in any of the following penalties including:

    • A verbal or written warning

    • Temporary or permanent suspension from participation in coached programming

    • Temporary or permanent suspension of an individual’s access to the boathouse, including repossession of their boathouse key fob

    • Loss of rack rental and/or oar storage privileges

    • Permanent suspension from BCR membership


- George Pocock

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