Safety Policy

Why a safety document?

Rowing is a safe sport. Compared to other sports, the risk of getting injured or putting your life at risk is much lower. However, you should always be aware that even the safe sport of rowing bears risks that can severely hurt or even kill you.

This document makes you aware of the risks associated with rowing and the policies that Carolina Masters Crew Club (CMCC) has implemented to mitigate them. However, safety starts with you. Unless you incorporate safety considerations into your rowing practice, all the club’s rules and regulations will be in vain. Please help CMCC to be a safe club. Whenever you go to the lake, whenever you put your boat in the water, ask yourself: “What are today’s special risks? What should I watch out for? What can I do to be safe?” Sometimes the best thing to do is not to row.

Risk Factors in Rowing

Factors impacting safe rowing are grouped in 4 fields:

  1.  Health: Am I fit to row? The answer to this question is only partially answered during your yearly physical exam. Each time you want to go out in a boat, you have to ask the question anew. Do I feel well enough to row? Am I hydrated enough? Do I hear and see enough? Am I physically or mentally impaired? Is my judgment impaired? Has my injury healed? Did I take my medication?
  2. Skills: Do I have the necessary skills to row this boat? Do I have the skills and experience to row in these conditions? Do I know how to adjust the rigging properly? Can I swim? Do I know how to get back into the boat if I flip or get ejected? Do I understand the commands given by the coxswain?
  3. Weather conditions: Is it too hot to row? Is it too cold for me to row today? Is the air pollution level high? Is the water temperature too low? Is it too windy? Is there the risk of lightning?
  4. Equipment / Outside influences: Have I tightened all the nuts and bolts? Is the oarlock facing towards the stern? Have I put in my sculls correctly? Have I secured the oarlock? Is there debris in the lake? Are the student teams doing race pieces? Are the launches out and creating wake? Is the lake crowded with boaters and fishermen? Are the student pairs out? Is the lake too low? Is the lake too high? Have they changed the location of the buoys?




Many accidents in rowing are caused by the rower’s lack of skills. Rowing is deceptive. It looks so easy but is almost impossible to perfect. The biggest pitfall a rower can step into is overestimating their skills. Until we win our first Olympic medal, we are all just beginners looking for the perfect stroke.

Rule: Proficiency and Tests 

All rowers must know how to swim 300 yards and tread water for 15 minutes. The board reserves the right to establish proficiency requirements for certain positions in a boat or for certain boats. Current requirements are:

The Board reserves the right to establish tests to demonstrate proficiency. Only members who passed the test are allowed to row the respective position or boat. Members can re-take the test. Current tests are:

Rowing as a team 

Following orders is also a skill. So is rowing in a manner that does not put other rowers at risk. Please be aware that you are not alone in the boathouse or on the lake. Be considerate of other rowers, recreational boaters, and fishermen. Sign yourself out in the logbook when you take out ANY (sweep or scull) boat – ALL our boats have to be signed out and in the logbook. Be aware that the students sign out.Please follow the orders of your coach and/or cox. Their priority is to keep you, other persons on the lake, and our equipment safe.

Follow the traffic pattern 

Our lake has a clearly defined traffic pattern:

Be aware: Students, fisherman, and paddlers are NOT bound to traffic pattern and have right-of-way.


How to turn into the cove, and how not:



Rules: Do not put others at risk

Weather:You cannot row when visibility is poor, when it is too windy, too hot, too cold, or during a thunderstorm.

Rules: Weather Conditions

The safety statistic of CMCC shows that the biggest risk to you and your boat stems from:

It is difficult to impose rules that will eliminate the above dangers. Therefore, please realize that you are responsible for your own safety.
Also, it is important to remember that while your first concern is your own safety, you represent CMCC. If you manage to get into trouble, or are seriously hurt, everyone in the club may suffer the loss of rowing privileges. So, you have two responsibilities: to yourself and to the other rowers.

Please apply common sense and follow the following advice:

Rule: Common sense applies

You are responsible for your own safety. Protect yourself and others by following the these rules. Listen to advice. Always be aware of potential risks and act accordingly.

  1. Health 

    Just because your doctor has given you a clean bill of health during your most recent physical exam does NOT mean that you are fit to row on any particular day.Is it too hot for you? Are you hydrated enough? It is very easy to underestimate the dangers of heat, and some are more sensitive to extreme temperatures. If you are one of them, don’t go out when you should not. When in doubt: DO NOT ROW.Is it too cold for me to row? The winter safety roles of our club are based on the “average” rower. As stated above, some people are much more sensitive to cold than the “average” person. If you are one of them, it is your own responsibility not to row in conditions that are not conducive to your safety and well being.

    Did you drink too much alcohol? Did you take a medication that impairs your judgment? A single might not look like “heavy equipment” as mentioned on some of the drug labels, but rowing a single is at least as demanding. If the label says “refrain from operating heavy equipment” that also means “refrain from rowing.”

    Have you healed enough? The older we get, the longer it takes for injuries to heal. Be patient. Getting re-injured will keep you off the water even longer.

    Rule: Temporary suspension for medical reasons

    The CMCC Board of Directors reserves the right to temporarily suspend a rower for medical reasons. Each team captain, coach, or board member has authorization to dis-allow a club member from rowing if they have justifiable doubts that a rower can safely operate a boat.

    1. Am I fit to row?

      Almost all deaths related to rowing are caused by medical issues. Heart and brain related causes being, by far, the most frequent. Please get a physical exam at least once a year. Make your doctor aware that you participate in rowing activities and ask if he/she feels comfortable with this activity. Listen to the answer and follow your doctor’s advice.

      Rule: Waiver / Medical certificate

      Every member of CMCC has to sign a waiver once a year, in which the rower confirms that he or she is fit for rowing and indemnifies the club. The CMCC Board of Directors reserves the right to ask for a certificate, signed by your doctor, stating that you are fit to row.

    2. Should I row today?
  2. Skills 
    • Know how to swim You need to be able to swim (with your rowing clothes on) for at least 300 yards or tread water for at least 15 minutes.
    •  Learn to row Our club has the mission to improve the skills of our members. We offer learn-to- row lessons, coaching, clinics, and training. As a rower you will sometimes be put in positions, boats, or conditions for which you are not (yet) fully qualified. The club’s responsibility is to do this in a controlled manner with as many safety measures as possible in place. This should enable you to safely acquire the necessary skills, be it rowing a boat at high stroke rates and full pressure, rowing in windy conditions or in a current, stroking a boat, steering a boat, coxing, rowing small boats, sculling a racing single, or re-entering a boat after flipping (and many more skills not mentioned here, but which are still important for rowers). Only after you have acquired and demonstrated these skills is it safe for you to row. Once you have learned these skills and exhibited proficiency, the club would appreciate your support in our efforts to improve the skills of novices and less experienced rowers. We know that rowing with novices is not always fun, but without the help of experienced rowers they will not become proficient.
    • Either the stroke or the cox has to be experienced. No boat can go out when both the cox and the stroke are novices.
    • The bow seat in the Hedi is limited to rowers who have demonstrated abilities to steer a boat with a foot steering.
    • The Captain’s Test qualifying members to row the club’s racing singles
    • Only members who have successfully taken the NC Fish and Wildlife boating certification are allowed to drive the Club launch (Exception: in emergency situations every member should use the launch to save fellow rowers).
    • Always keep starboard oar (=left shoulder) closest to the shore
    • Rowers along the buoy line have the right-of-way. Slower crews and singles must yield to faster, oncoming crews by taking the longer course, which is typically closer to shore. This will be also a good practice for the head races that have the same rule.
    • On weekends or holidays, when the lake is open to the public:
    • Inform the lake warden that you are launching and return docking. He has to keep track of boat traffic for insurance purposes, and he will tell you if there are any extenuating circumstances to be aware of on the water.
    • ALL boats have to be signed out in the logbook before launching and signed in after the row. The log informs others of how many boats are on the water, as well as others being aware if your boat does not return within a normal range of time, dependent on the conditions.
    • Follow the traffic pattern: starboard oar close to the shore!
    • The Board of Directors may suspend or deny membership to rowers who put themselves, other rowers, or lake users at risk. Please refer to the CMCC Membership documents for additional detail.
  3. Weather and environmental conditions
    1. Visibility/ Fog:

      • No rowing before sunrise
      • No rowing after sunset
      • No rowing when you cannot see the buoy line from the dock
    2. Wind:

      • No rowing when the wind exceeds 16 mph
      • No rowing when there are white caps
      • No rowing when the waves wash over half of the dock

      Please be aware that the most dangerous wind conditions exist on the lake when you hear wind but do not hear Bob’s wind chimes and when the dock is only wet at the very front. That means that the wind is coming straight out of the cove, and under these circumstances you will have hefty cross winds and waves on your way to the bridge in the so-called “Bermuda Triangle”.

    3. Temperature:
      • No race pace or strenuous sweep practice is permitted when the heat index is above 100°F. Team leaders may cancel practice.
      • If you go out when the heat index is above 100°F, consider easy paddling and stationary drills. Stay in the shade as much as possible.
      • No rowing when the air temperature is below 32°F
    4. Air Quality:
      • No sweep rowing if the official air quality advisory is “Purple”
      • If the weather advisory indicates that the air quality code is orange or red, and you are sensitive to air quality, then you should not row.
    5. Thunderstorms:
      • No rowing during thunderstorms and before imminent thunderstorms: Launching is permitted at least 20 minutes AFTER the last thunder.
        Riggers act as lightning rods. Carbon fiber is a conductor, not an insulator. Lightning kills rowers every year! Our lake can go from calm to fearsome storm in less than 10 minutes! You cannot out-row an incoming front.
    6. Winter Safety Rules

      During winter, safety becomes an issue because the water gets cold. Water temperatures below 50°F/10°C degrees are considered extremely dangerous because the time-to-rescue prior to onset of hypothermia is very short. The following chart outlines the impact of water temperature on time-to-rescue:

      Water TemperatureExhaustion or Unconsciousness

      Under 32 degreesUnder 15 minutes

      32.4-4015-30 minutes

      40-5030-60 minutes

      50-601-2 hour

      With fewer people on the lake and limited access to assistance, all rowers should take additional precautions prior to rowing.

      Rules: Winter safety policies

      The CMCC Board of Directors takes a weekly water temperature reading and posts it on the Carolina Masters website. If necessary, the safety committee will inform members about applicable safety rules and recommended safety precautions.

      1. Safety PacksCoxswains (sweep) and scullers should take a safety kit on the water when the lake is closed for the season. The kit should include the following items:
        • Cell phone in a watertight container
        • Fox 40 whistle
        • Space blanket
        • Ideally, these can all be combined in a small bag that you can tether to the rigger of your boat
        • Coxswains should also carry a life preserver.
      2. OWASA Rule
        No rowing when the air temperature is below 32°F
      3. Phase 1 rules: Water temperature is 50°F or higher and the lake is closed to the public:
        • 90°F rule: The water and air temperature have to add up to at least 90°F . If the water is 50°F, that means the air has to be at least 40°F. Singles must row with a buddy. As you scull, stay within 100 meters of each other. The colder the water, the closer you stay. Make sure that you and your sculling buddy both understand the rescue and hypothermia first aid procedures.
      4. Phase 2 rules: Water temperature is below 50°F but air temperature is above 32°F
        1. For singles and pairs (1x, 2-), water temperature and air temperature must add up to at least 90°F
        2. Singles can only be rowed when a coxed boat or a launch is also on the lake.
        3. Any boat with at least four oars (e.g., a double, quad, or four) is permitted to row when there is no coxed boat or launch on the water at the same time.
        4. Doubles (2x) can only row when both rowers have a safety pack or wear an (inflatable) life vest


      1. When water temperatures are below 50°F/10°C, consider rowing a more stable 2x, Alden, or Maas.
      2. Scullers should consider wearing a safety-pack style, inflatable life preserver or an (inflatable) life vest during your row. If you know that you cannot easily get back into or onto your boat after flipping, these devices reduce the amount of energy that you exert in the water. This, of course, is important when you need help.
      3. Stay within 100 ft. of the shore when possible. The colder the water, the closer you should stay to the shore.
    7. Do-Not-Row Areas/ Water Levels

      University Lake is a rain-fed, drinking water reservoir. The Orange Water and Sewer Authority (OWASA) manages the lake and sets the rules for rowers and all other users of the lake.

      There are two areas where sweep boats and scullers are not permitted to row when the lake is open to the public:

      • North of the Jones Ferry Road bridge
      • Between the Turtle Log and the Far End of the Lake is closed to rowers whenever the lake is open to the public (Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and all public holidays between spring and fall).

      If it does not rain for long periods of time, water levels can drop by as much as a foot per week. One UNC football home game lowers the water level by one inch. Since the Cove and the Far End of the Lake are very shallow, dropping water levels quickly result in a much smaller lake. To circumnavigate the lake at high water is 7 K, but at low water it is 5K.


      When the water level drops below a certain level, the Narrows live up to their name and make it almost impossible for 2 big boats to pass through it at the same time.In these conditions, the warden may declare that only the section between the Bridge and Beaver Dam are accessible to rowers when the lake is open to the public.

      Another risk at low water levels is caused by submerged logs and tree stumps that can be located just below the water surface. Don’t cut any corner too closely or you might get your oar entangled in submerged debris, which can result in ejection from a sweep boat or flipping a single. Especially in the Cove many tree stumps are just below the surface. They have cut many holes in expensive wooden boats. If you see a wide gap between the high water mark and the current water level it is a good idea to stay out of the Cove.

      Rules: Do-Not-Row Areas/ Water Levels

      Follow the rules of OWASA and the warden at all times, especially – but not limited to

      • The Do-Not-Row areas
      • Not rowing through the Narrows at low water levels.
      • Do not take club boats into the Cove or to the Far End in low water.
  4. Equipment / Outside influences
    • Not properly putting together your equipment
    • Hitting buoys, the shore line, submerged trees, or debris (mostly after heavy storms)
    • Boat collisions
    • Check the rigging. Can you row in these settings?
    • Check whether nuts and bolts are tightened before you launch.
    • Is the oar / are the sculls put in the right way and the oar locks secured?
    • Follow the traffic pattern.
    • Be aware where the other boats on the lake are. Look back frequently.
    • Do not cut corners. The water level might have dropped suddenly and you might hit one of the submerged trees that weren’t exposed previously.
    • Look out for debris after storms. Warn other rowers about debris you encountered.
    • Read and follow the safety advisories.