America's Oldest Rowing Club
Ever Since 1838

NBC Replaces its Oldest Dock

Yes, it's true. The old dock that has served the Boat Club for the past 65 years will be replaced starting at 7:30 AM on Friday morning, June 6. On hand to view the proceedings will be Harlan Bartlett, a 1949 co-founder of the modern-day Brown Rowing Program. Here is the description of how it got to be our somewhat reliable foundation for launching boats on the Seekonk:

"The Brown rowers' next mission was to obtain a suitable float for launching the shell [that Bartlett and Donaldson had driven up from St. Andrew's School in Delaware]. The Brown Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps came to their rescue by offering a float that the U.S. Navy had used to carry a target for gunnery practice during the Second World War.

"A Navy tug pulled the float up Narragansett Bay from Melville, Rhode Island into Providence Harbor and the mouth of the Seekonk. The towing operation concluded when the great heap of wood was eased toward the Providence side of the Seekonk into position alongside the Narragansett Boat Club.

"Bob Read, Brown's first volunteer coach, had a friend who worked for the Brownell Machine Shop and who drove pilings into the river bottom to hold the float in place. He also built a new ramp for carrying the shell from the boathouse to the river.

"The float was made of solid wood without air space or floatation material, Brown oarsmen frequently stood on the float in water up to their ankles, and the float would sink deeper whenever the crew put too much weight in one place. Not having actual docks was an inconvenience, but the rowers learned to put up with it. There also learned to put up with the lack of facilities at the Narragansett Boat Club." Source: Pages 75-76, Ever True: The History of Brown Crew, which you can still purchase at the Brown Bookstore.

The dock still continues to be low to the water, as attested daily by the green slime on the northeast corner, and has many more stories related to it and the continuing saga of trying to find ways to keep it afloat. Many thanks to Harlan and the Brown Crew for taking the initiative to put it in place. In spite of its lack of glamor, it has withstood the test of time in its own way. Thankfully our current Boat Club members have already paved the way for new docks that have increased our launching area to 180 linear feet. Now this old "heap of wood" will be replaced by another dock system that will be higher off the water, very stable, and provide solid storage space for our fleet of zephyrs and, at least for now, auxiliary space for securing other equipment.