It's important to understand that the club depends on its members to evaluate acceptable rowing conditions.  Do not row when the river is at or near 'action' level. Even if the level is not near "action' level, conditions could be hazardous with high flow rate, high or gusty winds, debris, dangerous docking conditions or bad weather. Take time to observe conditions and ask for advice from rowers with experience. You are assuming the risks for determining if it is safe to row. It is highly recommended to carry a dry-bag with a phone or to row with a safety launch if possible. Consider what you will do if a dangerous event occurs and how you will get help. If a condition is life threatening, call 911 for assistance.

Important areas of concern are:
  • River Height / Flow
  • Visibility
  • Lightning / Adverse Weather
  • Temperature
  • Boat Traffic / Swimmers
  • Dock Safety
  • Equipment
  • Wind
  • Debris
  • Boat size and experience level


Check river and weather conditions before getting on the water via the National Weather Service's website (see also VBC home page):

For rowing Robious Landing or Rocketts Landing, refer to JAMES RIVER AT RICHMOND-WESTHAM

Bookmark these these links and check before rowing. Rowing in high flow conditions is extremely unsafe and increases risk of damaging VBC equipment. Do not row if shore or dock conditions make launching or landing hazardous. Use Caution!


Use lights on boats if rowing in early or late darkness or low light. Use white continuous or blinking bow light or light that can be seen from bow side. A red stern light can be used for additional visibility as seen from stern.


Lightning on the river is very dangerous and may occur even when local conditions look good. Do not row in conditions where lightning may occur. If conditions look variable or unpredictable for lightning, stay close to the dock to allow quick recovery to land if needed.

If thunder is heard, do not row. Wait for at least 45 minutes after hearing thunder before reconsidering a row. If thunder is heard a second time, re-start the 45-minute count. If thunder is heard a third time, cancel the row.

Rowing in light rain is fine. Rowing in very heavy rain or wind can swamp the boat, can impede navigation and risks damage to equipment. Again, if conditions are variable, stay close to the dock. If extreme lightning occurs such as seeing a strike nearby, land the boat on shore and exit the water until conditions improve.


Early or late-season conditions can be cold and pose risks for hypothermia. Use the ‘100-degree rule’ where the combined air and water temperature in Fahrenheit should sum to at least 100 degrees. Dress for weather but also consider the effects of capsizing where wet clothes will not help. Ensure that you have assistance available if you become wet in cold conditions. Carry a dry-bag with a phone.

During summer, temperatures can become very hot and humid. Use sunscreen, carry sufficient water and have assistance available in the event of heatstroke. Modify workouts if necessary for heat.


Numerous boaters and swimmers share our home waters at Robious and at Rockett’s Landing. It is very important to use the river safely and respectfully. Do not impede others’ use of the river! Always stay to the right (starboard) side of the river. If multiple boats row together, ensure that there is a reasonable pathway for opposite traffic and for power boats to pass.

Most powerboats will pass our crew boats carefully. Be aware that some powerboats’ minimum wake may occur at a higher speed than you expect. Be an ambassador for our club and avoid confrontation or harsh words. Do report unsafe boating behavior.

Beware of swimmers, paddle boarders, kayakers or other recreational hazards. Modify workout pieces if needed to slow down and check conditions. Take special care near ramps and docks. Swimmers especially can be very difficult to see.


Practice moving efficiently on the dock to allow access for other crews. As a general rule, launch and land heading upstream although heading downstream may be required in some cases. Approach the dock slowly. If the boat is not lined up properly for safe landing, go around and try again. Protect the equipment. Be respectful of others using the river, especially at public dock (Robious).


Keep your equipment in good condition and carry any tools needed for adjustment or on-water repair. Check gear before launching. Follow VBC guidelines for equipment usage. If damage occurs during a row, return to the dock immediately and report damage to the boathouse manager. Additionally, leave a note on the equipment noting the damage along with your name.

Members are expected to follow these rules and guidelines. If a member does not act accordingly or acts with negligence or disrespect for safety, the VBC board reserves the right to sanction a member, including loss of equipment or facility privileges.


The safety or coaching launch provides safety supervision when rowing and support assistance in and emergency. A launch may prove useless unless the following precautions have been taken:

  • The driver must be trained in the proper use and operation of the powerboat. Classes are offered through local chapters of the U.S. Power Squadron, or state boating safety departments.
  • A radio or cell phone is recommended to allow a quick direct link with rescue services and other coaches on the water in the event of an emergency. 
  • Emergency supplies in the launch should include a first aid kit, fire extinguisher, night lights and tool kit.  The tool kit should contain wrenches, appropriate nuts, tape, washers, and other materials needed to make  small repairs. Only minor repairs should be done on the water.
  • Ensure that everyone in the launch is wearing a life jacket and that there is one for each person rowing under the coach's care. 
  • Practice man overboard safety drills. Know how to have rowers enter the coaching launch from the water.  Approach from the leeward side, keeping the outboard propeller away from any victims. Turn off the engine as soon as contact is made. Avoid overloading. 
  • The launch driver must wear the cord that activates the safety/kill switch in accordance with the motor manufacturer's literature.
  • Coaches should obtain boater safety license 


Club members are encouraged to view the safety video produced by US Rowing:


Virginia Boat Club    |    P.O. Box 8468    |    Richmond, Virginia 23226
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