PORTLAND, Maine — When the pandemic hit in March 2020 and the community rowing and sailing program in Belfast had to shut down, Nicolle Littrell felt the loss keenly.
“Rowing has been such an important outlet for me for fitness and wellness and community and connection,” she said. “I started to go out of my mind, not rowing. And so this crazy idea came about. What if I just got my own boat?”
On Mother’s Day of that year, she brought home her new boat, a wooden dory just under 20 feet long which she named Sorciere, French for witch.
For the next five months, with social distancing firmly in place, she mainly rowed by herself. But she knew that rowing made people feel better, which led to another idea.
“And it was, well, what if I started my own business with my boat?” she said.
In August 2021, after becoming a Registered Maine Guide, Littrell started DoryWoman Rowing and began taking clients out for tours, lessons, workouts, sunset rows, and more. Her clientele is a mix of locals who row with her regularly and visitors who want to try something different.
“It’s work. It’s a lot of instruction,” Jerri Holmes, who lives in the area and has gone out numerous times, said. “I didn’t think I’d be a rower. But I love it.”
One thing that makes DoryWoman Rowing highly unusual is that the business operates 12 months of the year. Yes, on a bitterly cold day in January, Nicolle Littrell and a client might be out in Belfast Bay, pulling on their oars and keeping an eye out for chunks of ice floating down from the Passagassawakeag River.
When asked if people think that ocean rowing in winter in Maine is crazy, Holmes said, “Oh, I hear that all the time. And I am. I am. We are all absolutely crazy. But that’s what keeps us alive.”