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Rowing with beauty, self-empowerment: DoryWoman offers Belfast on-the-water experience

Wed, 09/01/2021 - 10:15am

BELFAST — There’s a new rowing business navigating the waters of Belfast Bay, launched by Nicolle Littrell. She is offering rowing lessons and guided rowing tours in the Bay, and efforts are challenging the gender status quo of rowing. 

What makes DoryWoman Rowing most unique, Littrell said, is there is no other company providing guided tours and rowing lessons in a traditional wooden boat in Belfast Bay with a Maine Guide, and perhaps even in the entire state. An individual with the Maine Department of Inland, Fisheries and Wildlife could not recall ever issuing a Maine Guide license to a rower, Littrell said. 

She is pleased, and proud, to have earned her Maine Guide’s license to become a Maine Sea Kayak Guide, which allows her to take people out below head of tide and three miles out into the ocean.

“I feel honored to be a new member of the guiding cohort in Maine, which helps to get folks outside and on the water, building skills and confidence, as well as learning about and appreciating the beautiful natural resources of our state, and become familiar with ‘leave no trace’ ethics, which calls attention to the importance of stewardship to protect natural resources and wildlife in Maine,” she said. “I'm also proud to be a female guide, making inroads in the guiding field and increasing the numbers of women who are becoming licensed guides in Maine.” 

Starting with the name of her business (Dorywoman, a twist on the rowing stroke term doryman) to the inspiration behind launching her business, Littrell said: “Women, rowing and traditional wooden boats are hardly synonymous, even though we know that women have been connected to and rowing these types of boats throughout the ages. The passage of Title IX in 1972 opened up opportunities for women to compete in college sports, including rowing; however, traditionally, rowing has been a domain associated with men. This includes boats like mine, the dory.”

Littrell is passionate, she noted, about sharing the beauties of Belfast Bay with folks of all walks of life, and has found rowing to be an empowering experience providing strength, in addition to being a soothing and healing activity.

“As a single parent and middle-aged woman, rowing has been an important outlet for me for fitness and wellness, community and connection,” she said, noting she wants to provide that outlet to others. “I have described rowing as my oasis, especially during this pandemic; in fact, I bought my boat at the start of the pandemic. We should all have access to this in our lives, pandemic or not.” 

Most important to her is that her programs are accessible to both the tourists and residents of the Belfast area, an area she said is quite the rowing destination. 

For those eyeing a trip on the water with Littrell, she promises a fun and memorable experience, and a bit of adventure enjoying the beautiful bay, including learning about the wildlife that live here.

“My rows are often punctuated with sightings of seals, ospreys, eagles, herons, jumping fish, and the occasional porpoise,” she said. “Whether my guests are out for a fitness-focused row or just along with the ride (or row, as it were), the emphasis of my rowing service is on wellness and appreciation of the beauty and natural resources of Belfast Bay, as well as learning some of the history and heritage of our working waterfront and of wooden boats.” 

Programs will be offered into the fall with the opportunity to take in the beauty of the fall foliage from the vantage point of the boat. Littrell is a year-round rower, in all types of conditions, and invites those brave enough to join her for a lesson or tour during the winter in her sturdy and seaworthy boat, Sorciere. 

Themed rows are yet another way Littrell has found to make her business unique.

Each Halloween, Littrell hosts a ‘Witches Row’ event, appropriate for a boat named Sorciere, a name stemming from Littrell’s affinity for magic and a nod to her Franco heritage (Sorciere means witch in French).

She also conducts full moon and new moon rows, and did stargazing and watched the Neowise comet from her boat with her son last year. 

Information about her guided tours and rowing programs can be found by visiting