Pete Bluth Row Across Lake Minnetonka

One local resident hopes to turn a personal challenge into a yearly community event.
Pete Bluth: A self portrait.


They say that the best motivation comes from within, but a little bit of sibling rivalry never hurt either. In fact, it was this combination of driving forces that pushed Pete Bluth, a lake area resident, to attempt a unique goal: a cruise across Lake Minnetonka—in a rowboat.   

It all started with a phone call from Bluth’s brother, which quickly eroded into their usual sibling banter. “I don’t even know how we got around to it,” says Bluth, “but we started talking about the rowboat I had behind the house, and I was like, ‘I wonder how long it would take for me to row from one end of the lake to the other?’”

His brother initially scoffed at the idea, which—as anyone with siblings knows—simply served to make the challenge all the more official. “He pretty much called me an idiot for even considering it,” Bluth recalls with a laugh, “but then it kind of turned into an experiment and I figured, ‘Hey, somebody’s got to find out.’”

Initially, Bluth planned on making the lake-wide trek sometime this spring, but after 75-degree weather persisted into early October of last year, he decided to move up the date and make an impromptu run. Using the technical guidance of his GPS and his own personal knowledge of the lake, Bluth plotted out a 12.25-mile course, starting at Grey’s Bay Dam and ending in Halstead’s Bay. Training consisted of a few rowing sessions in the lake across the street from his home, and less than two weeks after that pivotal phone call, Bluth and his 200-pound Alumacraft rowboat were ready to hit the water.

“At first, I just set out to do it and have some fun,” says Bluth. “I had no idea what to expect, so I packed a cooler, a big radio, an extra oar—just a bunch of junk.” Despite all his extra gear, however, he reached the halfway point with surprising speed, and quickly decided to reassess his plans. “I was amazed at how fast I got there; I hadn’t even taken a rest stop yet, so I just figured I’d go for it and see how fast I could do it.”

Three and a half hours after his journey began, Bluth pulled into 6-Mile Creek with blistered hands and an aching back, triumphant. He averaged an impressive 3.5 miles per hour despite his leisurely start, choppy waters in the highly populated Crystal Bay, and a few pauses to explain his unique attempt to interested boaters. “I got some cheers and jeers out there,” recalls Bluth good-naturedly, “but mostly cheers, as people thought it was pretty cool. Even my brother had to admit it was neat.”

Currently, Bluth is planning a second attempt for some time next month, and this time he’s implementing a little more planning and preparation.  He’s upgraded his $300 antiquated Alumacraft to a much lighter, sleeker WinTech racing shell and has already logged many hours at the gym. “This time around, I’m doing more specific rowing exercises, really focusing on my back and legs. Right now I can sustain 7.5 miles per hour [on the machine], and I think I’ll be able to do [the course] in about two hours,” says Bluth enthusiastically. “I never thought I’d get into it as much as I did, but I’m kind of mildly obsessed with it now,” he says.

And not only is Bluth looking forward to his own repeat attempt, he’s also hoping his excitement will rub off on other local lake enthusiasts as well. “I really think it would be cool to get an interest going. I’d love to start a rowing club or turn this into a yearly fun-run for charity or something. I’ve got to believe that there are people out there who are interested, and I’d like to be the one to bring them all together.”

Bluth has requested that anyone interested contact him at [email protected], and he welcomes all to come out and cheer him on in June.