Riverside strives to keep its rowers and other Charles River users safe and maintain our equipment in racing condition at all times. 

Coxswains play a big role in maintaining these standards. For this reason, every coxswain is required to pass a Captain’s Test within two weeks of joining Riverside.

In order to pass the test, coxswains must:

  • Be Riverside members in good standing (all dues paid and new coxswains have attended an orientation)
  • Demonstrate excellent knowledge of the Charles River Rowing Traffic Pattern (with accompanying maps of the river and basin) and the Riverside Handbook. Proper boat handling and safety must be maintained at all times.

Coxswains who are regular members will gain full coxing privileges after passing the coxswain test. These privileges can be revoked at any time by the Riverside Captain. Summer-only coxswains are also required to be tested within two weeks of joining Riverside but are never allowed to cox a boat without an accompanying coach, under any circumstances. To schedule a test with one of the volunteer coxswain testers, please contact the Riverside Captain.

Each spring before the start of the new season, or whenever one returns during the year, Riverside coxswains are required to contact the coxswain coordinator. He/She will update coxswains on any changes in traffic patterns or boathouse protocol. Coxswains must be aware that the Longfellow Bridge is undergoing extensive work for the foreseeable future.

Training Videos 

From The Coxswain’s View

This video, by Mike Floyd, demonstrates steering, landmarks and situational awareness on the lower Charles River (Museum of Science to Weeks Bridge). It is an unedited commentary from an 8+ and about one hour long. Shortcuts to times at major landmarks and bridges along the river are listed in the description with the original video on YouTube.


Head of the Charles Regatta Video

This video for informational purposes only and does not reflect the regular traffic pattern on the Charles, nor should it be used to prepare for the Coxswain Test. Also, racing rules of yielding do not apply when rowing under normal circumstances on the Charles. See the traffic pattern and river rules.

Frequently Asked Questions

Must a coxswain become a member to cox for Riverside Boat Club?

Yes. Riverside is committed to integrating, supporting and developing its coxswains in the same way as any other member. We want coxswains to take full advantage of the club environment, and contribute to its operations and success by building productive relationships. We believe that the best way to encourage this is for all those actively using the club (rowers and coxswains alike) to join as members.

May a coxswain cox at Riverside Boat Club as a guest without becoming a member?


Yes, but there are restrictions. A coxswain may cox as a guest only with the express permission of the Captain and under the direct supervision of a Riverside coach, and they must first sign the guest waiver agreement. Riverside’s guest policy allows for three rows per calendar year with fees waived, up to a maximum of eight rows with additional fees, before pursuing membership at Riverside. This applies to coxswains as well as rowers and we consider racing at regattas to count towards guest rows for coxswains. If a guest coxswain wishes to cox more than this, they must go through the steps to become a member.

May a coxswain race at regattas with Riverside Boat Club if they are not a member?

Yes, but the guest coxswain and the captains of the squad that has invited them to cox must first gain permission from the Vice President (to discuss whether dues or fees are required) and club Captain (to assess safety and competence) before committing to race. We require anyone participating in activities with Riverside to sign the club’s waiver agreement beforehand.

How does a coxswain become a member of Riverside Boat Club?

A coxswain becomes a member of Riverside in exactly the same way as all other members. The process is very quick, simple and straightforward:

Dues may be paid online or at the new member meeting. Coxswains must also pass a “Coxswain Test” as soon as possible within two weeks of starting to cox at Riverside. Contact the membership committee and/or the coxswain coordinator (currently Mike Floyd) for further information or to ask questions.

1. Before engaging in any club activity, sign the waiver agreement;

2. Submit an application for coxswain membership and pay the appropriate dues;

3. Attend a new member meeting and boathouse orientation.

May a coxswain race at regattas with Riverside Boat Club if they are a member but have not yet passed the Coxswain Test?

Yes, but the coxswain and their squad captains must first gain the permission of the club Captain before committing to race.

What is the Coxswain Test at Riverside Boat Club?

Riverside expects its coxswains, and rowers who row singles or bow boats, to be safe, competent and self-reliant on the Charles River and around the boathouse. Rowers must pass a “Captain’s Test” to be permitted to row singles from Riverside or bow certain classes of club boats. Equivalently, all coxswains must pass a similar test upon becoming a member to be permitted to cox Riverside boats.

Why does Riverside Boat Club have a Coxswain Test?

Riverside is committed to upholding basic minimum standards of rowing safety on the Charles River, a busy and challenging stretch of water. Other clubs on the Charles River may not allow coxswains to cox without the supervision of a coach at any time, but passing the Coxswain Test is a Riverside coxswain’s path to independence, with the ability to cox outings unsupervised at any permitted time. Riverside fully subscribes to the Charles River Rowing Traffic Pattern, and expects all rowers who row singles or bow club boats and all coxswains to abide by these rules. We also have a number of in-house protocols that are particular to Riverside. Therefore we test all rowers wishing to row singles or bow club boats and all coxswains to ensure that they understand, know and follow these rules and protocols.

Must U23 summer program coxswains pass the Coxswain Test?

Yes, to confirm a basic standard of safety and competence, but they are not permitted to cox unsupervised thereafter. A U23 summer program rower or coxswain applies for and is accepted to a coached program for the summer. Therefore they must only row or cox under the direct supervision of the program coach. If a U23 summer program coxswain wishes to cox unsupervised, they must become a full member of Riverside in addition to passing the Coxswain Test. All U23 summer program coxswains must pass the Coxswain Test each year even if they have previously coxed at Riverside.

Must rowers be tested too?

Rowers do have to pass a “Captain’s Test” to gain equivalent privileges. Any rower who wishes to row a single from Riverside or bow club boats must pass the Captain’s Test appropriate for the class of boat. Many rowers in sweep squads do not need to pass a Captain’s Test because they will not be directly in charge of club equipment but all coxswains must pass the Coxswain Test as soon as possible.

Is a coxswain required to pass the Coxswain Test again if they return to Riverside Boat Club after a break?

If a coxswain has not actively coxed for Riverside on the Charles River for more than one full calendar year, they must pass the Coxswain Test again. This allows coxswains to return annually, for example for the fall season (Head of the Charles), without having to pass the Coxswain Test each time but ensures that any changing standards are upheld with those who have spent more than a year away from Riverside. If a coxswain’s membership has lapsed for more than one full calendar year, they are required to rejoin through the usual steps, listed above under “How does a coxswain become a member of Riverside Boat Club?”, including the new member meeting and boathouse orientation.

What are the prerequisites for the Coxswain Test?

All incoming members (rowers and coxswains) are expected to be members in good standing, having:

The club expects this process to be completed within two weeks of choosing to become a member (rowers and coxswains alike). Concurrently within that time, Riverside requires the coxswain to cox at least three times under the direct supervision of a Riverside squad or program coach. When all four of these stages are complete, the coxswain should request a Coxswain Test.

1. Signed the club’s waiver agreement, which must be done before engaging in any activity at or with Riverside Boat Club;

2. Submitted an application for coxswain membership and paid the appropriate dues;

3. Attended a new member meeting and boathouse orientation.

What is the Coxswain Test process?

The Coxswain Test has two parts: an on-water portion and an off-water portion. The on-water portion involves shadowing the coxswain to observe equipment (e.g. boat and CoxBox) handling and outing management during a regular practice. The off-water portion involves verification of knowledge as described under the “Coxswain Test” section of the Captain’s Test. The information and knowledge for this off-water portion may be gained by attending the orientation and asking fellow members at the club.

Who provides the Coxswain Test?

A Coxswain Test may be organized by contacting the coxswain coordinator (currently Mike Floyd). Tests will be given by one of a few experienced coxswains at Riverside (currently Mike Floyd, Lyssa Bayne, Renée Lanza and Sarah Ivey), preferably by one that is not in the same squad as the coxswain being tested, if scheduling allows.

Why are the CoxBoxes locked in a cabinet?

For the security of equipment that is easily removed, we keep all CoxBoxes and associated equipment in a locked cabinet. We need to protect such equipment as keenly as possible for everyone’s uninterrupted use. This also allows us to track who is coxing club boats using club equipment at any given time by restricting access to this cabinet only to active coxswain members who have passed the Coxswain Test.

How does a coxswain gain access to the CoxBox cabinet?

Coxswains must become a member of Riverside Boat Club and pass the Coxswain Test to gain access to the CoxBox cabinet. Until such time, another coxswain may sign out a CoxBox on the new coxswain’s behalf but they must take responsibility for the proper use and return of the equipment. A couple of others, such as squad coaches, also have access in case there is not another coxswain around at a given time.