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Old-Fashioned Rowboat Date

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"It's the classic Victorian love story scene — a couple lounging in a rowboat, on a lazy summer afternoon in the middle of the lake, while he woos her with poetry by Byron or Keats."

A lady and her suitor are having a romantic date on a rowboat, perhaps a swan boat. This was a popular dating image for the 19th and early 20th century upper classes, as it provided a chance for couples to be alone together, but still in plain sight to avoid accusations of anything sexual happening.

The typical image is the lady sitting under her Parasol of Prettiness in a Simple, yet Opulent dress, while the gentleman sits on the other side, wooing her in various ways. Bonus points if he's using a ukulele.

These days, "old-fashioned" means precisely that. This isn't quite a Dead Horse Trope, but spoofs of it far outnumber straight uses these days, usually with at least one of the participants falling into the water if the boat doesn't sink. Also, the "Tunnel of Love" rides in amusement parks were sort of a play on this trope, using the dark to allow couples to have intimate contact with nobody actually seeing anything. Another popular variation is a date in a Venetian gondola (with the bonus that you can pay someone else to do the actual rowing).

A Sister Trope to Serenade Your Lover, Courtly Love (another romance ideal), Married at Sea (taking this to another level).

Compare The Gay '90s, Chaste Hero, Celibate Hero, The Ingenue, Purity Personified, Princess Classic, Coy, Girlish Flirt Pose, Umbrella of Togetherness.


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  • A macabre example is shown in this Dr Pepper commercial from 1999 which features a young couple on a rowboat date late at night in a swamp. It ends with the boyfriend being devoured by an alligator; his girlfriend doesn't seem to mind since this means she gets his Dr. Pepper!

    Anime & Manga 
  • In the OVA version of Ah! My Goddess, while going off to the beach together Keiichi and Belldandy decide to go and have a little moment alone in an inflatable boat. At first it seems to be going nicely, until Sayoko Mishima appears on her yatch and knocks them overboard, and to make things worse, Keiichi can't swim, forcing Belldandy to rescue him.
  • Campione!: During the Beach Episode Erica forces Godou into having one of these, though she clearly intends for it to go a little further, given that she even handcuffed him. As soon as she removes the cuffs, he jumps overboard and swims to get away from her.
  • Played with in Great Teacher Onizuka. Onizuka plays hooky to take a stressed out Fuyutsuki rowing, but he claims he does this all the time by himself when he's feeling stressed. And then the boat turns out to be leaky. He also takes Murai's mom on a boat date. It doesn't leak that time, but the date's still ruined, this time by having to rescue Murai, who jumped in the water to stop the date, despite not being able to swim.
  • Early in Kimagure Orange Road, Kasuga is in a rowboat, and runs into Ayukawa, setting this up, but this is subverted when he dives into the lake to rescue a kid from drowning.
  • Itazura Na Kiss: Kotoko manages to get Naoki taking her on a date like this, but notice that they're the only couple around. And then Naoki casually mentions that's because of an urban legend about couples falling apart after having a date in that lake. It hilariously backfires since Kotoko starts panicking and they both fall into the water.
  • In Love Hina, Keitaro takes Mutsumi on one, though not with the intention of taking her on a date (he had originally meant to use it to talk to her in private, but instead realized it looked more like they were on a date).
  • My Monster Secret: One chapter has Asahi and Youko going to an amusement park where this is one of the activities they did, under the suggestion of their friend Karen. She was hoping to re-create a date Youko's parents had, where riding in the boat made her father Genjirou "jump up and sing" with joy...but in reality, he was freaking out because they were on open water. Thankfully, Youko is only half-vampire so it doesn't bug her quite as much.
  • In Octave, Yukino and Setsuko go on one. Since they're both girls, they janken to decide who rows.
  • The Quintessential Quintuplets has one during the Seven Goodbyes arc. Fuutarou meets one of the quintuplets in disguise, claiming to be the girl she met give years in Kyoto under the alias "Rena", and the two have a moment in a boat on a lake. Unlike most examples, the quint in question is actually trying to get Fuutarou to forget about the past and move on, and as revealed later, it turns out to not to be the same girl, since Yotsuba asked Itsuki to pose as her to avoid giving herself away.
  • In Ranma ½, Ukyō and male!Ranma go on a date involving row boats. Ryōga and Akane are also on a date, and fighting ensues.
  • Sailor Moon: In episode 2 of R season, Usagi and Mamoru rekindle their relationship (after Mamoru regains his memory in the previous episode) with him rowing a rowboat.
  • Wedding Peach: In episode 42 season 2, the three couples date on a rowboat with Yuri and Yanagiba eventually kiss.
  • When Marnie Was There: Marnie teaches Anna to rowboat and often bonds together with the rowboat.

    Comic Books 
  • Archie Comics:
    • Archie and Betty go on one in a story set in The Gay '90s.
    • A story set in modern times has Archie take Veronica on such a date. He pulls a muscle in his back and Veronica has to row them back.
  • Subverted in the comic book Les profs (teachers). The high school dean of students seems to have a date with a woman on a rowing boat, offering even a luxury perfume at the end before asking for something. The ending reveals that the goal was not romantic but that he was with the superintendent's secretary and asked her for an extra school monitor.
  • An ostensibly platonic version happens between Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson, with Bruce rowing Dick around. Of course, the platonic aspect is questionable; this was the same era in which Dick and Bruce sunbathed nude together and slept in the same bed.

    Fan Works 

    Films — Animation 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes' Smarter Brother, Sigerson Holmes and Jenny Hill go for an outing in a rowboat (Jenny demurely wearing a white fox muff instead of a parasol). Since this is a comedy, Sergeant Sacker comes along as the rower and his accidental mistakes with the oars repeatedly cause Sigerson to be splashed in the face with water.
  • Two couples have a date on a row-boat in Bridget Jones' Diary at the same time. They know each other but are not really on friendly terms. Mark and Natasha are dignified and discuss their case as they are both lawyers. Bridget and Daniel have more fun. She recites John Keats' poem "To the Autumn" (Daniel specifically forbade Keats), and he tries to outshout her with a dirty limerick. He then parodies the iconic "I-am-King-of-the-World" scene from Titanic (1997), and unsurprisingly falls into water. He doesn't want to be the only one wet and tries to swing the boat with Bridget as well. Prim and proper Natasha is horrified ("How childish!"), but Mark looks as if he envied them.
  • Briefly seen in the "That's How You Know" montage in Enchanted (the page image, above), complete with the parasol and a mariachi band on a couple of other boats.
  • From Russia with Love opens with a couple in the middle of one...then pans over to James Bond and Sylvia Trench making out near Bond's car.
  • Spoofed mercilessly in the Marx Brothers film Horse Feathers, where Groucho has a rowboat date with the College Widow, who is trying to seduce him to steal information about an upcoming football game. The dialogue is anything but chaste, and the date ends with her falling into the water and Groucho wisecracking rather than saving her. Also, she was the one doing the rowing while Groucho sat under the parasol and sang to her.
  • In Jason's Lyric, the title's characters go on a second date rowing a rowboat in the bayou.
  • In Kind Hearts and Coronets, Ascoyne D'Ascoyne takes his mistress punting, although his intentions are anything but chaste. When he moors his boat to have his way with her, Louis unties it; causing Ascoyne and his mistress to be swept to their deaths over the weir.
  • Alfalfa and Darla do this in the 1994 film of The Little Rascals.
  • The Laurel and Hardy film Men O'War ends with a double version of this: Laurel and Hardy take their new girlfriends out on a boating lake. The resulting Escalating War sinks every boat on the lake.
  • The Painted Veil when the main couple eventually resolve their Unresolved Sexual Tension they share a romantic moment returning to their village by boat like this.
  • Shaggy fantasizes about going on one with Velma in Scooby-Doo! Curse of the Lake Monster.
  • In Theatre of Death, a couple on a romantic outing in a boat discover a body floating in the river. Needless to say, this shatters the mood.
  • In The Man with Two Brains, Dr. Hfuhruhurr brings his sweet-heart, Anne, out for a boat ride in a lake. The catch: she's a Brain in a Jar. To make it not so weird, Dr. H. sticks a set of fake lips to the jar.

  • One time in Adrian Mole, Pandora describes visiting a high-class guy of about her age, and how he took her out on his rowboat and recited poetry to her.
  • The tunnel of love version appears in the sci-fi novel Against a Dark Background — you can bail about beforehand, but the tunnel is so long that having sex is pretty much all you can do other than sit in the dark and be bored to death. The protagonist's Love Interest gets her to go into the tunnel with him by promising to reveal a wish he'd made earlier (which of course was his wish to make love to his beautiful superior officer).
  • In Daisy Miller, Daisy tries to get Winterbourne to take her on one of these.
  • Laurie proposes to Amy during one of these in Little Women. Years later in the final sequel Jo's Boys, Tom begins his acquaintance with his future wife by overturning their boat. The story gets turned into a dramatic Rescue Romance as it spreads.
  • Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane go punting in Gaudy Night, and the scene is retained in the 1987 BBC television production. Such boating excursions are traditional at Oxford, where the story is set. The modern twists on this are their practical discussion of Harriet's poison pen prankster investigation and the "spot of celibacy" Harriet is maintaining, despite Wimsey's numerous proposals of matrimony.
  • "De Lunatico", a poem from George A. Baker's 19th-century Point Lace and Diamonds, subverts the trope by applying it to an elderly couple:
    You're no more a maiden fair, and I no lover, young and glowing;
    Just an old, sober, married pair, who, after tea, have gone out rowing.
  • Sherlock Holmes: "The Cardboard Box" plays it for drama as the young couple were an adulterous pair, murdered by the jealous husband. The murderer himself is not without sympathy, as it turns out the wife had been persuaded to find a lover by the machinations of her sister, who'd tried to seduce the husband and took his scorn badly.
  • An American Tragedy both plays this straight and subverts it: a romantic date with a girl playing her mandolin and a date with another girl that ends very badly.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Our Miss Brooks: Miss Brooks goes on a couple with Mr. Boynton:
    • In the radio episode "An American Tragedy", the date is marred when Miss Brooks jumps to the conclusion that Mr. Boynton is going to try to kill her so he can date a rich society girl. Matters get worse when Mr. Conklin jumps to the same conclusion, and hides aboard. Things get even worse when the rowboat starts to sink . . . .
    • The television episode "Blind Date" ends far more romantically. Their spat ended, Mr. Boynton invites Miss Brooks to spend the evening out on the lake as he serenades her with his ukulele. As Mr. Boynton gets his ukulele, Miss Brooks goes to the wishing well to make a wish. Instead of tossing in one coin, she decides to throw in every coin in her purse!
  • As Time Goes By. Jean tries in vain not to laugh as Lionel proves so inept an oarsman they end up having to be towed back to shore by another boat.
  • Cranford: Mary Smith's embarrassing, overwhelming and match-making step-mother tries to invoke this trope and forces Mary to have a boat date with Dr. Harrison at Lady Ludlow's garden party. Mary doesn't want to get married and knows that Dr. Harrison likes Sophy Hutton. However, as Mary is his favoured surgical assistant, they're on very friendly terms and have a pleasant conversation about Sophy and Cranford.
  • Doctor Who: The Fourth Doctor and Romana are shown punting on the Cam in "The Five Doctors" (using footage shot for the unfinished serial "Shada"). Tom Baker and Lalla Ward did eventually marry in Real Life. How much chemistry they have in-universe is up for the viewer to decide.
  • In Downton Abbey, set in the 1920's, very young Lady Rose and a black jazz musician Jack Ross have a row-boat date in London. Her family doesn't know about their relationship.
  • On When Calls the Heart, Jack and Elizabeth have a picnic lunch while on one of these. Unfortunately she notices a spider on her shoulder, causing her to panic, lunge at Jack and nearly catapult them both into the pond.
  • An episode of Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, that is a Whole-Plot Reference to Some Like It Hot, a guy sees Salmoneous in drag, and pictures doing this date with him.
  • In Monty Python's Flying Circus, the English pantomime horse and the Bond Girl appear to be on one of these at the beginning of The Pantomime Horse Is A Secret Agent Film.
  • Mystery Science Theater 3000. One of the "Rocky Jones" epics had the original title The Gypsy Moons. A framing sequence posits that that is the title of an old-timey turn of the century popular song, which Crow and Tom Servo sing (using every possible rhyme with "moon"), serenading Gypsy on a stage set depicting such a rowboat date.
  • Psych has a subversion when Shawn, who's dating Juliette at the time, infiltrates the set of "Paths of Love" (a "Bachelor-esque" dating show) to solve a series of sabotages that have resulted in injuries. At the end, when the host shows a highlight reel, Shawn and the girl he's supposed to end up with are on a row boat, but while Shawn sings and plays a guitar, off key, she rows the boat, followed shortly by Gus who's rowing by himself.
  • In an episode of Person of Interest, Reese and Shaw pretend to go on one as an excuse to scope out their new number. Shaw isn't the least bit happy that she's not allowed to row (as that would be suspicious), but given that Reese is a Launcher of a Thousand Ships, it's safe to say that several shippers were quite pleased.
  • In Scrubs, J.D. has an Imagine Spot where he's on such a date with Elliot, and even throwing her lover in a lake.
  • Star Trek: Enterprise. Trip Tucker should have known better when an alien woman takes him into a virtual reality simulation involving the two of them in a rowboat — it leads to a Mister Seahorse situation.
  • In To the Manor Born, DeVere invites Audrey for what she thinks is a date, ending with the two of them together in a punt. When she discovers he's actually using her as an extra in a grocery advertisement he's filming, she takes her revenge by setting the punt adrift in the river, with him on board.
  • The Good Place: In one of the reboots Elanor and Chidi go on one of these.
  • The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel: While at the Steiner Mountain Resort, Miriam makes Benjamin take her on a rowboat ride at the insistence of her mother, on the grounds that it's "private but on display". He refuses to row.

    Puppet Shows 
  • An episode of The Muppet Show has a Wayne and Wanda sketch where the two are enacting such a date while singing "Row, Row, Row." It's one of few Wayne and Wanda sketches that make it to the song's chorus. Of course, as soon as they do, the boat springs a leak and sinks.
  • In an Imagine Spot in The Muppet Movie, Miss Piggy pictures herself doing this with Kermit.

  • "My Little Canoe" from the Leslie Stuart operetta The School Girl (1903) dates from the period when this was fashionable as the Florodora sextet it musically closely resembles.
  • "Row! Row! Row!" from the 1912 Follies.


    Video Games 

    Web Comics 

    Web Original 
  • Spoofed in Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog: Captain Hammer and Penny go on one of these dates, except for a few minor details: It's a paddleboat (the kind where the two people work a set of bicycle pedals to turn a propellor), only Captain Hammer is in the boat (Penny is watching from the shore while Hammer waves at her) and he is pedalling in circles, super fast.

    Western Animation 
  • Adventure Time: In "Love Games", the "Crooning" part of the competition involves the couples rowing out into the middle of a lake and having one of them sing to their partner.
  • Animaniacs: Dot pictures herself on one with Dr. Scratchansniff in "De-Zanitized":
    Dot: Deee-sgusting!
  • Captain Planet and the Planeteers: Played with in "Hate Canal"; when Gi suggests they split up to find clues, Wheeler and Linka take a gondola. For the first part, it's fairly ordinary; Linka is sitting in the boat and Wheeler is paddling as they discuss the situation. However, Linka admits that Venice would be fairly romantic if not for the current problem. They're getting mildly flirty when a mutated rat shows up and interrupts things.
  • Parodied in Futurama, when Amy and Kif go on a date in a row-kite, which bobs majestically through the air, somehow suspended by their meager paddling.
  • Parodied in Milo Murphy's Law when Cavendish and Dakota embark on one of these as one of their "ditch day" activities while skipping work (with Dakota rowing and Cavendish holding the parasol).
  • In the Rocko's Modern Life episode "Love Spanked," Rocko goes on a series of dates after finding out that his crush Melba has a boyfriend. One of his dates is an elephant girl, and they go on a date like this. Rocko has some trouble rowing thanks to the massive weight difference, and then the elephant girl glomps him, causing the boat to capsize.
  • Papa Smurf goes on a rowboat date with Flowerbell the woodnymph in The Smurfs episode "Papa's Wedding Day", where he sings to her, "You're Only As Old As You Think You Are".
  • True to character, Speedy Gonzales engages in one in "Cats and Bruises."