While the setting sun glistens on the Cooper River a group of about 30 women gather behind the boathouse to stretch. They are members of the Schuylkill Dragons, Philadelphia's oldest all-female dragon boating team.

The warm-up session is almost languid, full of easy smiles and laughter, a relaxed camaraderie that bridges the age range from 24 to 72.  But when they board their long wooden boats, and their paddles are poised above the water, an intensity kicks in.

The paddlers encourage me to take the drummer's seat, where I will have the best vantage point. The drummer in a dragon boat sits high above the water on a narrow bench in the prow, facing the 20 paddlers. She sets a beat to keep the team in sync. During practice a drummer is not necessary. The sweep, standing in the rear of the boat and steering with a large oar, takes on the drummer's duties by calling out instructions.

The drummer's position feels a bit precarious. A dragon boat does not move smoothly across the water, but lurches rhythmically with each stroke. Keeping the seat is something like posting a horse, backwards. But the Dragons were right, it's the best spot for photos.