November 30, 2011
Rowing can be a real art form. Maynard Bray takes us for a row and describes techniques that can help you become more graceful as well as more effective behind a pair of oars. When it comes to maneuvering a small boat under oars, Maynard is a true master. This is one video not to be missed.
Plans and instructions for making a good pair of oars are contained in WoodenBoat:
- Issue #71 (Culler-type)
- Issue #127 (Downeast type)
Good oars can be purchased from:
– I think of rowing is an art form. And what we’d like to do here is give you the techniques that will allow you to be graceful and feel good when you go from here to there. Your hands don’t do much up and downing at all. It’s mostly turn of the wrist and it’s back and forth with your hands and arms. So all the energy is put toward making the boat move. Not in unnecessary moving of the oar. It’s just wasted energy to put your oar way in the air. You see what you have to do with your hands, you have to put a lot of energy into doing the windmill action. Right now it’s just my arms that are doing the work. But if you use a foot brace if you really want to bear into it, you want to get your whole body going. Then you take longer strokes. And your entire body. A step up from here, of course, is sliding seats and spoon bladed oars. You can see it makes quite a difference to speed through the water. And some people enjoy that kind of exercise. It’s more aerobic. Lazy people like me just do the arm business. It’s just fine, you go slow and you can row longer, at least I can. You want the blade to be not up and down. You want it canted a little bit like this because that tends to hold the oar down in the oar lock and keeps it from jumping out. If it’s like this it’s even worse. And you pull hard on that and they pop right out. I guess I helped it that time. But they don’t, you can see it makes a splash and if you get going, they’ll sure in hell pop out of the oar. See them climbing up in the oar up there now on every stroke?
– [Cameraman] Yeah.
– It’s just like we said with scowing. As you angle them a little bit, it makes sure that they’re always seated in the oar lock socket. So you can row like that and not change that angle at all if you choose to. Just keep rowing like that. But when the oar is out of the water on the recovery stroke, it tends, there’s a lot of windage that you can avoid if you feather them like that. It means a little bit of wrist action. Drop your wrist down, feather them. And here again you don’t want the angle to be parallel with the water anymore than on the other stroke you want it to be upright. Because then you’ll have to do what they call “catch a crab.” I’ll demonstrate. Dive it down like that, which isn’t much good. Yanks the boat and doesn’t look very nice. But with these you can literally, on the return stroke, let the oar blade drag right on the water as long as you keep a little bit of an up angle on it. And it’ll just zip along as nice as can be. You feather your oars right, it’s not a 90 degree change in angle on the blade. It’s more like 60 degrees or even less. Spinning you can do if you want to change direction. You can do it either by dragging the oar like that, pushing a little bit. I haven’t touched the other oar, it’s not even in the water. And we’ve done, about to do, a 360. There we are back to where we started. You can do it more gradually for the other oar. If you leave the inside one out of the water and row with the outside one. It isn’t quite as quick a turn. If you really wanna go fast, you reverse one and go forward with the other one. Supposed to be this.
– General rules for sets of oars. Little boats like these, seven, seven and a half foot oar for a four to four and a half foot beam works pretty well. It’s all based on your preference. You know, you’ll know right away whether your oar’s too long or too short. It’s nice on a small boat to have a place to stow your oar lock. Down and out of the way. Keeps it from beating up other boats in a dingy basin like this. So just a hole the size of your oar lock in your rowing seat is all you need. And just a simple hole drilled into your oar lock allows you to tie a string through it. Works really well.
– Coming up alongside we want to approach it from about any angle, but we’d like to be parallel to it at the end and we’d like to kiss it, not hit it. And the person who grabs the boat first should be up in the bow of the little boat because the wind will tend to keep it the way you want it. The person who grabs it is sitting back here the bow of the skiff is going to blow off and things are gonna not be so good.
– [Narrator] So while you traditionally come alongside at a very shallow angle, as Maynard demonstrates here, you can approach a boat at angle you wish, dipping your oar and slowly slipping side-to for a soft landing.
– It’s almost like putting the brakes on.
– [Maynard] That’s a nice demonstration.
– Swingin’ it sideways yeah.
– [Maynard] I mean, it demonstrates the fact that boats are sideways because.
– [Maynard] Newton’s law says that any object that’s going in a straight line keeps going in that straight line.
– [Maynard] And that’s where it’s going on here. You just change the attitude of the boat.
– Turn it sideways, and just slow it up.
– Newton’s law still applies, yeah.
– Right right.
– [Narrator] To row well, boats have to be trimmed right. With a slight drag or downward slant to the keel so they draw just a little more water aft than forward. With too much weight aft, the boat will drag water and make you feel like you’re rowing uphill. On the other hand, if the bow is pushed down and you start to row, you’ll find that the boat will want to sheer off to one side. Beyond trimming, there’s the more obvious thing you do of keeping the weight centered so the boat stays level side to side. Think balance before you start pulling on those oars. Even at a balance, it’s all about having fun. We hope these are some basic skills that’ll get you out on the water and bring you to some incredible places.
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