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Preview: Sculling

November 30, 2011

At last, a close-up look at an old-time technique that can prove useful under many circumstances. Maynard Bray talks us through the basics of propelling your boat with only one oar manipulated through a half-circle notch in the transom. No amount of written text can convey the instruction given to us by Maynard. Then, with a little practice, you’ll be sculling around like a pro.

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– Whenever I’ve seen anyone sculling around a harbor I’m always fascinated by it. And Maynard is a master at it. I got a chance to catch up with Maynard on the dock and see if I can get from him a little bit of technique of how to scull a boat. It’s amazing. Maynard, having read articles and tried years, for years in any little boat that I got into, to scull, I’ve never gotten the knack of it. I’ve always imaging sculling as kind of a beaver tail, a vertical beaver tail with your oar. And what I’m seeing when you’re sculling here is that the blade is far more horizontal, surprisingly. I never thought, I never would have thought.

– Either way it works.

– You know, the idea is to have the blade cross the water and push the boat ahead. But is you do it as a beaver tail you don’t keep downward pressure on the oar–

– The pressure side-to-side and the oar lock can shoot out.

– Yeah, you need to keep downward pressure you need to keep this oar firmly seated in the sculling notch. all the time.

– Which that horizontal motion does naturally, yeah?

– If you do it vertically you know, the boat will move ahead but you can see what’s happening to the oar, it’s popping.

– Popping back and forth.

– And if it pops too much it’s gonna hop right out. But if you hold it horizontally there’s a constant downward pressure on that sculling notch, see? It never leaves the base of the notch?

– The pressure off of the water, off of the back of the blade is propelling the back of the boat forward which is keeping that pressure right against your transom.

– It all points in the stroke, it never loses that pressure.

– You never lose the pressure. That’s interesting.

– That’s why I think this is the easiest method, maybe not to learn but the easiest one once you do learn.

– So that blade is just horizontal about 15, 20 degrees. Pressure on the back of the transom keeps that oar seated, drives you forward.

– Exactly, yeah, wanna try?

– I wanna give it a go.

– Okay.

– Alright.

– She’s all yours. Keep your hand on it. Like that.

– Okay, let me give it a whorl. Its an old, your…

– Well… Keep it like that because as long as you can and then switch it at the end like that. A quick switch comes at the end of the stroke.

– So you go down when you’re pushing. And roll your wrist away when you’re pulling. Down when you’re pushing.

– Can’t you start someone a little higher up the food chain?

– [Eric] Come on. So as it’s plain to see, I had kind of a hard time getting the sculling thing going. Sculling takes practice, rowing takes practice but getting a good feel for it, once you get a good feel for it, it’s just amazing, propelling yourself around the harbor with one oar out the stern.

– Okay, to turn I’m gonna turn away from you. Your put more angle on that stroke. You’re kinda pushing the stern right around, like that. With just enough angle in the other direction to keep the oar from popping out of the water.

– This is nuts, not even can you propel a boat sideways by sculling but you can also push row while sculling with one oar to put a boat exactly where you’d like it to be. Most of the sculling we’ve seen here we’re pushing the boat. You can really pull the boat. Standing, pulling the boat sideways, backwards, in and out of tight dinghy basins. Where you may not necessarily be able to have two oars shifted in the oarlocks. An afternoon here reminds me how versatile and useful sculling really is. Maynard just blows me away.


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