Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Rowing in a cross chop

 Lots of advice has come in for Richard Raskin, who wants to get the best boat for rowing through the cross chop of Long Island Sound. Of course, there are as many opinions as there are rowers and no absolute conclusion can be reached. My advice, for what it's worth, is to borrow as many boats as you can and row them out. Eventually, one will stand out as the right one for you.
The photo above is the Chester Yawl from Chesapeake Light Craft, whose products get several mentions. I chose it simply because I love pictures of families on the water. And that dog is just great.
First to write was Bill Meier:
I've been enjoying your blog immensely. Thank you for showing us the wonderful variety of rowing craft and clubs around the world. It's especially welcome on these snowy, wintry New England days.
Richard Raskin's note struck a chord with me. I've also been thinking about open water rowing design alternatives and I would love to have a more extended discussion with him.
I grew up boating on LI Sound but now I row in the Mystic, CT area in both sliding seat craft and traditional fixed seat boats. In less protected waters I row a 14ft peapod that I built last winter. It's heavy and rather slow but it powers through a considerable chop with ease and, as you say, it allows me to move around the boat without fear of going for an unexpected swim. It also tracks well unless there is a strong crosswind. With a 20kt crosswind, you basically row with one oar. The additional freeboard of a traditional boat is welcome in that it keeps me dry on a rough day but it does come at a price when the wind kicks up. I feel comfortable going almost anywhere along the coast in this boat but, at an average speed of 3kts, my range is limited. I'm also fortunate that I can keep it at my rowing club. It's too heavy and beamy to transport easily.
Maas Aero (pic from Adirondack Rowing)
In protected waters I row a Maas 24. The boat can handle open water conditions but I can't. I find that the 39-lb hull bounces around in a chop and the relatively narrow (20-in) beam is a somewhat precarious platform when a large boat wake comes at me from the side. Having said that, a number of the more experienced scullers I know have rowed this boat in open water and have loved it. I hope to improve my open water rowing technique this season in both the Maas 24 and the more stable Maas Aero. I prefer both of these boats to the Alden ocean shells because of the reduced freeboard (windage) and the improved tracking. They are also considerably faster, which is fun! One downside is that you can't take them out until the water warms up. Aldens can be rowed all year around if you pick your days.
I also love the look of a Whitehall design and during this off-season I've been looking at the pulling boat Liz (modified for glued-lap construction) and the Chesapeake Small Craft Annapolis Wherry as possibilities for both fixed-seat and sliding-seat rowing here in Fishers Island Sound. I would be inclined to build rather than buy but Richard might want to check out the RowableClassics website and in the Row2k classifieds to see what's available.
Best Regards,
Bill Meier
Peter is another CLC fan, and invites Richard to have a go:
Howdy - I recently built a Chester Yawl (from a CLC kit) and row it regularly in Raritan Bay. She is sturdy, handsome, quick and can handle some serious chop with aplomb. I row it both as a fixed ( 7.5' oars on gunwale) and as a sliding seat (Piantedosi row wing w/9.5' sculls). 15' x 42" & about 100 lbs, she can row all day at a good pace. Or with room for gear, do some touring as I did last fall down the Hudson (or a short part of it...).
You are most welcome to come and look her over & try her out - really no problem. I keep it at my boat club on the south shore of Staten Island. Let me know- I can post you some pics.
Brandon writes to recommend the unusual sliding seat arrangement in the Gig Harbor Boats Melonseed:

Dave, of Gig Harbor Boats, came up with a sliding seat arrangement that I really like. It is simple and tough. The great thing is that if you want it to stay put, you just put a pin through the rail and the seat. Suddenly you have a fixed-seat craft.
He makes a couple of nice rowing boats that may be just right for Richard - the New England Dory or his version of the Whitehall.
The Melonseed and Jersey Skiff (which are variations on the same boat) could work too, and would accommodate another rower, should occasion permit.
Of course a faering would be the ultimate rowing boat for rough water.
Clint Chase puts in a plug for his Drake:

 I do a lot of rowing in chop and understand his need for a boat that can handle it. The important thing I find in these conditions is something with some secondary stability but not a flat bottom like a dory....a V-shape that can also do well when rowing into that chop, a hull shape that peels away the waves. Wetted surface may rise, but you can keep a short, quick stroke (high rating) and keep the boat speed up and let her do her thing. This is what I designed Drake for and, I am biased, but must say she exceeded my expectations.
Rick Thomson, who has designed and built a sliding seat for his Welsford Walkabout, says:
Hello Chris,
I have to disagree with you (and John Welsford) again on the sliding seat. Even with our slower recreational boats, a sliding seat lets you use different muscles. It can help a lot on long rows - my back is just not that strong.
I agree with wide spaced footrests for bracing, and do not like the usual bum-numbing racing seats - no reason to be uncomfortable whether sliding or fixed.
All the best,
Well Richard, this is all a bit contradictory and confusing but I hope it helps.


Alberto A. Villa said...

What about Virus boat?, a yole, please see at: [youTube]

¡looks great! [emho]


Clint Chase said...

Francois Vivier has a couple nice rowboats, especially Elorn. She would be much like Drake, with perhaps a little more stability and freeboard, a good choice if one wants to sail up wind. But if you have a rowboat, you can always sail downwind like this...

But never put a daggerboard or the like in a rowboat unless you have a way to fair out the bottom slot of the board.

Fred said...

Hi there!
came across your blog via the Tillerman. Great reading! There is a very light weight rowing dinghy in the back of my garden (Constant Camber method but built in carbon/sandwich therefore 22kgs instead of 55kgs) which I think I should use more after reading about all the different type of rowing one can do and enjoy.
Maybe one day up the Schlei Fjord to reach the entrance after some 35 km.

Chris Partridge said...

Thanks Fred!
The Schlei fjord looks like a brilliant row - send pics when you do it!

Chris Partridge said...

....and send pics of your boat now!