Four of us went out in Bembridge yesterday without a cox, so we had an interesting education in steering looking backwards.
We started off by appointing stroke to set the stroke (of course) and bow to steer. This seemed simple enough.
The problems started when we got out of the sheltered area round the slipway and the brisk nor'easterly hit. Because we had no cox, the stern was high in the water and the boat started to weathercock severely, bringing her bow into the wind.
This is not a problem when a cox is steering, because the rudder compensates. But when all the steering is provided by one side rowing more than the other, it is all you can do to maintain a course with one side rowing like crazy and the other doing nothing at all.
The next problem was to keep a course when the steersman only gets to see forwards now and again, but bow man Philip Meakins soon sorted out how to make small adjustments by either not rowing or rowing with considerable force, and making large adjustments by clear commands. Impressively, he even managed to get the correct side to row hard/light despite facing the wrong way most of the time.
The next step will be to install longer steering lines and cleats next to the stroke position, so the rudder can be held in position to compensate for the wind.