Tuesday 16 September 2008

Hymn to the Adirondack Guide Boat

The legendary Adirondack guide boat is a thing of beauty. It seems to inspire awe in people. Here's a homage, almost a love letter, by Willem Lange, a man who has spent most of his life in the Adirondacks doing most things from labouring, carpentry, teaching and managing an outward bound school. These days he talks on local radio and writes books, and for the first time rows his own guide boat.

I have always wondered how such a narrow boat is rowed, and the video makes it clear - simply a matter of moving one oar well before the other to avoid clashing the highly-overlapped handles. Feathering is not a problem because they can't - the looms are mounted in a sort of gimballed oarlock. The oars look too long for the beam of the boat, but the looms are square and heavy and the shafts are long and thin, which means they are properly balanced and nicely flexible.
Willem's guide boat was made by the Adirondack Guide Boat Company of Vermont, who make a range in various sizes in both kevlar and traditional cedar. They also make kits.
Paul Fisher of Selway Fisher has designed a 15ft Adirondack guide boat for stitch and tape or clinker ply construction. This one is by Colin Wragg.


Anonymous said...

No real Adirondack skiffs?? Just those plastic pukers?? To see real guideboats-go to the Adirondacks of all places!!

Wendybird said...

The shape and design is what makes the boat, not the material. Also way to not bother visiting the page, Adirondack guide boat sells strip planked boats if you want to shell out 14k for a row boat. But for people who actually work for a living (you know like the original guides) those "plastic pukers" make a hell of a lot more sense.

Anonymous said...

In looking at videos I see that in rowing it is necessary to modify ones stroke to accommodate such a narrow beam (i.e. your hands actually have to pass inside one another). I have to wonder if that affects rowing efficiency or whether it just feels "awkward" as compared to a "normal" rowing stroke on a boat with greater beam.

Anyone out there with experience rowing an Adirondack care to chime in with an opinion. Is it something that one quickly becomes acclimated to or is it a drawback that one just has to live with?

Why not just add a foot to the beam? It could even be mostly above the waterline so as not to increase wetted surface that much.

JHomer said...

The boat rows great. I have rowed many boats aND the guideboat has been the most enjoyable. It's the fastest fixed seat row boat in the world. As for the crossing of the oars it's no issue to me but takes a little getting use to.
These boats were used by hunting and fishing guides and had to be lite weight due to the fact they had several portage and these were not easily navigable like we have today.
I have raced the guideboat in the 90 miler and have to say I would not pick any othe boat for that trip. Hope this helps.