Learning to row tales

Attempt 1
To try the boat even though it was not finished. At this point in the process I wanted to burn the darn thing I was that sick of it, thus getting it in the water was part psychological in order to get some motivation. We used paddles instead of oars and thus the set-up was not ideal. I learnt that the boat had a lot of buoyancy, was initially unsteady and care was needed to ensure weight was placed in the center of the boat, particularly if a person is large and unsteady (the crew!).

The boat leaked a little at the butt joint in the floor. I need to learn how to scarf plywood. Oscar got some minor scratches on rough timber that had been epoxied but not sanded smooth. I found that lines both fore and aft were useful, not just from the bow.

Attempt 2
This went a little better. I had placed a bung into the front compartment so I could check for leaks there. The floor did not leak. All surfaces had been sanded so that no nasty scratches might occur. I had built a pair of 8'4" oars with large blades (750 x 200mm). I placed four pairs of 'sticks' along the gunnel in lieu of rowlocks. These sticks did not work well; some were too far apart for rowing to work well. Also the oars were very long and difficult to use as a pair due to the weight. With one person using an oar on each side weight was not an issue. Getting crew to use a similar stroke style was an issue, with myself preferring a long slower oar stroke and Oscar preferring a shorter quicker oar stroke.

Nevertheless some progress was made, no one got wet this time, and things were learnt about the oars and the need for proper rowlocks and rowlock position.

Attempt 3
I bought four galvanised rowlocks and I added small sponsons at the gunnel to increase the beam. The idea was to have the pivot point further front the rower resulting in less weight and the oars being easier to use. I cut down the oars from 8'4 to 8'1. Additionally I used a 50cm length of PVC pipe to get a better fit between the rowlocks and the oar itself. The oars only being 45mm diameter and I think the rowlocks are about 60mm diameter. The day was very windy which did not help.

I had not attached the PVC pipe securely to the oars, assuming it best for the oars to pivot within the pipe. This was a mistake. After going downwind I was not really able to get upwind. So I tied up the boat to the side of the bank and jogged the 5 minutes home. There I got a drill, some screws and a screwdriver. A few minutes of repairs made a big difference. I screwed the PVC to the oars. I screwed in the little wooden block directly underneath the rowlock.

With these fixes I was able to make it back to the wharf. I put Dave in the front seat to get the bow down. This way the high stern acted as a fin and stabilised the boat going upwind instead of making it unstable. I found it to be very hard work. I had to practice hard getting the oars deep in the water, because if I did not concentrate the oars would just skim across the water and not dig in.

Later that day I decided to do things properly. I added steel tubing as a sleeve for the rowlock as well as solid wood above and below by sponsons. I fixed the front set of sponsons so that I could use them as well. I cut the oars back again to 7'11".

I need to make some 'buttons' out of some coiled rope and epoxy resin so that I can stop the oar from slipping out of the rowlock.

Despite all the faults I was learning. Learning about the boat, how to row, how to make oars, how to install rowlocks. I guess the big lesson is that there are no shortcuts and that it pays to do things right