Two day rowing trip

Notes on taking my 18 x 4ft banks dory out for a 2 day row on 25 and 26 of January 2010. With the strong winds and a bit of a swell I found it a bit tough, but I managed.

Day 1
Monday, wind was coming from my 10 O'colck position, mostly to the side, but with a little headwind. I got out through the 2ft surf no problem. rowing in a seaway with a 2 to 3ft swell was hard work. The boat moves a lot, is hard to get rythym. I think one problem was that my oar blades are too wide at 14cm. I think I need a set with wide blades for calm conditions on the river, and a set with much narrower blades for the bay. Port Phillp bay is big, abuot 50 x 40km, so the waves have some distance to pick up energy.

The wind was blowing me towards a sandy shore, so any problems I would be able to get out without overly endagering myself. My oar leathers are getting old and need replacing. My ten dollar set of rowlocks were OK, but I think I will spend the $50 and buy a good set of WC rowlocks. Also a set which has a line, as a couple of times some of the oars came out of the rowlocks. The boat handled things better than I expected, especially as almost all waves were coming fron abeam of the boat.

Going into the wind to a degree and the swell made it all hard work. I was going slow, maybe 1.5km/h, hard to say, but not fast at all. I have a recently added 60L bow trim and buoynacy tank, which was filled with about 40L of water. I had the motor and 15L of water aft. The puropse of these is to reduce windage.

Eventually I rounded Altona Pier and followed teh waves in. Fortunatly I had a degree to control and went in straight. I had a wave break over my transom, and I watched in amusement as a good 10L of water actually flowed over the top of my transom into the boat. This is the first time ever I have been pleased to have the highly sloped transom that comes with the 'little sister' banks dory. After a while of resting and getting a coffee fix I rowed out again. It was hard work, the wind had moderated from about 20 to 25 knots that were blowing earlier in the day to approx 15 knots. I got out OK, and then went an extra 200 yards out before starting the motor. The swell for all this day was about 2 to 3ft with waves moving quite quickly, there was the occasional white cap but nothing too extreme.

My hands were hurting as I was not used to rowing. I got blisters on my palms from rowing, this si because I am soft and not toughened up. Some people have said I should wear gloves when rowing, but this is not done is it? Eventually I got the motor started and headed off to Point Cook with the motor in the well. I actually found this more stressful than rowing, am not sure why. I put my life jacket on when under motor and held onto the gunnel. I kept the throttle very very low so as to minimsie the motion of my dory. The dory moved around alot and it is disconcerting to be in those conditions by oneself roughly 1km out to sea. Possibly more psychological than physical concerns.

I made a few small stuff ups. I forgot the thermos of tea. I forgot the bungs for the bow trim / buoyancy tank, and I forgot my wetsuit. The wetsuit is my contigency, if the boat flipps over, I forget about the boat, put on my wetsuit and swim to shore. Apart from the tank for which i forgot bungs for, there are separate large buoyancy tanks fore and aft. On reaching shore about dusk I flipped the boat on its side to empty the bow tank of water, then I was able to drag the lighter boat up the beach above the high tide mark. I slept under a tarpaulin at Point cook behind the sand dunes.

Day 2
no wind early on but got windy as I set off a bit before noon. Wind was from aft a little and mostly abeam. I rowed all teh way from Point Cook to Newport. Waves were quite sizeable for me around 3ft mark and moving quikly. I was able to get quite a good pace up in rowing. I kept going, slowly but steadily. At first I was protected by a headland and all was easy, after a while it got concerning, but was more psychological than physical

These big waves would approach the boat side on, they would slide under and I would go on as before, quite weird really. I guess that is what the flare of the banks dory is all about. I had a couple of waves with a bit of a whitecap on them hit me, and I got splashed a bit, nothing too much to worry about. About 2/3 the way across the waves were biggger than beofer or after. One wave broke across and over the boat. The boat leaned a bit away from the wave and water went over teh boat. But when the boat righted there was only about 2L of water in teh boat. Quite amazing how little water got in. When i used the same boat as a mulithull I once got hit by a wave and I had 6 inches of water in the boat in 2 seconds. It is true that those were worse conditions than these.

The boat was always rowing too and froe, sometimes a wave would lift the stern or the bow, and veer me off course, I just concentrated on keeping a good course and on good oar technique. I dont think I ever looked to see what the bow was doing. I knew it was there, just never turned around to see it. One some waves the boat would be pushed sideways and kinda slip with the motion of the wave. I guess this has to a bit to do with only having a keel that is an inch deep. One power boat came up alongside and asked if I was OK, I said I was. I guess they are not used to seeing open rowboats out there in those conditions. I would estimate wind at 20 knots. Eventually I got to the entrance to teh inlet where I pull in. There is a bar there, I decided to go in bow first as I did in Altona. I managed to broach. This was no big deal as water was shallow at knee deep and waves had lost a bit of their impact by the time they got to where I was. The dory skidded sideways on this breaking wave, but not water came in. I thought the dory might flip and dig it, but it did not.

After this I had thoughts about maybe it is best to go in stern first and go in backwards, as do the cobles of East Coast of England. I got back all well and good. In the inlet I spoke to some fellows who were sailing a Ruel Parker 19ft sharpie, a nice boat kept in shed 13 there. When I got home I thought about the way the dory slided off some of those bad waves, and how it seemed to always manage to stay dry. I am more impressed with boat that I was earlier. Looking through my boat books I think a lot of it has to do with slack bilges. In Ian Oughtred's catalog he has a design called and Elf. Based on what I learnt during my modest 2 day trip, that boat looks about right to me, looks seaworthy. In his notes he says that the design he drew (it is a faering) comes from the east coast of scandinavia, apparently the faerings from teh west coast have even more slack bilges. Thus if I go via logic, a very seaworthy craft for bad conditions in Port Phillip Bay and optimised for rowing as opposed to sailing would look like the Elf (a 15ft x 4ft4' faering) and have even more slack bilges. Personally I would all heaps of buoynacy-watertight storage compartments. I find that in those conditions, physically I was OK, but psychogically I was outside my comfort zone.

This was my fist rowing trip outside of a river. I guess it is all about toughening myself up and gaining real world experience. I will make some changes to the oars, to the leathers, and some very small adjustmetns to the boat.

I learnt a lot
got some good exercise
started to toughen myslef up a bit

N Peter Evans