Oars and Rowing

A discussion started by Bruce Moffat on the Wooden Boat Forum has reminded me that this topic should also feature here, as it has cropped up in various threads.

I originally made my oars for an inflatable dink and they are a bit too short for the Mirror for comfort if there is any amount of wave motion. Ok on smooth water.
ferry to the trimaran
The rear oarlock mounts were original when I bought the boat, the front ones I added to allow me to row (in "rowboat only"-mode) with a passenger sitting in the stern. I put a cushion over the mast step in that configuration. The additional fittings are also used to hold the metal battens that support my tarpaulin, as shown in the photo.

cockpit done after centreboard case fix
There is a brief shot of me using them to get into an upwind harbour entrance at 6:12 minutes in the video www.youtube.com/watch?v=ITt8cvMxXEY . The blades are quite large and I sometimes use a single oar as a paddle or for sculling for very short distances or even as a depth sounder.
I made a drawing (experimenting with FreeHand after having completed the oars) years ago. I'll try digging it out for you.

Gernot H.

P.S. found the file, unfortunately it's now in PDF form, so you'll have to look at http://mirrordiscussforum.org/pictures/gernots/oars.pdf . I suppose you could make a pair with longer shafts and then experiment with rowing, cutting them down in stages to the optimum length at which you feel comfortable, as a skilled oarsman ;-{)

sail_and_oar's picture

One of the best guides to sizing oars is in Hannu's Boatyard website.

My oars are 7'10" long. From the oar tip to the rowlock bearing surface is 71". They are the standard Brittania oar as sold by Plastimo. The shafts are 45mm where the oar collars fit. I use the standard Mirror rowlock arrangement. I think this is a good starting point for anybody expecting to row long distances, on occasion I have had to row for several hours at a time. When not in use the oar blades extend about 2 feet forward of the front of the boat and the handles come back almost to the jib fairleads. The boat is fitted with brackets to secure them whilst stowed.

When the wind begins to die off I will often row with the sails set. I cleat the jib and mainsheets and use one oar on the leeward side of the boat (same side as the boom). My other hand is on the tiller extension to steer. Unless it is a dead flat calm or a very short distance I will rarely row without the sails. I occasionally row using two oars and the jib

My boat is also fitted with a rowlock socket on the transom for sculling. I am right handed so I offset it to starboard. The oar passes over the stern rowlock about two thirds along it's length from the oar handle. A standard rowlock chewed up my oar so I use a home made rowlock which has a rubber insert to protect the varnish.

I think for (very) short duration use 5 foot oars would serve and be more convenient to stow. I used 6 foot oars for a while which were a bit brutal but I rowed many miles with them. I was younger then.


Crackers does not have rowlocks. Would someone please measure the distance between the middle of the thwart to the rowlock? Along the gunnel will be fine.



sail_and_oar's picture


From rowlock socket along the gunnel to thwart centreline is 13 and a quarter inches.

On my boat the rowlock sockets are (were!) set in little blocks of wood which are a different colour to the douglas fir inner gunwale. After years of energetic rowing both sides fell out taking a chunk of inner gunwale with them. I replaced the damaged bit with sepele, a tropical hardwood. When I reconstructed it on one side I fitted a rowlock socket plate above the gunnel as per the original and on the other side I fitted one socket plate above and one below the gunwale. The side with two socket plates fitted has done very well but on the other side the hole in the wood has worn very quickly.

Either find some very hard wood or use two socket plates (or don't go rowing much).


curlew's picture

I like these tarpaulin supports, shown in the photograph. I wonder if I could make a weather protection somehow using this idea, for sailing in Winter.

62816inBerlin's picture

Those two bow-shaped supports were originally steel handles for drawing curtains open/shut and which we no longer use. They are plastic-coated, very flexible steel and just happened to have the correct length.
I suppose you could use cane, bamboo or fibreglass/carbon fibre rods with suitable end pieces fitted. The advantage of the steel was that it could be bent to shape at the ends by clamping the rods in a vise.
Unfortunately someone "borrowed" one of them last winter when the boat was temporarily in the boat house. My sails stay bent on the spars most of the year, I simple take down the gaff and drop the mast inside the boat, leaving the sails as uncrumpled as possible. In sea-water conditions, however, I think I'd prefer to wash all salt water off the boat and let it dry before wrapping it up in this way.
I need a new an better-fitting tarpaulin as the current one (shown below) is a folded-over polytarp that is starting to leak. Some ventilation openings would be better as well.
saved after tree-fall
Gernot H.

70152woody's picture

I like the idea of sculling. What length of oar would be best to allow seated or standing sculling. I have a grp Trident mirror and wonder if there is a bracket that could be used to hold the oar, and or rowlock. This would allow the position to be moved, and avoid cutting and drilling. Perhaps a universal joint?
My boat is not really sailing downhill,

62816inBerlin's picture

I'm not sure about the length of an ideal sculling oar, but your mention of a bracket brings to mind something like a C-clamp with a block of wood and a rowlock receptacle, allowing this to be removed when not needed. With a bit of welding skill, one could even weld a bit of steel tube to the clamp to hold the rowlock. Sculling is definitely better in tight areas and getting into moorings, as you can look forwards and there are no oars to be shipped out of the way of the dock. I often simply stand up and paddle Indian-style with one oar in such situations.
Gernot H.