need help with row boats

i’m thinking of building a row boat. a wooden one about 14’ x 48" i’d love to find a rowing forum similar to this one. i’m not into racing the skinny boats on flat water. i’d like to trip and do day rows. is it hard to keep a row boat on course with 15 knot quartering winds? what about back issues. anyone rowing a small woooden boat capable of handling swell?

many canoes make great rowboats
drop in sliding seats with outriggers are available. also you can use 6’ oars with oarlocks on a canoe’s gunwales or 7’ oars with 6" outriggers and row with a fixed seat. OR you can check out and see an excellent light canoe-like boat designed for rowing. other options include the appledore pod, rangely boat, cosine wherry, chester yawl, and for their whitehall derivative design. i rowed my 17’ canoe with 7’ oars and 6" outriggers for years. its faster and more capable in rough conditions than paddling.

try this site

look in the plans section, you should be able to find a design that works for you.

Matt at JEM has designed a rowing
’canoe’ for me. 17’ , 40" wide, capable of carrying 3 people. This one will be interseting to build.Drawings are to be available by Christmas.

nice site.

i was meaning to write you
i’m hoping to get him started on a row boat for me soon. we’ve already talked specs, hull shape, transom, etc. i’d like a traditional wherry type boat with flotation and a rounded hull. planning on rowing it in the Gulf of Mexico, local bays and the Everglades. can’t wait to see your canoe.

Stay away from the usual …
… utilitarian boats, you know, the ones with a broad, flat bottom and a square stern that are mainly designed to be pushed by a small outboard. Maybe something like a dory would work, (they have a square stern too, but it tapers to a point at the waterline to it is streamlined) but I can’t tell you how difficult those are to build. The simplest and probably cheapest advice was provided by Dannyb - adapt a canoe for rowing. Get one that’s wide enough (something close to 36 inches or so) and you won’t even need outriggers to mount the oars. In the case of a canoe, I’d go a little longer than 14 feet. 15 to 17 feet would be better, even for solo tripping.

Rowing has its advantages, but like anything else, the advantages apply to specific situations. It’s a boating method well worth adding to your capabilities.

check out Pygmy
boats. They have a wine glass wherry that looks sweet. I have thought about building it as a row boat. It weighs in at 90 lbs, not too bad for a 14’ x 48" wherry.

The first decision about small rowboats
… is whether to outfit them with a fixed seat and fixed oar sockets (the simplest, least expensive, most versatile outfitting) or to set them up for longer oars (sweeps) and a sliding seat or rigger system. For cartopping and simplicity, choose the former … for speed and long tripping on moderate waters … choose the latter. Check out for build kits. Both their 15 and 19 footers can be easily cartopped and both look to have fast and seaworthy lines (nice six-panel hulls with flare). They are pictured with sliding rigs but could be built with fixed seat and oar sockets as well. These are the highest performance kits that I know of … and aren’t too expensive. For expeditions on big water … check out their Merry Sea … it’s a very capable-looking 22 footer which would excel as a true expedition boat.

If you decide to outfit a canoe hull, Piantedosi has both sliding seat and sliding rigger hardware that’s considered about the best out there. I would get their sliding rigger and bolt it onto a Minnesota II to make an instant high performance rower that could carry passengers as well as go solo … at a cartoppable light weight (45-65 lbs depending upon lay-up). Good luck … once you try it, you’ll be amazed! Ditto guideboatguy’s suggestion to go longer rather than shorter to get the full benefit of rowing.

I row an Old Toen Dicovery 160K
It is a poly boat that is 16 feet by 40 inches. It’s a lot cheaper than a quality guide boat and row better than the other canoes I’ve tried. It does weigh about 90 pounds though.

As far as wider boats that are less than 18 feet go, you’ll be able to easily power them at top speed without a sliding seat.

Sliding seats are a must for making the skinny (

Same comment on sliding seats

– Last Updated: Dec-08-05 11:25 PM EST –

I agree wholeheartedly that the benefit of a sliding seat on any kind of wide, multipurpose boat is likely to be minimal. You'll be able to push the average boat up pretty close to hull speed without much difficulty with just a fixed seat, but to go any faster than that with such a boat is a big waste of energy, regardless of the method for applying your power. Where a sliding seat really shines, is with long, skinny racing boats, which can more easily be pushed up to and beyond hull speed without wasting nearly as much energy. I'm not saying a sliding seat isn't any better, just that in most cases it's not *better enough* to justify the extra weight and complexity. Plus, the really long oars needed to compliment such an outfit won't even fit in the average creek channel or under small bridges, let alone inside your car. No sense in trying to turn a mule into a race horse. It's better to let the mule do what the race horse cannot, and be happy!

Update: I just noticed that the one who posted earlier about the sliding seat was Stap. If he has tried a sliding seat in a canoe and thinks it's a worthy investment/addition with such a boat, I'd trust him, because he would know. Then, if your potential use is mostly in obstruction-free open water and you can afford it, maybe give it a try. That said, you won't be disappointed in what the fixed-seat outfit can do when it comes to covering miles in a canoe.

Sliding seat need not weigh much, and
would be worth it in most canoes and some rowboats. But the sliding seat will only work in a package including a big oarlock spacing (I used to scull with a 60" spacing) and fairly long oars/ sculls designed to square up cleanly in properly designed oarlocks. The entire package may be more than some want to bother with.

The advantage of all this is not to fight hull speed, but to get the legs to do much of the serious work.

Just for information sake …
check out this page of Piantedosi’s rowing rig site.

It shows a sliding rigger version of their Row Wing that clamps onto the gunwales of canoes. With this setup, one sits on a fixed seat and the rigger is what moves. Therefore, there’s no back and forth momentum changes of the rower’s weight and so less porpoising of the hull. It’s more efficient.

On this same site, there is the Scout Rig which is a similar clamp-on where the seat is what slides. It’s significantly less expensive and they sell it as a package deal with some of their oars at a discount.

I know that you’re probably thinking fixed seat and oar sockets … but, as g2d said … the advantages of sliding systems are that they allow for leg power to be added into the propulsion work and so tap a huge source of strength and endurance.

Here’s that address … sorry I don’t know how to make it an active link (maybe it will be made that way automatically).

A friend of mine built a 14’ version of a traditional Whitehall row boat (more typically they are 16’). He went for the 14’ length due to hauling considerations. He took his plans from a book on wooden boats and developed his own set of off-sets (to compensate for the shorter length). Being a handy guy with a strong bend toward traditional techniques he used cedar planking & copper rivets - lapstrake construction. Since he’d never built a boat before he shied away from carvel construction, but I think he wished he’d “gone all the way” with it now. His Whitehall is painted traditional white to the outside with a natural wood transom and interior bright-work. This was the first boat he ever built and I’d say he made a damn good job of it – this was not a kit, no fiberglass cheating either – the real deal.

His Whitehall has two rowing stations and a step mast, removable dagger-board and rudder for sailing. It can handle 3 full sized men (never mind the dog), but in truth has better trim and performance with just two guys. He’s sailed it on Lake Erie and on the Ohio River, but it’s really a much better rowing boat. It’s been in large rivers, relatively small streams, through more than its fair share of easy WW, in the deep blue ocean and the Chesapeake Bay many times. It’s a bit of a beast in those twisty streams (in my opinion as a solo canoeist – he loves it), but right in its element in big open bodies of water. Whitehalls were used as pulling boats and as such have good pulling power and plenty of maneuverability. And they’re pretty fast as well. Rumor has it they were often used in the Chesapeake Bay to go out to welcome incoming ships - to lure sailors into whore houses (lots of competition so they needed a fast boat). It’s damn good looking too – for a pimp boat (smile). Surely looks heads over heels more handsome than a strip/glass rowboat like a cosine wherry or some nasty stitch ‘n glue thing.

I’d say if you’re interested in building a row boat go to the library and do some research on small wooden boats. Building a wooden boat can be a fun adventure in itself – don’t short change yourself by building some cheap ‘n easy kit. Go for it!

As to rowing. I always feel invigorated after a good long pull. Even though I’m a dyed in the wool canoeist I’ll be the first to admit that rowing is a far better and more thorough workout than paddling. The trouble remains that you face the wrong direction… Leave it to those European types to get things backwards. ;^) Randall

i like that boat a lot
that’s one i’ve been looking at. nice lines, and it seems quite seaworthy.

i want a fixed seat boat with fixed oar locks. something simple and utilitarian. a working boat of sorts with plenty of arch and rocker in the hull. doesn’t have to be able to cross the atlantic, but i’m sure i’ll spend some time offshore in the Gulf of Mexico. cartopping is pretty much a must. i just don’t like trailers, and i don’t like a nice, light boat taking the beating of springs, potholes, etc. thanks for the site, i’ll check it out.

I thought so …
My “simple and utilitarian” rowboat is a 15 foot Royalex canoe (Wenonah Saranac … they still make em for Oak Orchard) with Old Town oar sockets bolted on it’s vinyl gunwales. It’s tough as dirt (and so serves as my “beater”), weighs about 55 lbs and is surprisingly fast (30-32" in water beam, low wetted surface area due to decent arch) for a stubby boat with only about 14 foot waterline (very raked stems). I took out the yoke so I could throw a bean bag in the middle for solo rowing. The seat frame is perfect for a foot brace. I drilled a hole in the thwart behind the bean bag that I use for a 5’ sun umbrella while fishing. For such a low tech assemblage … it delivers !!! With it’s low center of gravity and barcolounger seat, it’s the most comfortable boat I row … the one I always reach for on impulse.

Check out a Guideboat
Don’t neglect looking at an Adirondack Guide Boat. Pointy at both ends, fixed seat, light weight. A joy to look at and a joy to row.

JH Bahn

Hey EastofMidnight
I sent you en e-mail. Please e-mail me back. Got a couple questions.

stap… a question for you
If the canoe you row for fun is only 32 inches wide and the oarlocks are mounted on the gunnels, then how long an oar do you use?