New Guideboat

I just got a boat built in stitch/glue plywood that is modeled after the lines of an Adirondack guide boat. I’d seen these things many times before, but never considered one due to the price. As it happens, I found this plywood one which I thought would be a great way to try it out without a huge investment. The plans for the boat I have are available here:

How it compares to the “real thing” I cannot say, having never tried the real thing.

I can say that it seems very tippy getting in, but comfortably stable once seated. It goes really fast, even though I had poor oars of the wrong size. It is also a good looking boat. Rowing is, despite my love of canoeing, a more efficient way to cross a lake, and the variety is nice. Really, I love it. It doesn’t compare to a canoe, but it is really fun and satisfying in its own right.

Currently, I plan to use the guideboat mainly at the cottage for recreational trips around the lake and such, but maybe someday it will go camping. The one I have is much less portagable than my canoes which have nice yokes, but is easily manageable to take to and from the water.

I hope these things get more popular, and the price of rowing craft in general comes down to where they are more widely available. Compared to a rec kayak, spending the day in a guideboat is wonderful.

Sounds great!
My first exposure to small boats was a row boat. The guideboat sounds like fun! Enjoy, and tell us about it.

It’s all good, and carry yokes

– Last Updated: Aug-22-11 7:23 PM EST –

I use rowboats and canoes, and can't say there's a consistent advantage to one versus the other. It just depends on the situation. You are right that if you need to cover a lot of distance, solo rowing beats solo paddling every time,but you'll find the same is true when the wind gets really strong (it's almost never too windy to row effectively). I started rowing long before I ever paddled, and the whole thing about looking behind you to see where you are going is a pretty minor issue to me, so I'm always surprised at the number of people who speak confidently about how inconvenient it is to do so (obviously I'm not referring to you in this case). There used to be another avid rower on p-net, but I haven't seen a post from him in two or three years. Maybe once again I won't be the only one here.

If you ever wish to carry that boat pretty far, you can rig up a yoke like what the old-time guide-boats had and what the "real" wood ones still have. Obviously in a rowing boat, the yoke needs to easily mount and dismount, since it can't be in the way while rowing. If you haven't seen this, here's how it works. Install a pair of rails on each inside edge where the gunwales would be if the boat had gunwales. Each rail need only be long enough to bridge across a few ribs. Each rail has U-shaped notch at the balance point of the boat (the open side of the "U" faces up when the boat is rightside-up). The yoke has a round wooden pin poking out each end (you can modify a conventional yoke to have such pins). With the boat rightside-up, you simply drop the yoke in place so the pins fit in the notched rails, tie the yoke in place so it stays put while you flip the boat, and you are ready to go. With a bit of thought, you could adapt a more complex mounting system than the old-time method, again using a short rail on each side as the main support. If you are used to permanent yokes in canoes, perhaps having each end of the yoke mount in a way that does not pivot would be better than the traditional method. P-net's c2g has a very neat and clever method for mounting a detachable yoke on one of his canoes, and something similar could be done with a guide-boat.

I was told that 8’ oars would be best for the boat I have, and that cross-handed rowing was the traditional way for these long oars. I ordered the oars from Vans fancy oars and paddles, as well as some bronze oarlocks and collars.

The new oars are much nicer, as is the hardware, and the service from Vans was great too. Learning cross-handed rowing took a bit of time and quite a bit of pain in bashed thumbs and fingers, but I have the general idea of it now. The combination of trying to keep the oars at the right feather and also thinking about the cross hand position was a bit much at times. Sometimes I hit my hands, other times I had the oar at the wrong angle which caused it to dive or skip over the water. I believe traditionally pinned, non-feathered oars were used and I can see that being more user-friendly, especially if putting them down frequently. I may carve the grips a bit with a flat spot to index them in my hand, but maybe it just takes practice.

As for speed, the Bell Magic is much faster at this point. Maybe when all the technique points of rowing are ingrained and I can focus on just pulling the guideboat will be able to pass the canoe, but not likely this year.

So, in summary - longer oars=learning curve but still really fun, and a nice new challenge.

Oars and Technique
You will like the 8-foot oars, and learning to feather is probably a good thing. I have thought about the fact that unpinned oars take more skill and practice and would have a slight edge in efficiency due to the fact that they can be feathered on the recovery, but since pinned oars WERE what the old-timer users of these boats worked with, and since I really don’t feel noticeably handicapped by using pinned oars, I’m okay with tradition. I can’t say I had trouble learning cross-handed rowing, but I wasn’t trying to learn the harder technique of feathering at the same time!

Cross-handed rowing is really a useful for more than just managing long oars if you learn to be flexible in your method. Most people always cross hands in the same way, but it’s good to be able to cross one hand on top of the other or cross one hand in front of the other, and to use either method “both ways” (think of that as right-handed and left-handed technique). A constant strong crosswind will make you wish to pull more on one oar than the other, so crossing with the proper hand in front of the other on every stroke works best, and of course, which hand takes the lead will depend on which way you are traveling relative to the wind. Those “hard chines” between plywood planks may aid steering when leaning the boat, and when leaning to steer, or just leaning to keep a steep wave from over-topping the gunwale, you’ll want to row with one hand higher than the other to even-out the elevation of the blades in the water (some competitive rowers insist you should mount one oarlock higher than the other to provide equal blade height when one hand is crossed over the other, but anyone who says such a thing doesn’t know squat about rowing “real” boats in “real” conditions). It really gets fun when it becomes second nature to mix up your cross-hand technique to match the split-second changes in boat-control needs when it’s rough and windy. For what it’s worth, I forced myself to learn to cross hands “both ways”, for both techniques I mentioned, by switching between right- and left-handed crosses on every stroke, and that’s now my normal pattern when there’s no need for a particular hand-crossing method, (and my usual hand-crossing method is about halfway between the hand-over-hand method and the hand-in-front-of-hand method).

As far as speed goes, you should have no trouble matching the speed of your Magic once you get your technique down. If you are pretty good at sit-and-switch paddling, I would guess that the two boats may be about equal in speed, but if your paddling technique is very much less than race-worthy, it shouldn’t be long before you’ll be faster when rowing, if the version of guide-boat you have performs a lot like the traditional ones. Once the wind starts blowing hard, there won’t be any comparison. Solo canoes are practically helpless in wind that’s only “a bit inconvenient” for a rowboat.

Ive had allot of fun moderating a yahoo group, open water rower and a newer facebook group with the same name. My intro to canoes was doing rowing conversions, and then getting hooked on pure canoing. Overall, I slightly favor rowing for the power surge and how I can cover distance and handle rough water. also the 10 second glide I acheive between strokes. there are very few boats comercially availabe that are set up correctly, at least the fixed seat variety. on the other hand, give me a 12 oz Carbon ZRE paddle, and I’ll paddle a styrafoam cooler! LOL.I find canoe paddling more “sexy”. more directly connected to the water.Any inquiries about rowing are covered in the two groups, including my somewhat contraversial emphasis on boat and oar setup. gotta row…