Rowing Grumman aluminum canoe

I (weighting at 130 lbs) would like to row our Grumman 17’ (36") standard aluminum canoe as the only rower, when my wife (110 lbs) and two young sons (50 lbs and 35 lbs) are paddling on board (not expecting that much driving force from them though).

No racing/sliding seat rowing. Very shallow and very calm bayou water. Just need to figure out seating arrangement, outrigger or not, oar length and where to put oar locks. Canoe weight capacity (900 lbs) is more than enough for all 4 of us plus gears.

We just want better power efficiency to fight some wind. We sometimes have 15-20 mph wind here. We likely won’t go out boating, when wind speed is over 20 miles per hour.

No sailing. Maybe (maybe not) a small 2hp motor in the far future, if we have to (prefer not).

Based on what I have read, we may have two options.

Option #1:
I am guessing if I row from the narrow bow, I need outrigger oar locks for better power output. How durable/good is the $300 aluminum outrigger rowing rig from Sail Boats to Go dot com?

Is there a better and complete alternative, for about the same cost? I don’t have time to do such extensive DIY.

When I row from bow, I am guessing wife should paddle steer from stern and kids should paddle in the middle? Do I have to have 8’ or longer oar length, or 7.5’ is enough?

Option #2:
If I row from the 36" center gunwale, I may be ok with oar locks on gunwale (without outrigger oar locks)? Center depth is 12" for the canoe. My DIY center seat surface can be easily adjusted to any height from 2" to 10" above canoe bottom.

In that case, maybe kids should sit at bow and wife should steer from stern? Likewise, do I need 8’ or longer oar length, or 7.5’ is enough?

Which option would work better, or are they about the same?

I am guessing Oar Right (angle/position locker) should be very useful for a beginner rower?

Thank you very much!

I can’t speak for any of those rowing rigs. I do know that for wooden oars that come with pinned oarlocks already attached, the ratio of the inboard length of the oars to the overall length is likely to be pretty close to 0.25, so to keep the amount of overlap at the handles to a reasonable minimum, you probably don’t want 8’ oars if the width of your boat is 36" (though that would still be tolerable). An overall oar length of 7.0’ to 7.5’ is probably fine. One of my rowboats is basically a solo craft that’s 12 feet long, and has a with of roughly 36 inches. On that boat, the oars that I use are 7’ 3" and they work pretty well. On my guide-boat, which is in the neighborhood of 38 to 40 inches wide (I think the hull width is 38" but the gunwales probably make it about 40"), 8-foot oars are perfect. In both cases, the oar handles overlap, but by a very tolerable amount. I’ve actually come to prefer a bit of overlap.

I’ve never rowed a canoe, but being an avid rower of general-purpose boats that are similar to canoes, I have some concerns about making everything fit and work properly as outlined below.

You’ll have the best trim if the two adults are seated opposite each other, in the ends of the boat, with the rower in the bow. If one adult weighs more than the other, the position of the kids can be shifted toward one end a little bit, or you can do the same with whatever gear you have with you. I think the front thwart of a Grumman, which is higher than and just behind the front seat, will make it difficult to set up a rowing seat in the front. You might have to put the rowing seat just behind that thwart, or install a replacement thwart that drops in the middle (or see if the boat is stiff enough without that thwart). On the other hand, if you sit near center, the center thwart is likely to be in the way. Bear in mind also that you are going to need to lean far forward and fairly far back on every stroke, and again, the thwarts are likely to be in the way unless your seat height is pretty high. You don’t want to lean back and hit a thwart, and you don’t want a thwart to be in the way of the oar handles during your recovery stroke. If your seat height is high enough to solve the thwart issue, I think you will likely find that you need to mount the oars higher than the gunwales, probably making one of those outrigger setups worth the trouble. You don’t need much outrigger distance, but you’ll need some extra mounting height to keep the oar handles above your legs on the recovery stroke if you are seated at normal canoe-seat height or higher. Finally, if you do go with outriggers, it’s probably worth it to extend the width between oarlock mounts to something close to 40 inches and go with a full 8-foot oar length, though 7.5 would still work well.

As some supplemental info, just in case you haven’t worked this out for yourself already, longer oars do not give you more power in the typical way people tend to think, if the ratio of inboard length to total length is always the same for every length of oar (usually about 0.25 as I mentioned above), but longer oars are more efficient because a greater length of your overall stroke occurs with the blades being in that zone where they are close to being perpendicular to the long axis of the boat.


Thank you very much!

You made many great points that I have not thought about.

Would rowing from the stock stern seat backwards work much better? The stern thwart in front of the stern seat seems to leave enough space?

I definitely need outrigger to raise the oars above my legs. Thank you!

As an alternative, do you think a double blade 8’ kayak paddle can paddle well from the original canoe stern seat? I can try it this weekend, though it would be nice to know in advance, whether or not the paddle is long enough. It won’t produce as much power as rowing, of course.

If inboard over total length is at 1/4 (is that minimal requirement as opposed to optimum?), then wouldn’t 18" inboard (36" between oar locks) produce total oar length of 72" (6’)? 20" inboard (about 40" between oarlocks) would produce 6.67’? Please kindly correct me, if I misunderstood. Thank you.

Who’s gonna steer? If it is the rower, not so much in the bow.

Just get a double bladed canoe paddle. Span about nine feet seems best. Then paddle from the stern. You can use a spoon blade kayak paddle like this guy in the picture but a real double bladed canoe paddle is more classic.

PS…that is a high “air brace” paddle stroke. Its not very effective.


Thank you very much. My wife will steer, when I row.

I have two 8’ sectional symmetrical aluminum kayak paddles. I can probably DIY a 1.2’ female adapter tube and join the two 4’ male paddle parts together, to make a 9’ paddle.

My wife is about 5’3" and I am 5’9". So sitting on Grumman’s bow and stern seats, our two 8’ kayak paddles may be too short for both of us, correct?

Please also kindly let me know where I can buy a budget 9’ kayak paddle, or what search term I should use at eBay or Google? The longest that I found at Academy or West Marine was 98", which is only 2" longer than my current 96" paddle.

You could Google “double blade canoe paddle” wade down through all the big box adds to the real stuff. Look at Austin kayaks. Look for specifications. Nine feet … Look for paddles in the 240 to 280cm range. Note longer paddles take more force to work. But the length compensates for height above water and width of paddlers in wide boat.

Regarding double-blade paddles, I know a lot of canoers use 9-footers, but back in my double-blade canoeing days I used a 230 cm (7.5’) paddle with a fairly vertical stroke and it was fine. Shorter people (closer to the water) have less need for longer paddle shafts too. Also, you really do get decreased force in thrust with a longer shaft, and if you can be comfortable paddling closer alongside the boat instead of “way out there” with a low-angle stroke, a shorter paddle will be better. I’d suggest trying the kayak paddles you have without altering their lengths, as a first step.

But all that begs the question, sure a double-blade paddle is an easier method for a solo paddler, but why use a double-blade paddle at all if two people are paddling? You really don’t get much more effective power with a double-blade than a single (and a single is actually more effective with decent technique), and the need for relying on a double as a cheating method for directional control is greatly reduced when two people are paddling. I’m not saying it can’t be done or shouldn’t be, but it would be an unusual choice.

@zzffnn said:

Thank you very much!

You made many great points that I have not thought about.

Would rowing from the stock stern seat backwards work much better? The stern thwart in front of the stern seat seems to leave enough space?

I definitely need outrigger to raise the oars above my legs. Thank you!

As an alternative, do you think a double blade 8’ kayak paddle can paddle well from the original canoe stern seat? I can try it this weekend, though it would be nice to know in advance, whether or not the paddle is long enough. It won’t produce as much power as rowing, of course.

If inboard over total length is at 1/4 (is that minimal requirement as opposed to optimum?), then wouldn’t 18" inboard (36" between oar locks) produce total oar length of 72" (6’)? 20" inboard (about 40" between oarlocks) would produce 6.67’? Please kindly correct me, if I misunderstood. Thank you.

I think your question about oar length seems to be based on the assumption that the handles should not overlap at the center. It’s perfectly okay if they do, and it’s an easy situation to get accustomed to. However, if you decide you don’t want any overlap of the handles, your choice of oar length would be about as you say here.

I think your idea rowing from the stern seat when going tandem making the rear of the boat into the bow would make perfect sense. Your canoe is symmetrical so it can go forward or backward with equal effectiveness. But that does create the problem of how your wife will face the other way to paddle while seated at the bow (which is now the stern), since that front thwart is still there by that seat. Temporarily removing that thwart might be a good idea no matter which end of the boat you call the front. After all, you won’t be stressing the hull the way you might on swift rivers when getting swept into obstructions, etc. Doing without that thwart in your particular situation is probably okay.

Thank you very much, gents.

I do paddle quite vertically sometimes. Will definitely try out my 8’ double-blade paddle on cnaoe first.

The reason I would at least keep a double blade paddle on a canoe is this. Sometimes my wife and kids won’t paddle (then I would be the only paddler) and I have not learned the J stroke yet. I should though.


May I buy you a virtual beer? Please message me your email, if you would accept it. Or I can make a donation somewhere on your behalf.

Thank you for being so helpful.

When you said significant inboard oar overlap is ok, does that mean my left hand should hold end of right oar and my right hand should hold end of left oar? That would solve the problem and make the rig very simple, I think. Here is how.

I took some careful measurements and did some dry runs (mimicking rowing actions in my canoe).

I found:

  1. I can sit close to floor height, right behind the stern (last) thwart and row the canoe backwards from there. When wife is sitting backwards on bow seat, the bow thwart actually does not interfere much (we did try it on the canoe).

  2. I can likely install oarlocks, on gunwale, right in the middle between center thwart and stern (last) thwart. There is still enough space, in front of my stretched hands holding virtual oars, and behind me for a child/a small adult to sit, even when I rock back and forth.

So we likely won’t need to remove thwarts.

  1. without knowing it, I lost 10 lbs and wife gained some weight. So we are at, in lbs, 32, 55, 114 and 123.

So for trim, maybe (please correct me) we can do this:

10 lbs (or less) of food/gears at bow before bow seat;

114 lb wife steering w/ single blade paddle /sitting at bow backwards;

55 lb kid sitting in front of wife and behind center thwart;

123 lb me sitting close to floor height behind stern thwart and row oars/arms between center and stern thwart;

32 lb kid sitting on stern seat, backwards or forwards (he is tiny at 4yo, so he can fit either way).

Does that trim plan sound good? That way, we don’t need oar locks on outriggers?

If so, we just need to screw oar locks onto gunwale.

To lock oar blade angle, will this kind of oar lock design work:

Or do I need that Oar Right like this one:

Please feel free to refer specific products for our purchase.

Thank you again!

As for the trim of the boat, the main thing is that you are thinking about it. The exact placement of the kids and gear is something you will figure out, and it need not be perfect. Trim is a problem for many people who just don’t think about it at all, but that won’t be an issue for you. Be as fussy as you want about trim, or just moderately fussy, and things will work out okay.

Your plan for rowing from the stern (with the boat going backward) sounds okay. You’ll probably find that whatever height off the floor you can provide will help. Most people find the outstretched leg position with no back support to be awkward, and the lower the seat, the harder that will be. For what it’s worth, in my dedicated rowboats, the center seat (which use when rowing solo) is roughly 4 or 5 inches above the bottom of the hull, and that works fine for me.

I also think mounting oarlocks on the gunwales is the way to go. You can always change things later if you think an outrigger setup would be better or that becomes necessary due to raising your seat height.

That first link you provided looks like a good method to use for a fixed oar position in the oarlocks. Another traditional method uses a pin that goes right through the shaft of a wooden oar. Many oars come pre-made that way. The second link uses a method that is more elaborate and designed for use with oarlocks that would otherwise allow feathering on the recovery stroke. A purist would say you should feather, but I don’t think most people need to be that elaborate (I use pinned oars, that is, no feathering).

As far as overlapping the handles, if I understood you correctly, no, you don’t want to reverse your hands (right hand to left oar, etc.). Doing so would eliminate crossover at the center of your stroke but create extreme crossover when pulling back and reaching forward. With a little practice, crossing your hands ends up being as automatic as walking. I typically alternate which way I cross over on each suddessive stroke, though often, if the wind creates the need to row more strongly on one side, I cross my hands in the same manner for every stroke. Check out these videos. For the upwind clips, one hand or the other, or both, might go higher than normal to make sure the blade is deep enough to be below wave troughs. In calm-water rowing, my hands tend to be lower which creates more crossover, and the hands just brush past each other on the crossover. You’ll see that in some of these clips:

Just for perspective, that boat is 15 feet long, 38 inches wide, and has the same 12-inch depth at center as your Grumman, even though the scale here is rather distorted by the wide-angle lens.

One more thing. You will need some kind of a foot brace. You can start out with something really simple like a board secured with a rope at each end to the seat or a thwart that is just behind you, or has rigid support extending at an angle upward to a thwart toward the rear (ahead of you, as seated). Then build something a little more sophisticated once you know what you need. You can buy a special bar for this purpose (normally used as a foot brace when seated and paddling) from Wenonah, probably from Rutabaga Paddle Sports (or other paddle sports stores), and quite likely from Eds Canoe.


Thank you very much. Very helpful!

Your foot brace ideas are great. I thought about the board over rope idea before, but forgot about it. I will try boards fixed angularly over thwart in front of my feet.

Now we have almost everything figured out! I enjoy this learning experience.

Just need to make an extension aluminum rod to (reversibly) turn my modular aluminum kayak paddles into longer oars then. Will try Home Depot’s aluminum rods first. Or I will just buy a new pair.


My DIY aluminum extension tube idea (for converting my kayak paddles into oars) may not work. Unless I find a seller other than Home Depot.

Those aluminum tubes at Home Depot are too heavy to be used on canoe oars and their diameters are far off (I only found 1" and 1.25", but I need 30mm or 1.181"). They also won’t custom cut their 10’ tubes for me. Hand cutting their heavy duty tubes to 4’ is possible with my hack saw, though I still need lighter tube with the correct inner diameter.

Is there another good seller for aluminum tubes? I am going to check my local ACE and Harbor Freight. Just want to save some space by converting my kayak paddle to oars.

One off-the-shelf alternative is a pair of 7.5’ oars with oarpins installed for $113 shipped:

Seller told me those oars come with clamp-on oarpins/oarlocks, so their blades are set at the correct fixed angle for rowing. All I need to buy then is oarlock sockets.

Is there an alternative oar/oarpin combo that I should consider?

Thank you very much!

There is a special place in purgatory for people that ‘row’ canoes. You can probably get out but you will have to portage that thing for at least half of an eternity. :wink:

My extension tube idea probably won’t work, as my machinist friend told me metric (30mm) aluminum tubes are not easy to find in US.

I can irreversibly modify my two extra kayak paddles into oars, by cutting off blades and smooth put the ends. They are 8’ long, perfectly symmetrical and seem strong (with 30mm shaft diameter). They split in the middle and the two parts snap into each other with spring-loaded pins.

If purchasing dedicated oars is a much better idea, please kindly recommend oars, oarlocks and sockets.

Here is 4 that I found:

  1. 7.5’ regular duty (edit: 1.125" shaft diameter) oars with oarpins for $113 shipped to me (for a pair):

  1. 7’ “heavy duty” 1.25" shaft oars without oarpins for $94 shipped (for a pair):

  1. Caviness aluminum 8’ aluminum with 1-3/8" shaft for $74 each without shipping:

  2. 8’ spruce for $160 a pair:

Academy has clamp-on oarlocks for $10 a pair, which has so-so quality (I saw them today).

To get oarlock sockets (for $20 each), I may have to go to my local West Marine, if no better alternative is available:

Or this:

I wonder which mount should I buy, for my use. Angled, side mount or top mount.

Advice is highly appreciated.

You can get better oars than those, but even basic nice ones will cost more. I just looked at Sawyer Paddles and Oars, and saw a decent wooden oar with a traditional flat blade that looked pretty good, but for almost twice the price.

If used with a clamp-on oarlock, there’s no need for the rope wrap and rubber stop options. I would probably prefer something like this to those take-apart aluminum kinds, but it all depends on what you can afford.

^ Thank you very much!

What about oarlock sockets? I saw at least 3 types: angled, side mount or top mount.

These two seem to get good online reviews:

I have not looked at the gunwales of a Grumman in several years, but I think you can get by with either the angled or the side mount sockets. I believe there is a slight protrusion of the top face of the gunwale toward the outside, but if my memory is correct, it’s not enough to interfere significantly with placing an angle socket mount along that edge. I think that a side-mount socket will need to be mounted just below that protrusion, which may prevent the oar pin from settling all the way to the bottom of the socket, depending on how wide the horizontal bearing area at the top of the oarlock pin happens to be. You will want to look at the gunwales yourself and decide which mounting style for the sockets is better.

You will not be able to use the top-mount style, that is for sure. That is for a wide, flat-topped gunwale surface. The top plate of your gunwales is not very wide.

Those West Marine oarlocks will be quiet in operation, with the nylon insert, but I fear that that insert might wear out rapidly. Either of the other brands look to be durable. My oarlock sockets are brass, and on one boat the oarlock pins are brass and on the other they are stainless steel. Both are very quiet in operation, but they must be kept clean (I even clean and grease them before every trip, but most people would not take the trouble to use grease.