By Donald Freix - Fish Creek, Wisconsin - USA

I recently acquired a very lightly used, manufactured canoe and have decided to give it a try with oars and rowing. There is nothing magic in the process here, but I hope to provide ideas for any readers who might be similarly inclined. My main objective with the setup shown here is to do two things. Number one is to test this particular canoe form for suitability for rowing. Does it track decently, do I feel enough stability with this hull, etc? Number two is to be able to test the canoe without permanently altering it. Therefore the gear rigged here is meant as temporary and no irreversible work or damage is done to this canoe itself at this point. The seat and oarlock blocks can be repositioned to find best balance points in the hull for rowing with or without a passenger and/or with anticipated gear. During the rowing trials all temporary rowing gear and c-clamps will be tethered with stout string to avoid overboard loss.

The scrap 1/2 inch plywood, glued and screwed

The first photo above shows several things. The scrap 1/2 inch plywood, glued and screwed, oarlock outrigger block is form fit to the aluminum gunnel inside profile and when clamped with the c-clamps raises the oarlock approximately 10 degrees above the gunnel edge. The small riser block (3/4 inch lumber) for the bronze oarlock socket, (from Duckworks Store) gets the oar blade sufficiently high enough out of the water during the loading portion of the normal rowing stroke. The oarlock block assembly has been saturated with thinned old varnish.

On the floor of the canoe is a caned seat on plain cedar boards, notched to fit over the canoe, "ribs," and made to fit flat on the canoe floor. The bamboo framed, caned seat is recycled from a set of chairs purchased for next to nothing at a resale shop. Any low, light weight, stable, temporary bench seat that can be repositioned in a fore and aft direction is suitable. The seat height upon which I will set a closed-cell foam boat cushion, will be slightly lower than the original canoe seats. The hard rubber bumper on the c-clamp in the foreground is to protect the gunnel and it is a foot meant for the bottom of a small table leg. These are available at most hardware stores in packs of four.

Another view of the oarlock outrigger block.

The second photo above shows another view of the oarlock outrigger block. These blocks have enabled me to get a spread of 46 inches between the oarlocks on this canoe which has a maximum beam of 36 inches. This is more than adequate for my 90 inch long, 32 ounce weight, antique spruce sculls. I can do a cross-hand stroke with these sculls for low gear and work my hands out to a side-by-side stroke when up to a bit of speed. My solution to protecting the oar looms at the oarlocks was to first do a traditional wrap with 3/16 inch black nylon braided cord. A kind of turks-head knot keeps the oar and bronze oarlock (from Duckworks Store) integral. After wrapping the loom, I mixed epoxy with graphite powder and saturated the black cord. This has created a durable waterproof, friction free connection. 50 feet of 3/16 inch cord was enough to wrap approximately 10 inches of the loom which averages about 1-3/4 inch diameter where it is wrapped.

You are now ready to test your canoe and oars. Remember, this is a test and is not an expedition or a raid. The c-clamps are liable to loosen. Check them occasionally. I am only testing for best boat trim, for possible eventual permanent rowing positions and for general boat performance. Also, know the limits of your canoe. This particular manufactured canoe was meant for a certain use, light touring in relatively decent weather. And do take it easy with the stresses on your canoe hull. To make room for rowing, I have removed the carrying yoke from the canoe, which allows slightly more flex in the gunnels. I don't want to bend them. I will compensate for this should I eventually want a more permanent rowing solution with this particular hull. I may find that this hull is unsuitable for rowing, but with this small investment in time and materials, I am already having fun finding out and I will report on the results.





To comment on Duckworks articles, please visit our forum