We have long since abandoned the first set of oars we used with Sea Shadow. They were short, carbon fibre oars that used gated, swivel oarlocks. Some of us miss rowing with those oars, being able to feather the blades added another dimension to the rowing stroke. Unfortunately they were not acceptable under the SCRA racing rules so the following winter we built our first set of wooden oars. Heavier and significantly longer than the carbon, they use a single thole pin and a plate attached to the oar. Any concerns we had rowing with these long, heavy oars were soon put to rest when the majority of our members preferred rowing with them. The most significant benefit was the increase in boat speed. This past winter saw the completion of our second skiff, Sea Spirit. A second set of wooden oars were built for her, that are longer again, especially on the inboard length. The balance was improved, they weighed less and were also more flexible. The women preferred the new oars but the men found the #2 and #3 oars a little too flexible. Back into the shop to build a third set, keeping all the dimensions as the last but hopefully a little stiffer. They should be ready for next Tuesday’s row when they will be put to the test.
During the week we get out on the water Tuesday and Thursday mornings for our recreational rows which includes some training, cox instruction and impromptu races. Most Sundays, for a change of pace, we row around Waupoos Island which lies directly in front of the marina. The island has few human inhabitants but at this time of year its populated by over 2,000 sheep. It’s approximately a 10K row and on a good day we can make the rounding in just over an hour. Today the conditions were ideal and we had two full crews.
The new footstretchers on Sea Spirit have proven to be a big improvement on the original design so we are now in the process of retrofitting Sea Shadow. Also, another set of oars is under construction to the same dimensions as the last set built for Sea Spirit. The longer inboard length, better balance and more flexibility were much appreciated by the rowers.
After a three month pause in construction waiting for warmer weather, work got started again in mid-April. Over the last few weeks the interior of “Sea Spirit” was completed and she is now ready to accompany her sister “Sea Shadow” on the water. Excitement has been building ever since it was announced a second skiff was to be built. We’re all looking forward to some friendly competition, less time waiting on the dock for our turn to row and also getting more people involved.
Other than the exterior hull colour scheme there are only a few minor differences in the boats: douglas fir for the stems instead of white oak and pine for the floorboards replacing the western red cedar. The footstretchers were redesigned to make them more easily adjustable and have a greater range. New wooden oars using a simpler construction and offering more flexibility were built before the first planks were hung.
A ceremony is being planned for the end of the month to celebrate the launching of Canada’s second St Ayles “Sea Spirit”. In the meantime we will conduct sea trials and attempt to get ourselves back into shape for this season.
Each day we work on the boat, “Shadow” the Quality Control Inspector, pays us a visit. He has a keen eye for details as he checks over our latest progress. We are a little suspicious of his motives however, especially since the inspections always occur during lunchtime.
The colour scheme for our new boat was put to a vote, keep it the same as Sea Shadow or reverse the colours. It was unanimous, the new boat will be dark green with a white sheerstrake.
We had hoped to have the outside of the hull painted before the weather turned cold but unfortunately Mother Nature had other plans. To stay on schedule we needed a warm location for a couple of weeks to complete the work. What could be better than a brightly lit greenhouse filled with poinsettias and warm enough to work in a T-shirt. A big thank you to Greg Moore of Lockyer’s Country Gardens for the use of the space.