From the beginning of our project we had planned on building the oars. Unfortunately this proved more difficult than we had expected. Trying to source clear, straight lumber at a reasonable price became almost impossible. The ideal wood, Sitka spruce was our first choice but was not available. We looked at clear white pine but that was getting up there in price. So we spent hours at lumber yards picking through the piles of construction grade spruce looking for pieces that were straight and had the fewest knots. Of course there was no guarantee by the time we got them home that they hadn’t twisted into a pretzel. The only solution was to rip long lengths and laminate them together with epoxy, lots of epoxy. We shaped the 13′ stroke oar to the Anstruther design and dimensions but the weight of the finished product was a real concern. The group of us are well past our peak athletic performance and the thought of us rowing with these long heavy wooden oars was not an entertaining prospect.
We abandoned the oarmaking for the time being and looked at getting much lighter racing sweep oars with Macon blades, no longer used for competitive rowing. We contacted a rowing club to see about obtaining some of their unused oars and were very delighted to receive a donation of five carbon sweep oars. Two of these oars probably weighed less than than the one wooden oar we had built. There are two disadvantages to these oars however, they are not approved for use in SCRA events and the oar length at 12-1/2′ falls in the range that can cause oar/back conflicts.
As well as the oars we were very fortunate to have been donated Concept2 gated swivel oarlocks. The challenge was attaching the pins to the gunnels. To take full advantage of this type of oarlock the pins had to be set to 0° both fore/aft and laterally. Not that easy to do with gunnels that are angled outboard and a different angle at each location. Aluminum brackets, fastened to the gunnels, had vertical holes drilled for the pins using a drill press. Bevelled washers made from 1” solid aluminum rod, drilled out in the centre, were placed under the shoulder of the pin. The mounting brackets were longer than necessary so we could add braces from the top of the pin to the bracket if more support is required. This setup is similar to what is being used on the Irish coastal boats. An added advantage of this oar and oarlock combination is the ability to feather the oars when rowing.
We realize that we will not be allowed to compete with this setup as the the rules apply now. Our boat has kabe holes in the gunnels opposite the oarlocks so we will be able to rig it for the regulation wooden oars as well. Unfortunately we will not be able to attend the Skiffie World’s this year but if we are able to make the next event we will make oars and oarlocks to the latest design to train with. It has been interesting to see the creative and innovative ideas that are being developed, such as the wooden swivel oarlocks and hollow oars.
Our decisions to use these oars and locks will allow us to get out on the water sooner, at less cost and hopefully the boat will be easier to row by everyone.