Riggers. The're not just for sliding seats anymore

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A common problem that we have with many of the current open water rowing boats available for fixed seat rowing is insufficient beam to utilize 7.5 or 8 foot oars with the oarlocks on the gunwale. This is especially true in canoe shaped hulls and other wall sided hulls with no flare. The solution is a small set of oarlock outriggers. On my Annapolis Wherry, I used those small brass folding riggers available from the wooden boat shops. They give you about six inches on each side which makes the difference on the Wherry. But they are heavy and have poor quality hinge. Does anyone have any recommendations on small oarlock outriggers for fixed seat rowing?

Dick Hamly dickhamly@aol.com

-- Dick Hamly (dickhamly@aol.com), February 17, 2000


Dear Dick,

In 1979, when I designed my first rowing cruiser(Sockeye), It had a very narrow molded beam of 33". Obviously some sort of outriggers were in order. Like you, I purchased a set of folding bronze outriggers, which gave an additional 8" of spread. They work pretty well for casual rowing while allowing Sockeye to function extremely well as a canoe, but are a little fragile for intense, sustained pulling efforts - as in racing. In 1993 I beefed up a pair of folding outriggers by drilling a hole through the extended rigger and through the gunwale mounted base and threading both parts to accept a single 10-24 machine screw. The fix worked well enough to help her win the 1993 Oarmaster Trials on Cape Cod. In the '94 Trials one of the modified riggers broke as Sockeye was leading in the finals. I love the way Sockeye rows, but have long thought that outriggers are an abomination on a cruising boat. That is why in 1991 I designed Skua as the narrowest hull that would accomodate Sockeye's 7.5' oars comfortably without outriggers. In crowded or unfamiliar surroundings the anxiety riggers cause rises exponentially with each inch of protrusion beyond the hull. Should you hit a stationary object at speed they can put an enormous amount of localized stress on a hull. I have seen the Annapolis Wherry at shows, but have never had the opportunity to row one. It appears to be a very low volume hull for its length. From the photos in O-WR it appears to sit extremely low in the water, especially with a passenger aboard. In narrow fixed seat boats freeboard is an important factor affecting what length oars can be used comfortably. Perhaps by raising the sockets you can do away with the outriggers altogether. From the data in the Buyer's Guide the AW shares the Skua's 38" beam, yet Skua accomodates 7.5' oars quite handily. I don't know the Annapolis Wherry's least depth, but Skua's is 14". Some rowers claim that 8 footers work quite well in Skua. Indeed, Ben Booth used 8 footers in his Skua to set the course record in the Blackburn Challenge. I hope you'll find this info helpful. Good luck.



-- Andre de Bardelaben (middlepath@aol.com), February 25, 2000.

Dick: I row an 18 foot St. Lawrence Skiff with 7'-10" traditional oars. The hull beam is 39" and the cantilevered base of the traditional bronze fixed pin oarlocks makes the spread 42". With 8" overlap of the grips, the load is fine and quick............. This traditional rig with a fixed pin through the oar shaft does not allow feathering, but even in significant chop the squared blade rarely chips water. I believe Andre is right about freeboard. The Annapolis Wherry looks very low sided. My skiff has been rowed open water with 9 foot blades in Concept II feathering locks and worked well enough although some might find the load a bit heavy. John Mullen

-- John Mullen (mullen@connect.net), February 25, 2000.

Dick, the brass flip-out locks have long been known for their weakness. When Charlie Parks rowed fromn Skagway, Alaska to Seattle, he several times bent an oarlock and had to unfit it, take it ashore, and bend it back into shape between twop rocks. Fortuntately they never broke, as he had no spares.

You might check Bob Asay's swivel oarlock arrangement for the Jersey surfboats he builds. It's not pretty, and it doesn't flip back into the boat, but there's no worry about its breaking!

Asay Surf-Rescue Boats,1001 Boardwalk, Asbury Park, NJ 07712 (732) 776-5424.

-- David Stookey (dstookey@ici.net), February 26, 2000.

If you are handy in sheet metal work, Pete Culler made a nice set of stonger folders for his Quitsa Pilot. Basically a D of bronze plate with the ends rolled up to take a hinge pin that ran the full length of the vertical bar. Mating bits were made that fastened on the inwhale. Oarlock socket brazed on top of the D at max curve. If you have a copy of John Burke's book on Culler there is a pic on p. 7 that I took and gave to Mystic Seaport when they got the boat.

Another solution is the one used by many of the new sliding seat boats, a wing that runs across the boat shaped so it does not hit your legs. A couple of wingnuts and it goes away.

On a new rowing / sailing cruiser I am getting some spread by putting on pretty big outwales, something to hike on and a place to gain a six inches of spread.

Two of the boats that I row regularly have folding locks. Both are more durable than the one that used to be available from Shaw and Tenny, a copy of ones found on some of the North Country rowing craft by Joyner and Rushton at Mystic. One is a set of folders designed by Bob Baker for the narrow Donoghue wherry/ whitehall now at Mystic. They have raised ends to increase the oar height. They are about 6 inches and the ones on the reproduction seem to be holding up, other than the usual many miles wear. For similar ones on a Cannell built LFH round bottom double ender the hinge pins and base of them is wide enough so that a conventional socket is incorporated into the fixed piece mounted to the boat.

The capabilities are there for someone to make a nice set of these, but they would have to cost a hundred bucks or so at the volume available and there is a real question of market. Even then you might not be able to machine the pins and socket.

-- Ben Fuller (bfuller@midcoast.com), March 09, 2000.

i recently found a dolpin 15 dory which i proceeded to rebuild. i first thought it was a glouster gull but was advised differently by the folks at shaw and tenny. beam happens to be only 30 in and i finf it too unstable w 6'5 ft oars they made for me.solution was a sliding seat vespoli with outriggers attached directly similar to oarmaster by alden. i m having outriggers made w aluminum annodised tubing which are braced and fastened directly to the seat frame and extending outward. ihope this will work and would welcome any comments or suggestions as to length outboard gunnels, practical oar length etc. thank you

-- bill huch (norsemanbill@aol.com), July 13, 2001.

I have discovered that Whitehall Row offers a nice set of bronze outriggers. They appear to have large lightening holes and should be lighter and stiffer than bthe set discussed at the beginning of this posting. I have ordered a set for my Wherry and I will let you all know how they work out after I receive them.

-- Dick Hamly (dickhamly@aol.com), July 13, 2001.

I received the new bronze fold out riggers from Whitehall Row. They are an inch or so larger than the bronze fold out riggers discussed in the original query. They have bolts for hinge pins and appear to be stronger than the bronze riggers in the original query. I am in the process of fitting them to my gunwale in my Annapolis Wherry. The only thing wrong with them is that there is no catch to hold them down in the rigged out position. I will have to come up with some sort of little latch.

Dick Hamly

-- Dick Hamly (dickhamly@aol.com), August 01, 2001.

Hello Dick, Thanks for your update. Have you any address, phone#, URL, for Whitehall Row. I am interested by the oarlocks you are testing. Michel.

-- Michel Jan (mjan@lemel.fr), August 21, 2001.

There is a rower I know in the cape ann area of MA who has an interesting set of permanent outriggers made from eighteen wheeler mirror fender mounts (I think). considering the forces on them holding a square foot of mirror or more broadside to the wind at 70mph or more, and his continued use of them year after year they can't be that bad.

-- joshua withe (feet.wet@juno.com), December 31, 2001.

I spoke with Marie at Whitehall Reproductions and they apparently have beefed up the magnesium bronze outriggers since Charlie's trip. They are still bend-able under load as they are adjusted at the boat shop however she indicated that while rowing they are considerably better.

Against some advice and with some others, I have decided to order a set for my dory, along with some open water sweeps. I'll post a followup after they arrive and I've used them. I don't expect them to increase the top speed of the boat but rather they will allow me to use a different shaped oar and my leg muscles with the sliding seat that came with the dory. This should enable me as a single rower to raise the average speed of the boat over longer distances on flat water. In rough water, and when rowing tandem, I expect to be using the shorter & narrower spoon oars I already have. -Gary-

-- Gary Powell (gwpowell@hotmail.com), September 24, 2003.

Well after using the oarlocks from Whitehall row for about a year now, I realized that there are a lot of times I want them out of the boat. So I bought 4 fastpins to replace the bolts that hold the folding part of the oarlocks in place. That has been a good investment. I did have to smooth the inside of the oarlocks hinge where the threads from the bolts had started to cut groves in the bronze but that was a small job for a round file. Now when I pull the boat from the water I also pull the oarlocks.

In addition I left the oarlocks in the gunnel that came with the boat. The reason was two fold, one, they were already there and I didn't want yet another ugly useless hole, and second the inner oarlock on the outriggers made the oars too long to row unless I did a crossed hands stroke which I currently hate. So I cut the extra material from the oarlock flush with the bronze bracket. This leaves me enough clearance so that the oars in the outer position don't hit the inner oarlock when the folding part is pulled off.

As for speed, in moderate water, I think I'm faster. I have a slower longer stroke but I don't have a GPS so I don't have emperical data to back me up. With the seat in sliding mode it feels like less water slips off the oars and I get a stronger pull. Whether this was worth the cost of the oars, oarlocks, time spent mounting and adjusting well probably not. But I'm a boat nut and prone to doing things just because I want to. And in this case I'm getting my money's worth out of it. You may feel differently. -Gary-

-- Gary Powell (gwpowell@hotmail.com), September 08, 2004.

One more bit of information. I have photos of the boat with the oarlocks at my website.



-- Gary Powell (gwpowell@hotmail.com), February 15, 2005.

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