Good boat for a beginner? : LUSENET : Open-water rowing : One Thread

I am a new subscriber to Open Water Rowing and I just received a copy of the buyer's guide as well, but I still have a problem. I don't have a clue what boat would be best for me. I know what I like, but that doesn't necessarily mean that's what I need. I like these long sleek rowing shells, but I weigh 220 pounds and I understand that eliminates alot of choices. I plan to row on a lake that has ski boat, jet ski and occasionally barge traffic. It's off the Tennessee river. I like these shells like the Bay 24 and this Pegasus model by Positive Strokes Rowing in the buyer's guide. I am a complete novice and have zero experience, but I don't want to drop big money on a boat that I won't be happy with and will need to replace after I learn technique. With this in mind, what do you think would be a good shell for a beginner starting out? Please let me know what you think. Thanks.

-- Paul Mueller (, June 20, 2000


The boats you mention, like several others of the same size and speed, are excellent open-water boats and will get you safely through boat wakes and most levels of lake chop. They will not, however, let you carry a passenger or more than a minimum of gear. Nor, because of their ease through the water, will they give you the heavy workout that a slower boat can.

If you are certain that a boat at the fast and tippy end of the scale is for you, go for it. I am told by advanced scullers that it is perfectly practicable to learn to scull in an advanced boat, one that you may have trouble keeping upright at the beginning. The key is some coaching from a rowing friend or professional sculling coach, both when you first get the boat and later to check for bad habits. There is no point, they say, in buying a more stable boat just to outgrow it in a few months. You might find that a visit to an open-water boat dealer will give you a chance to row and compare several different boats in an afternoon. Most dealers can also give you a lesson and, within their product line anyway, are likely to be helpful advisors.

-- David Stookey (, June 20, 2000.

Paul- let me share my experience in a shell on Tennessee Lakes- I built a very fine Kingfisher recreational shell- fast but tippy- I feared that I might never master it. I did- but I was never able to deal effectively with the hoards of good ole boys who would roar up in 500hp bass boats to see what I was doing. Add to this, shells tend to go in a straight line- hard to manouver, near impossible to get out of the way of a 70 mph bass boat. So I took to rowing in the dead of winter. Ok, till you turn over and of course you have to swim the boat back to shore to remount. Then of course your clothes freeze and get heavy- and the next time you dump it you may keep going down.

I don't mean to paint a dismal picture for you. Shells are just fine for reasonably protected waters- some are even capable off shore. But for the conditions we have here, I'd op for an Adirondack type guide boat that one man could handle by himself, and a passenger and gear can still be carried. Girls are a really nice addition to a rowing boat, and a bottle of wine.... and there's music.....

-- Dale R. Hamilton (, June 21, 2000.

Thanks David and Dale for your responses. I appreciate any help and information I can get at this point. Suggestions from any other readers would be greatly appreciated as well.

David - Could you suggest an open water boat dealer that's fairly close to Tennessee where I could take some lessons and try out different boats in an afternoon? The only one I've been able to locate is Adirondack Rowing. They are pretty far away for me and have yet to return my email asking where they're located. Thanks in advance for any help you can offer. Have a great day!

-- Paul Mueller (, June 22, 2000.

George LeBoutillier, at Valley Scullers in Perrysburg, OH is an Alden dealer and may handle other boats. You can contact George at 419-874-5505, or e-mail him at Another Alden dealer is Rowing Atlanta at 770-934-5774.

Small Craft Inc. in Alpharetta, GA may still be making a mahogany rowing shell, phone 770-475-5455. You might also call John Bancheri at the Marietta Rowing and Cycling Club in Marietta, OH, phone 614-376-4515. There may be some boat there that you could try.

Sometimes the flat-water rowing clubs have good open-water boats as trainers and would give you a lesson or a rental in one. Try the Chattanooga Rowing Club at 423-622-6846, the Clinton Rowing Club at 423-463-0667, the Knoxville Rowing Association at 423-633-9214. These clubs will know of other clubs in the state.

-- David Stookey (, June 23, 2000.


IMHO you need to try a few boats including a shell and either a guideboat or some other kind of fast rowing craft. You might try to find someone who has a good boat in your area by contacting the Traditional Small Craft Association they have members everywhere. If you end up with a boat (not a shell) you will have less need for coaching because your ujnlikely to roll over if you make a mistake. Not that coaching hurts its just that shells are built for high speed in straight lines and are not very forgiving.

You might look at the Annapolis Wherry its light, fast and a little more forgiving than a shell.

Tom Hunter

-- Tom Hunter (, June 29, 2000.

Paul: All the responses are correct. No 'right' boat ever exists. Try as many as you can, even fixed seat wherrys or Adirondacks or Peapods (only in Maine of course). We've rowed Maas 24's, racing shells, Piantedosi rig in a Klepper Expedition II( toured for many years to the Maine islands. And, yes, wine and your lady do make for a very fine row.) For all around use for us on open Penobscot Bay year-round I've settled on the Alden 16. You do sit in it like a kayak. It is somewhat slow compared to Little River or Maas or Star, but evens out in a chop, wind, wakes, or just relaxing offshore. The others tend to be fast, fun when you get the hang of it, but need attention all the time especially in any seas over a foot, and under heavy workouts. A following sea or full stroking rate will 'submarine' the bow. I like my butt modestly dry. Penobscot water is B2 cold all year. Yes guys, wimps exist downeast. Little River Marine's Cambridge has all the capabilties of the Alden. Faster, with room for a passenger or Merlot. Solution for PWC's and buzzing beer boats: hand-held torpedos are fine. Best of luck, Aaron Glazer Cape Rosier

-- Aaron Glazer (, July 13, 2000.

An Alden 16-foot Appledore Pod is a versatile boat for wakes and churned waters. It can be rigged with either one or two Oarmasters. One Oarmaster and a passenger makes for a pleasant afternoon with a non-rower. There is room for a portable radio, PFD, bailing bucket, sponges, tool kit, lemonade, cookies, binoculars, brass horn, and marine radio. ---Or even an anchor. One can get off over the ends onto the shore. It is easy to pee into the bailing bucket. They last, I've had mine for 22 years.

-- William Spaur (, July 21, 2000.

Paul - I am similar to you in that I began a few years ago, built two wherrys and row in lakes and ocean by myself. I would like to mention that having started out in beautiful calm weather, I have returned in high winds with 2-3 foot chop. This can be very scary when alone and I have been very happy to have a lot of boat under me. After a few weeks of calm rowing I have fantasies of a sleek shell but then soon I get caught again and I pat my wherry on the twart and thank it. My boat is very similar to the Annapolis wherry. Good luck and have fun!

-- Dunham Craig (, August 07, 2000.

I was a small boat dealer and had the opportunity to try lots of boats. When I retired, I took an Alden Appledore 16 and an Alden Ocean Shell. I also have a "Front Rower" that I can use in either one when I want to row and see where I am going. I use the Appledore when it is cold and choppy and the Alden Ocean Shell at other times. The Appledore weighs 110 pounds and the Alden Ocen Shell weighs 40 pounds. Add to this the weight of the Oarmaster sliding seat or the Front Rower for another 30 some pounds. If you go for the Alden Ocean Shell, I would recommend the Double which is 18 feet and slightly heavier and can handle your weight easily. You are a little heavy for the Single. I would not trade either of these boats for anything. Good luck. Ed

-- Ed Rogers (, December 10, 2000.

Moderation questions? read the FAQ