Oar length for Skiffs

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I have just built a 12' rowing/sailing skiff to Richard Kolin's plans from his book "traditional wooden boat building" and then built the 8' oars that he suggests. When set in the oarlocks they overlap each other about 10" when the oars are held level. My attempts to row, even cross handed, have been very frustrating; with a fixed low seat I can do very little maneuvering (important for rowing on Arkansas' inland lakes)and my knuckles are worse for wear. The oars also tend to float out of the oarlocks because I have to row deeply to save my hands. Am I doing something wrong, or am I assuming correctly that I need to cut the oars down so that they just pass one another when held level? Will this cutting down of the oars affect their balance too much?

-- Eric Phillips (phillipse@alpha.obu.edu), August 11, 2000


Dear Eric,

A few more of the boat's dimensions (beam, depth, thwart height etc...) would be useful in helping others to determine what your problem is. Have you tried moving the leathers closer to the handles? That should help with the overlap. If the oar is still unbalanced you can experiment with weighting by wrapping a few winds of lead solder around the appropriate places. I would try these fixes before shortening the oars. If that doesn't work, try calling the designer. If he's not available, call Paul Reagan at Shaw and Tenney Oars. He deals with this sort of thing a lot.


Andre de Bardelaben

-- Andre de Bardelaben (middlepath@aol.com), August 11, 2000.

10 inches of overlap sounds like a lot - 7" or less is what they typically use in racing shells & it will help save your knuckles

as will very slightly pulling one oar handle in ahead of the other. ie instead letting your handles cross exactly one above the other, you should tuck the knuckle of your bottom hand againest the wrist of your top hand (as though you're trying to take your pulse with your knuckle). do this whenever your hands approach the crossoverpoint on the pull as well as the recovery.

-- mike Reiner (reiners@silk.net), September 19, 2001.

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