Questions for Nat Stone : LUSENET : Open-water rowing : One Thread

Did you ever wake in the night to find the wind was up and your tent had more windage than was comfortable or safe?

-- David Stookey (, March 16, 2001


This was a minor concern prior to starting out with the Loudon. However, I was confident that my weight when lying down would place the center of the boat’s gravity at a sufficiently low point for all but the strongest gusts of wind. Moreover, as I would most likely sleep at anchor, the boat would behave as a weather vane and only a rogue gust might hit me truly broadside. Now looking back, there was never a moment that, with tent up, I came close to flipping the boat. This was a result both of the weather vane effect of anchoring, and of beam. When I began the boat search that ended up with the Loudon, I had this dimension primarily in mind, and many otherwise attractive boats were disqualified for their narrow hulls. Thinking both of seaworthiness and of sleeping aboard, I aimed for approximately 48 inches of beam, and came out with 45 or so on the Loudon. I’m sure that the molded lapstrake of the Loudon increased the hull’s grip and thus contributed to stability in all conditions, from anchoring to surfing.

Though I never felt unsafe, there were nights when I woke up to a new breeze that rocked the boat and so made sleep difficult. Yet I was always sure to find an anchorage with at least two possible leeward shores, and a dozen times or so I pulled the anchor and rowed a hundred yards around a point to calmer water.

I put the tent up only once in the middle of a day, when along the Georgia intracoastal a thunderstorm made a bully’s promise it would roll straight overhead and around me. I dropped the anchor, raised the tent, and submitted. Violent gusts – though I doubt officially “severe” (55 mph+?) – shoved from ninety degrees of the compass and certainly rocked the boat. Yet the gunwales never came truly close to kissing water, and my only question was whether the PVC pipes I used as for a tent frame would support the pressure against the tent cloth. They flexed and bowed, yet held.

The greatest risk of flipping a tented rowing boat probably arises from maneuvering about in the boat before or after sleep: reaching from the bow to the stern for that flashlight, changing clothes, raising or dropping the tent, and whatever other activities require kneeling and reaching. Again, greater beam reduces the risk here. To determine my minimum for sufficient beam I simply looked at lots of boats, and at measuring tapes, and at the width of many things around me, including the kitchen table. Could I see myself sleeping and living within those bounds?

I might add that once I freed the boat from unncessary gear I found living aboard an austere pleasure, and some of my finest hours of sleep passed stably by at anchor.


-- Nat Stone (, March 16, 2001.

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