Oars - flat vs spoon

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I am getting back into rowing/after a several year absence. I used to row/cruise around in my swampscott dory which I miss more then I can say. My question is: is it worth it to get the spoon oars over the flat? I am getting a set of 7 1/2 ft fir or spruce oars and am under the impression that the spoon oars give about 40% more thrust per stroke. Anyway, I am looking forward to hearing others opinions and am looking forward to getting back on the water.

Dale Mendocino Coast Northern California

-- Dale Coleman (dale@calebboy.com), September 02, 2003


Get the spoon oars, its not just the additional power its the feel of them in the water. With rowing is all about the boat and the oars. Its worth spending some money to have a decent set. BTW, you didn't mention what kind of boat you are going to row. If you only have a 12ft alumumin camp row boat and you are rowing around a small pond I could see not bothering. -Gary-

-- Gary Powell (gwpowell@hotmail.com), September 03, 2003.

In response to what boat I am getting: Well I made the decision that it had to be a boat I could get on and off of my pickup truck easily. It needed to fit in my garage and that pretty much limited the size to 10', smaller then I would ideally have chosen but I don't presently have more space and it is most important to me to be out on the water again. That being said I wanted the best rowing boat I could find that would accommodate my y wife, my dog and I for day cruises and my dog and I for overnight trips. I finally chose a 10'fiberglass dinghy built by Gig Harbor boatworks in Gig Harbor Washington. It has a beam of 54" and weighs 90lbs. It will me my first fiberglass boat, having always been a wooden boat owner ("I'll never own a plastic boat." I used to say). I am picking it up in mid October. I think for now it will fit my needs very well.

-- Dale Coleman (dale@calebboy.com), September 03, 2003.

Moving more water is not always desirable. Spoon oars allow a larger radius for the power stroke. The main advantage I have found is for rough water. The oars when feathered can bounce off wavetops without catching. That is the reaon that they are used in racing shells where clearance is limited, and in racing surfboats. For normal use I suggest Shaw and tenney flat blades, narrow. Flat blades are smoother on the catch and release. In a boat with a limited hull speed you dont want to overpower the boat with blades that are too wide. Also, I use a pickup truck...why not go with a longer boat, say 14 feet, and leave the tailgate down. 10 foot is kinda small for any speed, especially with a passenger.

-- Harris (hg@myhost.com), September 04, 2003.

For three (two adults and the dog), I think I would have chosen the 14 Whitehall. Anyway last time I was down at the boat shop all Dave had were spoon blade oars. The other alternative is to build a pigmy wherry. That's light enough to do the pickup truck deal as well.

Why no trailer? Your pickup should be able to haul a 125lb boat easily.

-- Gary Powell (gwpowell@hotmail.com), September 05, 2003.

Also, excuse my prying but what happened to the dory? Why did you two part ways?

-- Gary Powell (gwpowell@hotmail.com), September 05, 2003.

As far as a trailer and size of boat, for now it is about space to keep them. That will change over the next few years but for now I just wanted something to get out in and this is the size and boat I've decided on. As for the swampscott? I'll try to make this short. I had a sailmaking business for several years. I imported egyptian cotton sailcloth and tarred italian hemp for the boltrope and made very traditional sails for traditional wooden boats. In fact I wouldn't make a dacron sail. I felt that a wooden boat with a dacron sail was suffering from a split personality. Anyway after about 5 years of my business just getting by we had the oppurtunity to purchase a home which was my wifes dream so I gave up the shop and got a "real" job. There was no good place for the boat here. We had no garage at the time and one day I noticed that some of the ribs had cracked from being out in the sun and I just made the decision I needed to let it go, so I did. Of course I have regreted it more times then I can remember. And now as a past owner of only wooden boats I am getting my first fiberglass. Never thought it would happen but I feel fine about it.

-- Dale Coleman (dale@calebboy.com), September 05, 2003.

Sorry to hear about your parting ways with the dory. I understand about the house vs job & boat. It was the right choice.

When you go to pick up your boat if you are still undecided, ask Dave to let you go for a row in Gig Harbor with a set of the spoon blades. I bet he won't mind. His shop is just up the road from the boat launch. Then you can see for yourself whether they are worth it or not.

Also when you are there, look over the fiberglass Swampscott dory & Whitehall he sells. Then in a couple of years if you want a larger boat you will know a bit more about what is available if you are still in the fiberglass boat mode. -Gary-

-- Gary Powell (gwpowell@hotmail.com), September 08, 2003.

Gary.....for 6 weeks out of the spring, i help my father-in-law who is one of the last commercial shad fisherman on the hudson river in new york.The term "commercial" is mis-leading...as he owns just the 21 foot wooden rowboat he built himself 50 years ago.I first started rowing for him 13 years ago.He had a set of what he called spoon oars. At first they felt totally alien.....but soon i became proficient in their use.Where they were unmatched was in rough water....holding that boat so a man can hoist nets in rough water,to be exact.

Several years ago,his garage and home burned down...his boat was safely outside at the time.....but the oars,sadly were incinerated.This boat is quite heavy....takes 4 of us to turn her over....at a guess id say between 500 and 8oo lbs.My question is this....do they still make those oars? If so...where can i buy a pair? Blade oars are doing the job now...but there is an amazing difference in control.

Thanks for any help you can give....and have a great day.

-- robert sumahit (orion38m@aol.com), April 22, 2004.

Hi Robert, Sorry to hear about the fire. Glad that the boat was saved.

I've found 4 sources for spoon oars, Shaw & Tenny, Barkley Sound and Gig Harbor Boats. Whitehall row also sells Barkley Sound oars. There maybe more.

The websites I've found along with some other oar related suppliers are on my web page at: http://www.geocities.com/garylambda/OarSuppliers.html

or directly at: http://www.ghboats.com http://barkleysoundoar.com/ http://www.shawandtenney.com/ http://www.whitehallrow.com/

Shaw and Tenny are in Maine, the rest are west coast. So the shipping for them should be the lowest. I've spoken with them on the phone when I ordered some Oar Clamps and they seemed nice. I have the Barkley Sound and the Gig Harbor Oars. The Gig Harbor one's are the nicest.

How wide is your boat? Or how long do you want your oars? -Gary-

-- Gary Powell (gwpowell@hotmail.com), April 23, 2004.

A friend of mine, ran across this website. I have no personal knowledge of this oar builder, but to be fair, I list them all. The photos are nice! And the price also seemed reasonable.


Yours, -Gary-

-- Gary Powell (gwpowell@hotmail.com), April 28, 2004.

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