Advice on buying row boat : LUSENET : Open-water rowing : One Thread

I'm looking for an open water row boat, and am very confused as to how to choose between all the possibilities that seem to be around given that I can't actually try them out. My priorities (in order) for what I want to use the boat for are:

1) Recreational rowing for exercise as a single on a lake (possibly with motor boats etc around) (in other words I don't want to have to go out at 5am so that it's glass). 2) Same as 1 but as a double 3) Able to take my family (2 adults + 2 kids) for small outing. When used in this manner does not have to go fast (could be fixed seat). 4) Other things being equal, being car toppable would be a plus.

Here are things I know I *won't* use the boat for - going in rough open ocean - fishing, or overnight journeys

From other threads on this forum, I've found lots of boats that seem to be in the ballpark. This is a list with some specs (Name, Website, Length x overall beam, weight, ability to switch bet sliding/fixed seat, price (with one sliding seat):

- Gig Harbor boats: 14' whitehall: 14'5" x 55": 125lb: yes: $3100 - American Trader: Skylark: 14'2" x 40": 82lb: ?: $3500 - Middle Path boats: Skua: 16'2" x 38": 95lb: yes: $4250 - Rossiter boats: Loudon: 17' x 45": 130lb: no?: ?? - Rossiter boats: training shell R23: 23'4" x 26": 65lbs: no: ?? - Bay of Maine boats: 14' piscataqua wherry: 14' x 47": ??: ??: $4047 - Adirondack Rowing: Guideboat 15': 15'9" x 37": 55lb: yes: $3550 - Adirondack Rowing: Guideboat 18': 18' x 42": 90lb: yes: $3550 - Adirondack rowing: Adirondack Wherry: 20' x 37": 88lb: yes: $3525 - Adirondack rowing: Annapolis Wherry: 17'9" x 38": 65lbs: yes: $3665 - Adirondack rowing: Merry Wherry: 15' x 34": 50lb: yes: $2929 - Alden: Appledore 16': 16' x 35.5": 97lb: yes: $3280 - Alden: Appledore 19: 19' x 39": 145lbs: yes: $3730 - Alden: Alden Wherry: 19' x 36.5": 57lb: yes: $1500 (kit)

All of these seem wonderful when I read what they say about themselves - so I'm having a really hard time figuring out how to choose between them. Any suggestions?

P.S: websites for boats mentioned above:

-- Sharad Mathur (, May 10, 2004


I think the most limiting requirement you have is the 2 adults (est 200lb ea) and 2 children (est 100 ea) (total people plus gear = 600lbs) outing & car top-able. For your general information, I've put this many people in a 18ft canoe on a lake with no trouble. (Also no really rough weather). And the canoe fits on top of my car but its a heft to get it there by myself.

For instance the web site for the Appledore 19 shows four people in it, but at 145lbs thats a bit much to lift over your head by yourself (It's more unweildly than just the iron that you can military press) and a lot of car roof racks may have trouble with that weight.

If I were you, I'd also write each of the manufacturers and ask them what they would recommend, list the things you want to do and see what they say.

If you live anywhere near a chapter of the Traditional Small Craft Association, they tend to be very friendly and willing to give rides. And or if you are near any of the manufacturers they too are often as willing.

Most of the boats you list are fine for up to 3. It's that fourth person that tips the scale. On the otherhand are you sure that you have four riders? I often take just the kids, so that's only 3.

I lean toward a 14ft Whitehall as a good boat for 4, can row doubles, handles boat wakes easily, small enough to launch and row by yourself, but that's my opinion.

The Skua might work, please write Andrei and ask, and be a bit faster (longer waterline and less weight).

I think the Adirondac Guide boat won't work for 4. (I have a friend with one, and its great for two. Which is kind-a werid because its so much like a canoe.)

The Adirondac Wherry might work until the kids grow (at 12 to 14 they are almost as large as adults) If you look at the photo of it with 4 people in it, its riding pretty low and only one person is rowing. Bored kids poke each other (In my experience).

So here's something else to think about. (Which is the physcology of using a boat.) Who is _REALLY_ asking to go out in the boat? My kids love it but my girlfriend really doesn't just say "Honey, lets go boating" She goes because I love it, and I don't make her row. One of my kids thinks its lots of fun, but the other would rather bicycle about. So if it ends up that you are the only one who will go most times, get the smaller boat that you can car top and you'll end up going more often. (The less hassle it is to get into the water the more you'll go.) If you can take one kid rider, that splits the kids between parents and then they tend to behave better giving each of you a break. Thus increasing your chances of going as well.

Of course having a boat that everyone doesn't fit in also limits the times you will go, because you can't do it all together. And at the beginning this is a problem. Once the novelty of the boat wears off its not such a big deal.

One other thing, and that is with car topping there is almost no waiting at the boat launch. So its another thing to consider.

What size lake are you going to be on most of the time? If its a larger lake, the more sea kindly boats will be better, the louden or the Whitehall.

Yours, -Gary-

(PS The enemy of the good is the better. There is probably no one perfect boat for you. There are many great boats that will be deficient in some way. The trick of course is to have that defeciency not matter all that much. Or at least until you can get a second boat!)

-- Gary Powell (, May 10, 2004.

Thanks for the response. (Looks like my formatting for the post got pretty screwed up!).

Maybe I wasn't clear enough, but fitting 2 adults + 2 kids is not the highest priority - I had listed my priorities in priority order :-). Also for what it's worth our whole family together weighs less than 400lbs (even 5 yrs from now). What I most want is a boat that I (and on occasion I & my wife) can take daily out on the lake for some exercise and fun (we have a waterfront home).

I live in the Seattle area on lake Sammamish (I guess it would be a small-medium size lake - probably 20 miles in length).

What I'm having the most trouble is the fact that I have no experience rowing anything other than huge wooden boats (in India), and don't know what the tradeoffs for different kids of boats (like wherries vs guideboats vs pods vs shells) are.

For exercise a sliding seat seems best, and it seems that you need some length for a sliding seat to be exciting and useful - in other words it's unclear what a sliding seat in a 14' whitehall would do?

I'd pay good money to have a place where I could try out some different styles and then decide :-(

-- sharad mathur (, May 10, 2004.

Sharad - I am trying to restrain from self-promotion but it sounds like the best solution for you would be to convert a canoe into a sculling boat. I'd invite you to check out the concept and rigs on my site. If this looks like what you had in mind I can offer some advice on suitable canoes as well. Take care - Gary

-- Gary Piantedosi (, May 10, 2004.

Hi Sharad, Well you are in luck.

First the Gig Harbor guys are local, well its an hour drive, but they are close enough to do that. And I'm pretty sure that Dave would let you row about in Gig Harbor. That would be the best trial of his boats.

Second, there is a Puget Sound Chapter of the TSCA, next meet is at May 15th. There is at least one memeber with a guide boat.

I'm planning on being there. I have a Swampscott Dory with sliding seat and if you're there you are welcome to come and try it out. You might like to join the Yahoo listserv. You can ask more questions there. I suspect the dory is not the boat for you.

There is also a group called "Sound Rowers" who may also be able to help you pick a boat.

A canoe with a rowing rig may also give you a lot of options. I've been out on Lake Washington, which is right next door in my canoe and it handles all but the worst of the weather. So Gary P.'s suggestion is not a bad one. Good versitility with the canoe.

The sliding seat debate has really been gone over pretty heavily in other threads, so to answer your specific question, what does it do for you in a 14 ft boat? Well it changes the muscle groups you use. More leg action specifically. Thus longer distance rowing for a similar amount of effort.

Trade-offs. The issue is that speed is whole dependent on mass and waterline length. Mass, as in how much effort it takes to get going, and whether you will keep going when you hit a wave. Waterline length because as you create a bow wave until you can plane the boat (unlikely for a human powered water craft) you quickly reach the near max therotical speed of the boat. As you approach the limit you expend more and more energy yet your speed will not be increasing at the same rate. Thus a longer lighter boat will go faster for the same amount of energy.

With a waterfront home you may not feel the need to get out to the other boating areas, but Puget Sound is full of them. At almost any kayak launch site you can put in a row boat. You may quickly outgrow your boat if you only get a canoe. (but then I see used ones all the time for $400->$700) Something else to think about.

Yours, -Gary-

-- Gary Powell (, May 10, 2004.

Oh yeah, The Center for Wooden boats rents boats by the hour on Lake Union. Not too far to go. No speed racing shells but it will let you row some of the more peapod shaped boats. And a row on Lake Union is a pleasant afternoon outing. -Gary-

-- sKKipper (, May 10, 2004.

Hi Gary:

I would love to come to the meet - it sounds like the best way for me to see some boats and probably even more importantly talk to people who have been doing this for a while :-).

Unfortunately May 15th is the day that we are moving into our new house on lake Sammamish (the truck is coming in the morning) - so I don't know what time I'd be able to make it to the meet by. I saw on the website that it starts at 11am - till what time are people normally there? I might be able to make it by 2PM or so ...

I did follow your suggestion and fix up a time with gig harbor to go out and try both the Whitehall and the skylark this Friday - hopefully that will help. Will also try and visit the Center for wooden boats.

In the meantime I'm still trying to get all my factual research straight ...

One more question - I noticed there were several "wherry kits" available that claimed to be easy enough to build for a first time boat builder. I do some spare time dabbling in home carpentry and was wondering whether that was an option. Somehow feels dangerous to be building a boat that your life depends on!

Thanks a lot for all the help -

- Sharad

-- Sharad Mathur (, May 10, 2004.

Dear Sharad,

What can I say but WOW! You've been bombarded with such an incredible amount of information that your head must be spinning. Some very important, and good points, have been raised by the previous respondants. I'll start by saying that you would probably not be unhappy, or unsafe, with most of the models you are considering. That being said, only just a few of them would suit you much better than the rest. From a performance standpoint it's doubtful that any of them will benefit significantly from the addition of a sliding seat. The results of mixed class open water races have shown that the best fixed seat boats can equal the times of the shorter shells (15'-17'). I would never consider offering any boat shorter than 16 feet with a sliding seat. I have noticed that there are two types of small boat people - builders and users. The builders are can be divided into two sub-groups. One group is made up of people who build boats because they truly enjoy building them. They may build a series of evermore complex boats and sell them so they can have money or room to build more. The other sub-group may actually enjoy using boats but, they simply can't afford to buy the finished boat of their dreams. There are two types of home built boats, ones that are truly works of art, and others that look homebuilt. Some of the truly beautiful ones can match many of the better professionally built craft in performance and appearance. The other boats will merely get their owners out on the water. A graceful, well designed and built craft, no matter how much money or time she cost, will probably always please her owner. A boxy, or sloppy, "good enough" boat will do until it can be replaced by something really nice. Someone suggested fitting canoe for rowing. This might be a good idea if you already own a canoe. Having designed and built both canoes and rowing craft for several decades I would suggest that, if you want to row, you should get a purpose built craft. There is such a bewildering selection of canoes available that choosing the best one for rowing can be truly daunting. Many canoes are totally unsuited for rowing. Even the best of them won't row as well as true rowing craft. The dynamics of rowing and paddling are different enough that they demand slightly different hull configurations. There are reasons why rowing craft and canoes usually don't look alike. I hope I haven't confused you even more.

-- Andre de Bardelaben (, May 10, 2004.


This is a great website and the contributors are all sincere and knowledgeable. I think one of the best answers is the one describing the various types of builders...we probably fall into the category or'builders who genuinely like boats and actually use them'. We pride ourselves in matching the boat to the owners needs and DO NOT try to sell anything that is not needed or desired. And if we do not have an offering suitable for them, we will give references to sources to help contunue the search for the elusive perfect boat.

The only way to truly understand the physics and aesthetics is to see and experience boats in person so I invite you and your family to visit our shop in Gig harbor. We have a display area with all of our boats and by prior arrangement you can take one for a sea trial. I guarantee you will leave with a better knowledge of small craft design and that you will not receive ANY type of sales pressure.



p.s. If it is against the board policy for commercial accounts to answer queries, please shoot me an email. Thanks.

-- Dave robertson (, May 11, 2004.

Hi Sharad,

There are some threads that discuss having built the wherry kits: (Although from reading the reviews of this book at Amazon, some details may be lacking for inexperienced boat builders.)

And remember don't build a boat unless you love the process of building. Some huge percentage of home built boats are not finished. So its only a cash savings if you love doing it.

Yours, -Gary-

-- Gary Powell (, May 11, 2004.

One more boat to look at: A Devlin Oarling.

It's on the small side for 4 though.

Also it has been my experience that if you can keep a wooden boat under cover, ie a car port or garage that the maintence is much less. (That's also true for fiberglass but the cleanup isn't quite so bad with glass if the cover fits well, and covers a lot of the surface.) -Gary-

-- Gary Powell (, May 12, 2004.

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