What kind of rowboat?

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Okay another what kind of boat question, sorry. I *have* been doing homework, maybe too much as I am even more confused now . Looks like there are a lot of kind and knowledgable folk here, so thought I would ask.

My boating experience is rowing a small dinghy in protected waters in my childhood/teens, 18ft inflatable with 25hp outboard through my teens offshore, and 14ft Lido sailboat in my thirties. Now a bit older and wanting something fun to do while getting back and staying in shape, thought recreational rowing might be good way to go.

So what kind of boat would you pick: 1) Prefer kit to build, alternatively plans built 2) Protected waters (my local lake is about 4x12 miles) 3) 240lbs tall/large build 4) Enough stability to bring my 75lb dog along 5) Have hopes of my wife becoming interested and thinking two rowing stations 6) Thinking slider seat(s) preferable for full body workout, though not absolutely necessary as my dog walks me a lot 7) Fit in bed of full-size pickup (with hitch extension to support overhang) 8) Light enough to carry hull solo for short distances to unimproved launch sites (no problem making multiple trips for gear/slider seats/etc). 60lbs is easy, 110+lbs might be pushing it for a distance. 9) Really miss sailing, and realize this probably makes for a great compromise, but if the rowboat can sail too that would be awesome (I won't have to build another boat ).

Thanks, Rob.

-- Rob (rv6@cableone.net), February 04, 2005


Rob, you might try looking at Wayland Marine in Bellingham Washington. They have a couple of kit designs that sound like they would fit your needs. They have a wherry designed to be rowed as a single, or a double, plus a couple of singles. The design looks like it may be a reasonably easy build for someone with a little experience.

Take care, and good luck with your search.


-- Rich Hundahl (zecfoursix@aol.com), February 05, 2005.


Thanks for your reply. Excellent suggestion, I have been looking at the Wherry Two myself. However I have been wondering if the 29" waterline beam will make it a bit "tippy" if I have my dog on board (though well trained, she has been known to spontaneously go after sticks she sees in the water, wonder about hauling her back aboard).


-- Rob (rv6@cableone.net), February 06, 2005.

Some of your selection criteria are conflicting, so I think that you need to prioritize your expectations. The light weight you have in mind ia incompatible with the size and stability needed to accommodate both you and a big dog, and/or a second rowing station. Also, the length of a boat for two (min. 17'?)exceeds what you can reasonably carry in a truck bed, even extended. Combination row-sail boats are usually less than satisfactory at one or the other. Good used sailboats are cheap and plentiful; why not buy one in addition to building a row boat? All that said, have a look at the 14 ft. Cosine Wherry

-- Kim Apel (kapel@fullerton.edu), February 07, 2005.

Yes the cosign wherry is a bit tippy. Fast rowboats tend to be narrow. Good sailboats tend to be wide. This is a dicotomy. A dolly will get the boat to the water, without multiple trips. I know a guy who has a 14 Gig Harbor Whitehall that fits a lot of your requirements, he uses a pickup to move the boat and a dolly to take it the last 100 ft.. Maybe you could build a wood version? -Gary-

-- Gary Powell (gwpowell@hotmail.com), February 07, 2005.

I don't think you will find the boat that meets all your needs, so the idea to prioritize is a good one. Do it by the frequency of use. If 80% of the time you use it you will be alone and rowing for exercise, the cosine wherry might suit best. If 80% of the time you will have the dog with you, or the wind builds swells at the time of day you'll be out, the cosine might make for a nervy trip. The shape of the hull may affect the tippiness more than the beam. There's a difference between initial stability and secondary stability. A boat that "feels" tippy initially might let you haul in the dog just fine if the hull has good secondary stability (you can easily lean it over to a certain point, then the hull stabilizes solidly allowing for hauling a weight over the side; either a wet lab or a lobster pot). For example, a slab sided light dory will be tippier and more tender in wind than a rounded multiple strake type dory of the same size and weight. As the hull rolls sideways off the centerline there is more hull surface in the water and it tips less and less. To a point of course...every boat will roll over past a certain angle. I think we all realize we want several boats...the fast sleek calorie burner, the sailing fun runner, the guest hauler, the toss-in-truck carry-on- shoulder ultralight, the rough Winslow Homer adventurer. Rowing something short enough to haul in a truck won't be much fun so you won't do it. And, sailing something that size will be fussy too. Boats can be too light to perform. Dories like to be loaded and are less reactive to wind with some ballast. Much as I like my Swampscott I don't expect her to sail very well unless it's a slow drift downwind with a tent fly sail. I knew most of the time the local weather and sea conditions would not be smooth, so I chose a hull that would handle it better even though the boat needs beach rollers and a trailer. I knew that longer boats row better so I would end up enjoying it, rowing more often and longer at a time. Depending on my technique I get just as good a total body workout with a fixed seat. Also, in my rougher water having sculling outriggers might really restrict the stroke or ability to clear the swells. If you will be using the same lake most of the time get a boat that handles that. You'll use it more and enjoy that time out the most.

-- Allison Banks (Allison_Banks@nps.gov), February 09, 2005.

Dear Rob,

You want what we all want out of a boat - TOO MUCH. Allison is absolutely correct when she says that you should decide what activities or what characteristics are most important to you and then pick a suitable boat. Forget about a sliding seat in a boat that can be carried in the back of a pick up truck. Such a boat would be slow, complicated, expensive and frustrating. Rowing and sailing are not mutually excluding, but one is going have to be secondary to the other or you'll end up with a boat that does neither well. Taking the dog along is probably not a big problem as people often take dogs out in canoes. If your wife is not already interested in this project, don't be too surprised or dissappointed if she never gets as excited about it as you. I've been trying to get my wife to take up fly fishing for decades. She's perfectly capable of learning the technique. She just doesnt want to do it. Now I'm just glad that she likes to be with me and that she tolerates and supports me in my interests.



-- Andre de Bardelaben (middlepath@aol.com), February 10, 2005.

Thank you all for your input, very insightful and appreciated. The pickup load area is 12' long (3-4' overhang okay), also the last 100' to the launch area the boat needs to be hand carried (hence the weight limitation).

Possibilities I am seeing (...whaddya' think?): 14' Whineglass Wherry (http://pygmyboats.com/mall/WGWSPECS.asp) 15' Skerry (http://www.clcboats.com/boats/skerry.php/cart_id=7932d5e9f72c79f05cdd 6943c58d40e1/)

Also considering the two-boat or trailer solution but really trying to avoid that (space, time, waf and $$$).


-- Rob (rv6@cableone.net), February 10, 2005.

Dear Rob,

I have a suggestion that may solve your transportation, portability and storage problems. Take a look at the Trailex line of aluminum trailers (www.trailex.com). Some of their SUT models can be easily and comfortably pulled as hand carts, yet they are DOT legal for highway use. They cost a little more than some of those marina boat carts, but they are much more versatile. These are great trailers for people who don't like trailers. Trailex trailers have been discussed elsewhere on this site.



-- Andre de Bardelaben (middlepath@aol.com), February 10, 2005.

I can second that about the sailing and rowing boats. One is rarely as good as another. My Swampscott dory sails really well "for a rowboat", 50Degrees on the wind is as close as I can get. And I pay for it with a complex rig that is a bear to put up out in the water. (Highly not recommended)

I've got removeable outriggers on my dory and its fine up to a medium chop, then I switch back to the shorter oars and regular oarlocks for all the reasons mentioned. With a sliding seat, I pin it down as soon as it gets rough. I need the ability to use my weight to hold the boat in alignment. In flat water I un pin it and crank it up to hull speed.

Girlfriend detests rowing. Oh well. Usually I can bring her along for a ride if the weather is beautiful. Wants to learn to sail but, really the boat is too tippy to teach people. I'm going to try again this summer but...

Andrei is so right on this. You want more than is in one boat.

The one thing about the special dollies, they are very light, 30lbs. But expensive, almost as much as a trailer. And for heavier boats, (200+lbs) fragile.

So pick a boat that's 80% of what you will use and go row! -Gary-

-- Gary Powell (gwpowell@hotmail.com), February 10, 2005.

Also, let me direct you to the Bowden Lakes Adventure, http://pygmyboats.com/BOWRON.HTM and in the photos notice that they used a boat cart. After having hauled my canoe, at 70+lbs to the water by hand I bought a very similar cart. It's well worth it from your back's point of view. So if you are totally against the trailer, and I can understand, its not just the cost of the trailer, but in addition the licensing, parking it, spare tires, lock for trailer, storage. Do consider either a boat cart or a sietek dolly.

I've got photos of the dolly broken down into its parts on my site as well.


-- Gary Powell (gwpowell@hotmail.com), February 18, 2005.

I am very lucky to have a free place to park my trailer, no licensing needed (or any entities to suggest that your trailer or your car is not roadworthy), free boat ramp or beach (you might have to move a few rocks or a dead halibut), and even if someone decides to steal it they can only drive about 7 miles before running into Alaska wilderness. Around here people joke about welding their car keys to the ignition so they don't lose them. If you fly into "the big city" for the day and leave your car at the airport another arrival might borrow yours, put in a bit of gas or a bag of cookies on the seat as a thank you. This town is really out in the boonies. Just got internet access last year, electricity about 10 years ago, but you still can't get a haircut. "Eating out" in winter means standing out in the snow with a bag of chips.

-- Allison Banks (Allison_Banks@nps.gov), February 18, 2005.

I row an Alden 18 as a single. The empty hull weighs about 65 lb. I slide it off my car lengthwise and lift it onto a two-wheel folding dolly beside the car. The bow of the boat rests on a spare lifejacket. I strap the boat to the dolly, put all my clothes and stuff in the boat, and pick up the bow to walk it the 50 yards to the water. Before I row away I fold up the dolly and put it in the boat. I weigh 215 lb and am 6'3" and it works for me.

-- Tony Wells (arwells@on.aibn.com), February 23, 2005.


There is no such thing as an all-purpose boat. Pick one or get both.

Re: Cosine Wherry. I have built one of these and have had it on the water. It is everything the plans say it is. Two or three good pulls gets it up to hull speed (about 5 knots) which is easily maintained. It will carry you and your wife AND your dog and the more you load it, the more stable it gets. It weighs about 85 lbs. (for easy car-topping)and has a set of Shaw and Tenney 102" spoons for an exceptionally good match of oar to boat. If a Cosine Wherry is too "tippy" for you, you probably shouldn't be messing about in boats.

In case you are interested, my Cosine Wherry, the N. T. BEAN, is currently listed in e-Bay under Pleasure Boats. There are pictures so you can see what one looks like in and out of the water.

If you settle on a rowing bot, you will be hard put to find a better one than the Cosine Wherry.

Good luck.

Jim Hazlett

-- Jim Hazlett (sloflier@foothills.net), February 26, 2005.

Hi Rob,

I run the Boat Shop at Mystic Seaport in Mystic CT (John Gardner's old job). I've never seen or heard of this forum before, but I came across your posting doing some research, and it seems to have struck a nerve. Your's is a question that I deal with every day at work. All those folks are right; as soon as you want to do two things with a boat, your Baby's a compromise. Chances are, you already know what boat you want - you're just trying to rationalize it. If you really don't, look at some books, read WoodenBoat, visit a maritime museum. If you were really just trying for some exercise, you'd go to a gym; if you needed to get from point A to B over water, you'd get some cheap plastic thing. If you want to build The Perfect Boat yourself, then you've got something rare in you - I don't know if it's artist or sadist, but you may have noticed that most of the human beings around you aren't building boats for their enjoyment. You have everyting you need to build any boat you want - if there's a boat that looking at or thinking of makes your heart pitter-pat, then stop being such an engineer - and stop asking engineers' opinions. Despite what these folks would have you believe, there are no absolutes. I've built a traditional cedar-on-oak canoe that weighted 11 pounds; I've used high-performance sliding seat rowboats, and MY 75 pound dog (a Malamute) can still outrun me on shore; I've carried a 28' boat on my Toyota pickup; I've sailed on a tugboat.

So, I've been doing this stuff for most of my life, and right now, I'm looking for a boat that I can row for exercise, by myself or with dog, or with wife and dog (and wife is not yet convinced of all this) , year 'round, can sail well enough to reach or run back and forth (but doesn't have to challenge a Laser to windward), can be moved about somehow with my Toyota, can run down some of the big mill rivers in southern New England in the spring, can be slept on (by self, wife, and dog on a hook in Long Island Sound in a thunderstorm), can be towed or carried by my 32' lobsterboat, and that I can build in my spare time for less than $100 by the first weekend in June. There's no particular reason for it, but there's a Frank Smith West Jonesport peapod in the collection of Mystic Seaport that makes the little hairs on the back of my neck stand up when I see it. It's not going to do any of the things I want it to do spectacularly; but it doesn't matter. It's my boat.

Don't be afraid of getting plans, lofting, finding wood, bending; anything - all you have to do is figure out which boat it is that gives you that feeling. Feel free to write me about anything; I'm lucky that my job is helping you.

-Wade Smith

-- Wade Smith (wade.smith@mysticseaport.org), March 07, 2005.

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