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Adventures in a Hudson

March 30, 2021 in Uncategorized


About 30 years ago, I decided to take the plunge and get a real racing shell. The skiff was great fun, but certainly limiting for speed. I had tried a recreational shell, but there were too many compromises. It often felt awkward and clunky. There is a long tradition of rowing from my high school and my grandfather was a champion rower, so I thought I should at least look into the shells. By today’s standards, my shell is a tank, but a beautiful tank.

It is made of birch and mahogany laminates. The boat is about 26’ long and weighs about 24lbs. I ordered it with the optional fiberglass skin for greater protection and longevity. The hull cross section at the water is a perfect half circle. There is next to no rocker and the bow has a gentle entry. The whole thing is nearly silent except for the action of the oars or sculls, and sliding seat. Like walking on a tight rope, balance and technique keep you afloat.

With only inches of freeboard, racing shells don’t do well in waves, especially going across them. One morning coming south from Windermere in the open lake, I got caught in a blow up of waves. It was everything I could do not to swamp. Waves were washing over the plastic covered decks. But on a completely calm morning, the speed is mesmerizing. At speed, the boat starts to lift out of the water a bit, the bubbles churn beneath the outriggers with a dizzying effect, encouraging you to go faster and faster, like wings on the water. Makes me wish for summer! The newer designs are all fibre and likely quite a bit stiffer and lighter. But I have the real deal. Close to the same design my grandfather and “the Boy in Blue” (Ned Hanlan) would have used. Hudson shells are also Canadian legend.

By Tim Du Vernet

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