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Continuing the Journey of Rowing

March 17, 2021 in Uncategorized


In my last blog, I forgot to mention a key difference between the lapstrake skiffs built in Muskoka and the rowboats from Peterborough and Lakefield. Peterborough  and area rowboats are smooth skin. The planking is made of narrow strips that run the length of the boat and do not overlap, like Muskoka skiffs. Another key feature in the design and construction of Muskoka rowboats is the use of the seat supports as “knees”. The seat supports are an integral part of the hull stiffening as much as they are carrying the load of the seat. The knee connects into the seat as a triangular piece that braces the width of the boat.  This design feature was also used in Disappearing Propeller Boats. Who would think that such a little boat could be filled with so many details! Skiffs are one of my favourite classic boats because these details are subtle and speak to the simple elegance of the craft.

The stern post of a Muskoka rowboat might have eye rings where a rudder can be attached. Theoretically, one person could be rowing while another helped steer the boat. Our family skiff is only 14’ long and the rudder is mostly a cosmetic addition. To help give the rower a bit of extra bracing, a foot stop was attached to the inner hull. It could flip forward or backward as an adjustment for distance. Rowing a skiff for a distance requires patience and co-ordination. The oars should be twisted to let the blade or spoon skim the water and then twisted again to catch the water. There  is no flat spot or indent to indicate just how much to twist. It is all by feel. The oar locks allow the oar to rotate freely. Some rowboats from other builders may have the oar lock run through the oar, but this reduces the strength of the oar and compromises its range of rotation. Next up, a look at oars and classic shells.

By Tim Du Vernet

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