Sunday, September 26, 2010

Ravn Rows in the Ocean

With the good weather quickly coming to an end here on the Oregon coast, I often forgo working on the boat to go out for a quick row. Last week my brother was in town and I took him rowing on the Salmon River and crossed a breaking bar out into the wide Pacific. With a four-foot swell and a fresh breeze Ravn was truly in her element. The photo shows the mouth of the Salmon River with Cascade Head in the background.

Ravn did what few boats can do of any size and that's to cross a shallow river bar with breaking seas. At no time did I feel like the boat was out of control or that we were in danger. This is what these boats were built for and centuries of refinement have made them very good at it. She tracked like she was on rails, even when we were on top of the breaking waves. It was nice having my brother there to direct me over the bar. You need a set of eyes looking looking fore and aft to negotiate such a maneuver. It would have been nicer still to have had a second set of oars for him to use, so instead of directing he could have rowed facing forward while sitting on the stern thwart. The added thrust would have been nice, but not essential.

Once we were out on the ocean we fished near some off-shore rocks. The boat held station like she had a parking break. There is a lot of boat below the waterline, even though I have opted for less keel than Mr. Atkin drew. Both my brother and I moved around the boat at will. This boat is very stable. It feels more like a 25-foot keel boat and not at all like a dingy.

After a couple hours of fishing (not catching, by the way) we came back across the bar and found a nice little beach inside the river's mouth to eat our lunch. My brother again proved his worth by guiding me between some suitcase-sized rocks until Ravn's bow slid up on the beach. I jumped out first (I had on rubber boots) and held the bow. My brother, in street shoes, was able to step off the bow onto dry beach. Another good reason to go with the a shallow keel.

I thought Ravn would be a lot less handy than her predecessor, a 13.5-foot Chamberlain dory. She is about three times as heavy, draws about eight more inches and is five feet longer. In other words, she's a lot more boat. I thought that would make her harder to launch and recover and harder to tow behind my little four-cylinder truck. I have not found that to be the case. It takes about the same time and effort to launch and recover the boat and I hardly notice I'm towing anything when I have her hitched up. While I generally agree with the old saw that the smaller the boat the more you use it. that's not my experience with Ravn. From the time I get it in my head that "Hey, I should go for a quick row," to when I'm actually rowing on the lake near my house is about 10 minutes. That's the same amount of time it took with my little dory. And, because this boat is so much more capable and seaworthy, I know I will use it more.

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