Sunday, September 5, 2010

Ravn's Rowing Report

Since launching Ravn Aug. 21 I've taken her rowing four times and I'm happy to report that, true to her Viking heritage, she handles like a dream under oars. There's no question that she has some weight when you take that first pull, but the extra glide seems to more than make up for it. She also just brushes off small waves.

The other thing I'm really pleased about is how stable she is. While rowing alone I used all of my 250 pounds to try and push the gunwale down at the middle of the boat. I didn't even get my knuckles wet. On another occasion I took my wife, daughter and her two kids rowing with me. At one point during the voyage four of the five of us were standing and moving about the boat; it didn't feel at all tippy. The grandkids had a ball running around on the boat.

When you look at the boat from the end it is narrow on the waterline, which makes it such a good pulling boat. She quickly gets beamier, however, as the boat heels or as the load increases, making her more stable. This bodes well for her being able to stand up under the press of sail.

I rowed across the lake near my home last Saturday when the wind was blowing about 15 knots creating some nasty wind chop. She didn't ship a drop of water and behaved herself like a lady, tracking straight and true. I decided to stop rowing and see what she would do. She slowly came to a stop and then clocked head to wind. I think that is the payoff for having a long, fairly deep (for a rowboat) keel.

While at the Toledo Wooden Boat Show, a fellow Coot loaned me two binders loaded with information on Scandinavian boats. It included a monograph on the Hardanger Faering by Owen H. Wicksteed prepared for the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, London, copyright 1978. The author's family owned Kari, a Hardanger faering built in 1892. (I believe that this is the boat on which Paul Fisher based his Kari 2.) The oars used on the Kari were 10 feet, four inches long.

All the rowing I've done so far has been with a pair of 9-foot oars I borrowed from a friend. They move Ravn along just fine, but I feel the need for a little more leverage. I'm at work on a pair of 10-foot oars modeled after a pair of 8-foot Norwegian-made oars that are about 50 years old. They are beautifully made and have a nice shape. I'm excited to finish them and try them out.

One concern I had about Ravn was that she would be more difficult to launch and tow than my 14-foot Chamberlain dory. I need not have worried; even though Ravn is more than three times as heavy and has a deeper draft, it is not noticeably more difficult to launch, recover or tow than my little dory was.

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