Rowboat Update - 2020

Documenting the updates to our Adventure Rowboat - 2020


The building of this boat took a little longer than I'd planned so I didn't get a chance to use it much last fall (2019). If you got to this page without seeing the boat's build page you can see all of that here: 2019 Build Page. I haven't totally abandoned my original plan of rowing my age in miles some time around my birthday near the end of August, in 48 hours but plan B is to do my birthday trip in as short a time as I can, then next year try to do the same course with, of course, another mile added at least as quickly as this year's trip.

Our long, snowy season is a great time for boat upgrade planning and this last winter was no exception. In the 'Parts & Plans' section below I have listed a few of the boat-related pieces of equipment I have collected and then, following that will be the details of each of this spring's projects.

In addition, there were a few other items that were on my To Do List:

  - Light for compass (red, for night rowing)
  - Install tablet mount (for navigation and tracking apps)
  - Test long, 3-piece, kayak paddle (oar backup)
  - Design Bimini ? (sun shade)
  - Capsize & re-entry test

Parts & Plan:Boat projects - 2020
Here are most of the pieces laid out on the bench in the boat shop, ready to go.

A - 'Forward-view' mirror and flexible mounting arm
B - Oarlock bushings
C - Anchor rode thimbles
D - Rudder gudgeons & pintles
E - Cleats
F - Cabin hatch support hardware
G - Pad Eyes for attaching gear in cockpit
H - Pin-type oar locks - removable
J  - Mantus Dinghy Anchor
K - Nylon anchor rode w/anchor storage bag

What Really Happened:

(A) - Mirror:
On our first few outings of the year I gave a littletest bike mirror that fastens to your helmet or glasses a try but I found that the boat's motion and my movements while rowing made it too much work to keep the forward view steady. I ended  up repurposing one leg of a camera tripod and making up a support bracket to mount that large convex mirror. Other than the slight hassle of removing it for trailering and slipping it back into its mount at the launch site it has been great! I still turn around to see the big picture once in a while but the mirror's image is pretty wide and is very stable. It is so nice to be able to see where I'm going!

(B & H) - Oar Locks & Bushings: I needed to ream out the nylon oar lock bushings a little but not before discovering that the pins of my new stainless steel oar locks were not machined the same size. I chucked the larger lock in the drill press (slow speed), and used a file to 'machine' it down to the same diameter as the other lock. Then, I reamed the bushings out to fit those pins. They also fit my regular Gaco locks well which is good since I still plan on being able to switch oar locks to fit the rowing conditions (and my mood).

(C, J & K) Anchoring Stuff: The Anchoring system is all set to go. I added an anchor rigging system on the port side that allows me to deploy the anchor from the cockpit and then run the anchor rope attachment up to the bow to keep the boat pointed into the wind and waves when anchored. The idea is that the anchor is carefully thrown overboard, an appropriate amount of rope let out and tied to that thimble shown in the right hand photo. Then the rigging line is uncleated, the thimble is pulled forward to the bow and the line is tied to the cleat. In the left photo you can see the copper guard I installed to protect the fabric at the bow from being chafed by the pulley or line.

Anchor rig

This has worked great! I love that little take-apart Mantus anchor. I added 6' of silky-smooth 1/4" diameter 316 Stainless Steel chain between the anchor and rode. This ensures that the anchor positions itself correctly and prevents any chafing of the nylon anchor line. I have used the anchor quite often - usually for on-water lunch breaks - and it has held very well.

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(D) The Rudder: I got the idea for this rudder from an on-line article by Larry Miller and all credit for the design goes to him. I used a salvaged aluminum 'Curve Ahead' curve ahead highway sign for the rudder blade. The pictures show how it looks and functions:

I initially set up a simple push-pull system (shown below, left) but a combination of issues caused me to reconsider and design a toe-operated mechanism. There were a series of holes in the underside of the wood handle and a vertical pin in the bottom of the aluminum guide. In use the handle was lifted a bit and moved forward or back to adjust and lock the rudder angle. It seemed as though I was spending too much time fiddling with that sliding control. A little wind or wake would send me off course a little the I'd have to stop rowing to change the rudder position - over and over.

Rudder Up & Down    top view of rudder head

There are two lines running through that aluminum plate in the middle of the left photo above; pull the left one to raise the rudder manually, release it and pull the right hand line to pull the rudder down. That striped hold-down line is mostly bungee material so the rudder can safely kick up if it hits an obstruction. The rudder head is made from some aluminum angle and a small piece of the 'curve' sign. The guide on top is positioned directly over the pintle/pivot so the lift and hold-down functions work well regardless of rudder angle. A small nylon pulley keeps the raising and lowering action smooth. I used a stainless steel 5/16" rod-end bearing on the end of the push pull shaft which was a repurposed fiberglass driveway marker.
rudder down & up

Here you can see the original rudder in the down and raised positions. In the fully raised position it can act as an 'air rudder' to help keep the boat headed into a strong wind. The rudder can also be set straight back, out of the wind and clear of the water

Toe-operated rudder control

The new toe-operated system is more complex than the simple push-pull idea but works much better for me. There is just enough friction in the system that the rudder stays wherever I set it. The lower arrow, under the compass, points to the pivoting toe-block. The upper arrow indicates the 'forward-view' mirror's mount.

The new stretcher/foot-board is made of 1/4" Baltic birch plywood and is reinforced on the back side. It is nice and solid. The arc gives you an idea how little toe movement is needed. The rudder swings a little more that 45 degrees each way.

New rudder shape

The other change I made was to reduce the rudder surface area. It turned out that this 'rowing rudder' didn't need to be very big to control this hull's track. I suspect that I may need to go back to a larger blade if, in the future, I decide to add a small sail to the boat.

(E) - Cleats: I mounted a 5" stainless steel cleat on each side of the cabin/cockpit bulkhead and one on the bulkhead that makes up the aft end of the cockpit. These are 5" stainless steel cleats and are backed up by aluminum plates using all stainless hardware. Stainless is non-magnetic and this was particularly important for the aft cleat as it is mounted only inches above the compass. As it turned out, I had to remove the cleat on the aft cabin bulkhead. In order to have room for my toes to operated the new rudder control I had to raise the compass. Something had to go; the compass stayed and the cleat is out of there. I'll probably mount a pair of 4" nylon cleats - one on  each side of that bulkhead.

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(F & G) Cabin Hatch Supports: After a bit of fiddling the cabin hatch support hardware is working as planned. I also added a couple of diagonal latches at the bow end of the hatches to stabilize them so they could better support a cover for the cabin. I mounted three of those little pad eyes just below the outer rub rail along each side of the cabin. The cabin cover/tent is secured to them with small custom bungees. And here's how the cabin tent turned out:

Cabin tent from side    Cabin tent from bow

Cabin tent from stern with screen    Cabin tent - inside

I have timed setup and it takes less than two minutes to set up the cabin tent and another minute or so to put in the screened and solid end panels. I have taken a few naps in there and it is very comfortable. I have a Therm-a-rest RidgeRest pad, a light camping quilt and small pillow. Very roomy feeling and quite bug-proof. The tent packs up into a small football-sized bag; the three wood bows nest together in a compact bundle and fit along one side of the cabin when not in use.

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- Slim down and balance oars
I spent most of a day working my oars down to lighten them and then balanced them by adding some lead weights inside the hand-grips. They went from 65 oz. each down to 51 oz. and because they are balanced feel much lighter in your hand. (Hand weight went down significantly from 48 oz. to 35 oz.) In the process, I decided to narrow the blade width down to about 4". I tested them out on the dory and they feel much nicer. I was a bit concerned that I'd loose power with the narrower blades but that doesn't seem to have happened.

New oar blade shape

 - Tablet mount:
It turned out that there just isn't room for a large tablet in the area I had planned on mounting it. I have an older Samsung cell phone with a fairly large screen that does mount nicely out of the way down by my left foot. I have used it a few times in speed tests but like most phones bright sunlight kind of washes out the screen. It is better, and more usable, on cloudy days. The mount is a purchased unit intended to attach a cell phone to a camera tripod.

- Test long kayak paddle:
As an experiment I reconfigured a couple of old kayak paddles into a 3-piece breakdown paddle about 8' long. I got a chance to try it out when attempting to enter a creek that was too narrow to row in. There was a medium headwind and maybe a 3 mph flow to work against. Test result: no go. The paddle went together quickly and easily but even though the boat is only 35" wide, it was difficult to get a long enough stroke to make good headway. It didn't help that the oar rigger wings limited the length of the stroke. The whole point of the paddle was to have backup propulsion in case there was a problem like broken or lost oar. I'm not sure the long paddle is the answer but I don't have another plan right now so I'll probably keep it stashed on one side of the cabin for now.

- To-Do's yet to be Done (Prioritized):
    1) Capsize & re-entry Test - Long overdue!
    2) Light for Compass
    3) Design Bimini/Sun Shade

Steve Schmeck

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