Each summer thousands of youngsters and adults attend camps and resorts and are introduced to rowing in boats which were never designed for rowing. The not-so-happy camper will spend an afternoon struggling to move an unresponsive box of a boat using heavy, clumsy oars and will soon reach the lifelong decision that rowing is inefficient and not fun. These modern box or balloon shaped boats have wide, flat bottoms and large square transoms to furnish sufficient flotation to keep the weight of a large outboard motor from sinking the boat when it is not moving. When running at speed the motor furnishes enough power to overcome the inefficient hull form and lift the boat out of the water onto a plane.
The shape of true rowing craft evolved from centuries of experience and experimentation of men who used rowboats to earn their living. This process culminated in the mid 1850′s with remarkably efficient boats like the Whitehall. In calm water a Whitehall will glide over 100 yards between strokes and can maintain a very efficient speed using only 4-8 strokes per minute.
These boats were not created on a computer program and lofted on a laser printer, but are the end product of trial and error by generations of master craftsmen. Even the most modern computer-generated 12 meter racing boats have numerous design changes after they are built and analyzed in the water.
There are numerous variations of rowing craft, each best suited for a specific task. However, a common characteristic linking all good rowing boats are a fine entry, flowing lines, and a narrow or raised transom so water can flow past the hull with a minimum of friction and turbulence. The shape between the bow and stern may be long and lean to make a fast water taxi or full bodied with high freeboard to make a seaworthy fishing boat with high carrying capacity.
Our Point Defiance model is a good example of an evolution of boat design which will row and sail very well. It also has very full lines aft so that even though it does not have a broad transom at the waterline, it can support a reasonable size outboard motor. As no true rowing boat will plane there is no point to attempt to use a large motor. Traditional rowing craft will attain “hull speed” (as fast as the laws of physics will allow them to move through the water) with one person rowing, and the average human generates less than one fourth horse power.
Given similar hull shapes, a longer rowing boat will always perform better than a shorter boat. Minimum size for a boat with good “carry”, or distance it will glide between strokes, is about ten feet. However, a boat only two to four feet longer will have remarkably increased “carry”, increased ability to punch through waves without being stopped, more weight carrying capacity, and increased general seaworthiness.
Stability is also directly affected by hull shape and size. A flat bottom boat will have more initial stability than a round bottom boat, but a round bottom boat of the same size and beam will have more ultimate stability. In calm water the flat bottom boat will seem more stable, and a round bottom boat of the same dimensions may seen somewhat ‘tippy’ by comparison.
Take the same two boats into rougher water and the round bottom boat will be less sensitive to wave action. The flat bottom boat will pitch and roll, pound in the waves, and when it reaches the point of instability will capsize with no warning. In the same conditions the round bottom boat will be less affected by wave action and will actually increase its resistance to lean as the side of the boat is submerged deeper in the water. An old-time working fisherman would never consider taking a flat bottom, slab sided boat into rough water.
We commonly have customers who come to us looking for a tender for their yacht. Initially, they usually want the smallest one they can get, but after trying several models on the water the vast majority of the time they will purchase the largest boat they can comfortably handle. When asked the reason for their choice, they usually say something like “We’re more comfortable in it” or “it just feels better”.
Some of the most important considerations in the design of a small boat are versatility and simplicity. Most boats are designed for only one purpose. They are usually designed exclusively for sailing, fishing, or rowing, but rarely a combination. In all of our designs we strive to attain maximum versatility, simplicity, and efficiency. They’re versatile in that they may be rowed, towed, stowed, and sailed. Also, small motors may be used. Our sailing dinghies are quick to rig and easy to learn. Because of their proven designs and light weight, they are the most efficient small boats available.
The most important consideration is the attention to detail in the way the designer considers customers’ needs, and puts them above manufacturing preferences such as taking shortcuts that may speed production. For example, the daggerboard trunk in all our boats is angled toward the stern and not vertical as is done by all others. Although it is more difficult to build, the angled centerboard trunk is more superior in design because it is less likely to scoop into the boat. Also, virtually all our competitors use painted plywood for their rudders, but we use a very high tech (and expensive) carbon reinforced composite for both rudders and daggerboards. It is heavy and requires that we shape it with carbide tools, but in use it will never warp or need painting. Our entire business is small boats. We don’t do marketing surveys to determine if puce or fuschia is this year’s color. We actually use our boats, and are always looking for ways to make them better. Small craft are all we build, and as we usually have a substantial backlog, we have to make them good enough to be worth waiting for. When you compare you will find that our prices are very competitive with the mass produced boats because you are buying direct from the builder.
We cherish our reputation as builders of fine quality rowing and sailing craft, and take pleasure in receiving orders, sight unseen, from places as diverse as Hilo, Hawaii to Saskatoon or Alberquerque. Be assured that when you order a boat from us you will receive personal attention and the best boat you can get.