Some issues from now on

1             Gunwales/Inwales (I think gunwale describes either the whole rail round the top of the hull or the outside part only and inwale the part inside the hull)

The existing boats mostly have solid gunwales some are inwales totally inside the sheerstrake (the topmost plank) e.g. Chris o’Kanaird, others with a rubbing strip on the outside and the rest inside. The better practice is to go hollow, as it’s lighter and stronger and makes it easier to fit oarlocks/kabes/pins/whatever (of which more later). Unless persuaded otherwise we’ll go hollow, but with good solid webs between the rail and the hull forward of each oar position and lighter webs elsewhere, also solid webs into the ends of the hull.

2             Breasthooks (the flat plates that hold the ends together)

We’ll make these from solid timber rather than plywood and glue them in under the solid ends of the gunwales. This is massively stronger and less fiddly than putting them in between.

3             Oarcrutches/rowlocks/kabes/thole pins (prizes on offer for correct definitions)

 Discussions with skiffies recently have suggested that feelings are a bit divided about using metal fittings. These were outlawed at a vote in 2010 and there will be no change unless and until one is proposed, which can’t happen this year. It’s a puzzle to those of us joining coastal rowing now to understand why the decision was taken. The problem is partly historical because the skiff grew out of the Fisheries Museum’s wanting to replicate the image of traditional rowing on the East coast and they can’t possibly have guessed that the whole thing would go viral.

The skiff of course has a Shetland hull shape and Shetlanders seem to have retained the Norse method with kabes (rectangular wooden pegs) and securing the oars to them with humlibaunds (lengths of line). It’s very likely that the coalminers who built rowing skiffs and raced them out of Buckhaven and Methil at weekends just went for what was cheapest and available, probably either the big iron Admiralty pattern rowlocks found on whalers or metal pins.

The prototype Chris o’Kanaird has kabes and humlibaunds, the latter fitted with kevlar-cored line that is secured to tufnol cleats and the wooden blocks are fastened to the gunwale with what looked like metal bolts. The trouble with tradition is that everyone has a different historical starting place and view about how far you should go.

Being confined to wood doesn’t mean one has to have kabes and humlibaunds. A reasonable alternative is wooden thole pins, either one pin forward of the oar and a securing line round the oar, or two pins close together. There is an argument for thole pins being made of wood rather than iron in that they can break if the rower catches a wave in rough conditions, whereas iron ones can rip out a section of gunwale. This is important for the Cornish gigs which go out in rough seas and have extremely lightly-built hulls, the oldest built, I think, in 1843.

If you look at pictures of Ulla you will see she now has special wooden block rowlocks, essentially replications of what is used on racing shells but made in wood. For no particular reason I think they might be called tophers.

Unless persuaded otherwise I suggest that we fit our boat with a two pin arrangement, which keep us in the spirit of the whole thing, works and doesn’t require securing lines, whether made of Kevlar, cattle hide or the hair of Scottish maidens.

4             The Rudder

Those who’ve been around the shed know about our rudder discussions. It’s likely that rules will be brought in for these, but at present it’s a free for all. The rudder on Chris o’Kanaird is positively dreadful in my view, with a wide blade that protrudes forward, scoops up the sea and stops the boat in a few feet; ideal as a brake but not for steering.

It seems to me that we can either go down our own high-tech route and try to invent something or go for something simple, but keeps the blade as vertical as possible. This does not rule out later innovation, but at least means we can get the boat built and rowing in time for the Spring regattas.

The picture at the top of this post shows the new rudder on the second Anstruther boat, St Ayles. It looks fine to me, but I’d prefer a fore-and-aft tiller to the yoke they have gone for.

3 thoughts on “Some issues from now on

Leave a Reply