Where do oarlocks go?

 I'm building a Skerry. I'm wondering how one knows where to position the oarlocks. Do you factor in height? Arm length? Inseam? Is there a guide somewhere? I figure I'll probably want to get it right the first time and not have to reposition them.

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RE: Where do oarlocks go?

This is probably one of them things where, if you ask six oarsmen, you'll get about 13-1/2 answers, and if you ask six oarswomen, you'll get 13-1/2 more different answers.  Perform an internet search for "rowboat oarlock spacing" and you'll see what I mean.  An average will likely come at something around 12" or a bit less from the after edge of the seat in question to the center of the oarlock socket.

Some factors influencing variations from this (sometimes wild variations) are the length (long or short) of the proposed oarsman's arms, the height of his shoulders above his posterior when seated, the height of the oarlocks above the level of the seat (already determined by the designers in case of a Skerry, of course, but possibly different for the different seats avaliable), and maybe how much dunlop (how much the belly has done lopped over the belt) the oarsman is carrying.  Height or oarlocks above the water may also be a factor, as well as beam vs. length of oars vs. height above the waterline.  It may even matter whether the oarsman prefers to sit more forward or aft on the seat which means the width of the seat may also be a factor.  In the end, it's a complicated compromise of some complicated geometry, and you might change your mind after some experience.

The best thing to do is to start with whatever the building manual or accompaning sketches might suggest, mock the whole business up with clamps, and take up the oars to see how it feels before you mix any epoxy.  That's what we did with our Passagemaker Dinghy.

Here's a link:


...to a Flickr photo album with the shots from a camera we had mounted on a tripod going off automatically at intervals that day, which should give you some idea as to how we approached this.  Sing out if you have any questions or trouble with the Flickr business.

This was made much easier by doing this for the take-apart version of the PMD, which allowed us to get the main section of the boat sidewise so we could spread the oars without inhibition, one of the many virtues of that wonderful concept.


RE: Where do oarlocks go?

The Skerry plans have them 17.5 inches to the rear of the centre frame. That's where I put mine, clamped them and checked to see if they were OK. They were so that's where I secured them. i'm 6' tall so a bit closer to the frame perhaps for a shorter rower. 

RE: Where do oarlocks go?

Often to the bottom of the sea...   

RE: Where do oarlocks go?

From the plans. Click to embiggen:

RE: Where do oarlocks go?



   Thank you all. I feel better. When I was a kid my dad built two 8-foot proms and my brothers and I rowed them hundreds of miles. I don't know how my dad placed the oarlocks, but to me they were perfect. One reason I'm building the Skerry is to recapture the pleasures and fun I enjoyed in those boats.

   If it matters, I'm 6' 4" tall, with size 14 feet.

   As for the Dunlop factor, my screen name is Potbelly Slim, so there's a bit of a lop, but I only weigh 207, so it's not like I'm obese.

RE: Where do oarlocks go?


I wish you all joy of rowing your Skerry.  I love to row.  Being a contrary person to begin with, going backward doesn't bother me much.  In fact, after all these years of towing and launching trailer boats, I go backward better'n I go forward, kinda like Mater in that movie Cars.  I back into parking spaces (when they ain't slanted), which makes my passengers crazy.

I had a Sea Pearl 21 (imagine a 21' rowboat with a cat-ketch sail rig) for 22 seasons, most of those with only a pair of 10' oars for auxiliary power.  Once I'd taught myself to row effectively (there was a pretty good learning curve with a boat that big), I found it to be quite enjoyable, which is, most of my sailing buddies thought I was nuts, which further is, they might have had a point, anyway, though they mostly came to me for rowing advice in the end.  Sometimes, on a day which was promising no wind, I'd leave the sailing rig ashore and just take her out for a nice, long row.

We passed that boat on to a new family in 2010, retaining stewardship of our Menger 19 catboat, and I found that I missed the rowing...a lot.  This was part of reason we decided to build our Passagemaker dinghy a few years later.  She's proven to be all we'd hoped as a rowboat, and an even better sailboat than we'd imagined.  It's been fun to teach some of my grandchildren to row, especially with the catboat serving as mother ship for overnight adventures.

I'll bet that Skerry is pure joy under oars.  You should have no trouble recapturing that simple pleasure of your youth.


RE: Where do oarlocks go?

Hooper's post may not have had the most info, but it was the best reply :-)



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