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View Full Version : Cross handed rowing - or not?



timo4352
01-11-2015, 08:01 PM
A poll to see who rows cross handed and who doesn't.
Of course your opinions and experience on the subject are most welcomed also.
Myself, I am undecided at this time - hence the poll.

David G
01-11-2015, 08:06 PM
I don't cross. Oh... I can, if I jump in someone's boat that is set up for it.... but it takes me a while to sort myself out each time. But I'm not a serious rower. Lots of the serious rowers I know do. How much will you be rowing, and how much time and knuckle skin are you willing to devote to learning to row crossed?

Ian McColgin
01-11-2015, 08:13 PM
I like oars a bit longer than is normal for a given beam of boat. In normal conditions I row hands side by side nice and easy. I row cross handed into higher winds or heavy loads like dropping a gear to go up hill.

Don Kurylko
01-11-2015, 08:25 PM
What Ian says.

rgthom
01-11-2015, 08:33 PM
Slightly crossed. Oars are 9', oarlocks are 57" ctr-ctr. I have been trying different gear ratios, now using 30" inboard so 1.5" overlap. I can also pull the oars inboard to a stop at 35" for low gear upwind rowing. That is 6.5" overlap, but I don't use it often.

James McMullen
01-11-2015, 08:42 PM
I mostly row with a crossover, but I'm one of those who favors long leathers and lots of adjustment range available on the fly. My buttons are well inboard and there just to keep my oars from sliding all the way out; I don't row against them.

Rich Jones
01-11-2015, 08:51 PM
I've got two rowing boats and one set of oars with fixed leathers. On the 15' Rushton pulling boat, I have to row cross handed because of the narrow beam. I have absolutely no problem with it. On the Hvalsoe 13, I row normally. I really do love to row. Great exercise.

Brian Palmer
01-11-2015, 08:57 PM
My hands are just slightly crossed so I don't bash my thumbs together. My current boat is not much of a row boat, it even has a motor cut-out in the stern (but no motor).

Canoeyawl
01-11-2015, 10:00 PM
I prefer slightly longer oars and will shorten up and row cross handed in a seaway or a headwind. Like downshifting on your bike it is an effective ratio change.

MN Dave
01-12-2015, 02:36 AM
I row a guideboat, so cross handed feels normal to me. I like the responsiveness of the light, narrow, fast boat, so crossed handed is the only option. I find the bulk and complexity of sliding seats bothersome, so it is oar on gunnel for me. I use leathers and buttons, not pinned oarlocks like a traditional guideboat because it helps to have some adjustability.

The worst set up of all is pinned oars that almost come together. You learn not to let your thumbs slip over the end of the handles.

Ian McColgin
01-12-2015, 07:59 AM
MN Dave raises a point - slight thread drift. I am deeply prejudiced against pinned oarlocks for all the obvious reasons. I also don't like round oarlocks because I row open waters and if you catch a wave top wrong and pop the oar out, it takes two hands and is still hard to get the oarlock back in place. With a proper open top lock you can just onehanded bounce back.

But that begs the question of what to do with the oars when handling a fishing line or net. The whole reason for pinned oars on guide boats is to enable a fast transition from working the oars to working the net or gaff to land the sport's fish. Or maybe your own.

For my own occasional fishing, I've put a light tether on the oar from the gunnel right by the lock to the bottom of the leather and short enough that there's only a very little slack in normal rowing and it goes tight just before the oar would slide down to the button. Seems to work and gives the virtues of pinned without losing what I like about open tops. Just wondering if any of our guides use a dodge like that.

Oldad
01-12-2015, 08:52 AM
My current dinghy is a salvaged Cape Dory 10 with two rowing positions. When in the center thwart oars just meet, in the bow I am rowing cross handed because my oars are pinned and the beam is narrower. Rowing cross handed is not a problem and gives a bit more leverage. Why are my oars pinned? When the mate rows she has trouble keeping the blades properly oriented. I could hassle her about it, but pinning the oars eliminated the problem for her, but I hate it when rowing into a stiff breeze. BTW, that dink rows like a dream.

Phil Y
01-12-2015, 04:14 PM
I'm questioning the validity of this poll. Maybe 90% of oar locks you see on dinghies, which is what most people row, have a collar on the leathers, or rubbers, which pretty much fixes the position of the oar, and they don't cross. I suspect those of us who don't cross are just too embarrassed to pipe up and say so in this esteemed company!

Oldad
01-12-2015, 04:44 PM
leathers and collars do not make it impossible to row cross handed, see posts 6,7 and 9

timo4352
01-12-2015, 06:10 PM
I have to thank you all for responding. It has helped me realize that I can it have both ways - I think I will set up my buttons for non- cross-handed rowing, and slide the oars in when I want to cross-hand. I might even think about a removable button for that position. I think rowing against buttons might be a requirement for me -- but then again I just might be wrong in that thinking. Darn rookie rower! :D I've got a lot to learn.

Phil Y
01-13-2015, 02:37 AM
leathers and collars do not make it impossible to row cross handed, see posts 6,7 and 9 You are right of course. Sorry I didnt make my point very well. Most oars have collars on their leathers, and people row with the collar up against the rowlock. And the collars are so placed that the oars dont cross. What Im saying is that although this poll is showing more cross rowers than straight, I dont think that reflects reality. I have straight leathers without collars, but dont cross my oars.

Phil Y
01-13-2015, 02:48 AM
I have to thank you all for responding. It has helped me realize that I can it have both ways - I think I will set up my buttons for non- cross-handed rowing, and slide the oars in when I want to cross-hand. I might even think about a removable button for that position. I think rowing against buttons might be a requirement for me -- but then again I just might be wrong in that thinking. Darn rookie rower! :D I've got a lot to learn.

Have a go with straight leathers on your oars, you'll soon get used to not relying on collars, or buttons, or whatever. These are mine in my Oughted Acorn skiff. I've found they work just fine.
https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-jvc95pWtTzQ/VLTM0mgyDfI/AAAAAAAACV8/-KHZl1hMpDU/w958-h719-no/2015-01-13%2B18.09.04.jpg

Don Kurylko
01-13-2015, 12:36 PM
I like buttons for the reason that they restrain the oars from slipping overboard when let go. Other than that, they don't do much else.

Ian McColgin
01-13-2015, 12:49 PM
To my mind, using open top oarlocks, the buttons let you know that the oar is about to slip over but they don't do much to stop it. But the buttons can be of some help to beginning rowers in positioning the oars such that the handles are nicely close together, maybe an inch seperation at closest point. Especially when the leathers are freshly greased, it's easy for the beginning rower to be shifting the oars too far outboard and the buttons are a handy stop for that. But if you let go, the oar's gone.

G'luck

PhaseLockedLoop
01-13-2015, 01:16 PM
I row a Guideboat, so my pinned oars cross. Works fine for me. Why do people hate 'em? Because you can't feather?

Don Kurylko
01-13-2015, 02:57 PM
Ian, I like to make the buttons large enough to prevent them from slipping through the oarlock. I also like to make the diameter of the loom at the upper end large enough so that the oars remain captive in the lock and need to be pulled inboard to slide out. But then, I'm speaking of a beach cruiser. For tenders, it does make sense to be able to jump the oars out of the locks when coming alongside a boat or a dock. Something that happens frequently. Not so much when cruising in an 18 footer where it is really nice to be able to let the oars go and let them drift in the oarlocks while taking a break.

James McMullen
01-13-2015, 03:19 PM
Gotta have buttons so that I can just let go of the oars and grab my rod when there's a fish on.

Ben Fuller
01-13-2015, 08:07 PM
One sneaky trick that Dick Everett showed me if you want several collared or indexed positions is to put a turks head on the oar in the cross handed position. Then leather over it leaving a nice bump.

Some of the liveries back in the day used closed oarlocks with lanyards that ran down the loom and were hitched tight. The lanyards kept the oars in the right in/out position and the oarlocks stayed with the oars when taken out of the boat.

The most elegant button treatment I ever saw was on Delaware river oars. They would octagon the part inboard of the locks and run the leather up on the octagon in little points giving you a nice leathered shoulder. The Delaware locks had pretty tight horns so that the oars went in down near the blade then were run down to the leather. You could turn them loose for fishing or shooting.

Don Kurylko
01-13-2015, 08:35 PM
Here's how I like to do it Ben. Much as you describe, but I use Epoxy on the buttons to glue the leather to itself and to the wood. Works extremely well.

http://i258.photobucket.com/albums/hh267/DHK-YD/Random/IMG_1826.jpg

MN Dave
01-14-2015, 12:44 AM
I'm questioning the validity of this poll. Maybe 90% of oar locks you see on dinghies, which is what most people row, have a collar on the leathers, or rubbers, which pretty much fixes the position of the oar, and they don't cross. I suspect those of us who don't cross are just too embarrassed to pipe up and say so in this esteemed company!
I might question the validity of this question, as a segue into a question about rowing for the sake of moving a short distance because you need to and rowing for the sake of rowing. If you are referring to the use of oars to get a tender to a mooring, or maneuvering a sailing dingy in close quarters where you can't sail, I don't think that falls under the definition of rowing here. Who rows dinghies for pleasure?

Either way, why not ask who rows with crossed hands? It will tell you a lot about the boats we row. I do think that the respondents will be mostly rowing enthusiasts. Who would bother to chime in if they only row a short distance because they have to?

Buttons:
Guys who have buttons and don't use them are probably good at rowing. I like rowing against them most of the time, but I don't pretend to be an expert rower. Speaking to Phil's point, if you start out using the buttons, you can come to depend on them and it is noticeably harder to row without them. So as a long term practitioner of rowing badly and having a good time in spite of myself, You might consider avoiding the convenience of a well placed button. Or not. There is no rule against finding a solution that you find comfortable. If someone else doesn't like it, it's their problem.

My oars are a bit snug in the oarlocks, so the buttons are almost always enough to prevent the oars from slipping out. Thanks, Ben, I've been thinking I screwed up when I made the oars too fat, and now I can say that the oarlocks are tight, just like a Delaware river oar. They do come out once you slide about 8-10" from the button, and I have found that very convenient, since they stay put (most of the time) when you let go and come put pretty easily when you need to.

James, so when fish actually bite you really can let go? Cool. The issue never seems to arise when I 'fish'.


I row a Guideboat, so my pinned oars cross. Works fine for me. Why do people hate 'em? Because you can't feather?
I used to take my guideboat to Mystic for the Small Craft Workshop, before it was named after John. Bart Hauth (http://www.guillemot-kayaks.com/Building/BartHauthaway/)away flatly refused to consider rowing it because guideboats have pinned oars and he would break his wrists trying to feather them. :rolleyes: Reflexes and habits are hard to change, and it can be very uncomfortable getting used to doing something a different way from the one you are accustomed to. Ian put it better about 15 years ago:
You don't row far enough. If you row for a half hour without feathering and then row a half hour with a proper feather exit and entrance that part will become obvious. Similarly row just rocking back and forth maybe using your arms versus properly using leg tension and spinal alignment - like big body muscles versus small muscles.

It's existential, like learning a good stride for cross country skiing. You'll only see the difference if you do it. It's not easy to get this without an experienced oar to coach you.

G'luck

The math (http://forum.woodenboat.com/showthread.php?155930-How-to-determine-the-right-length-of-boat-oars): Well nuts to the math, Andy Steever did the math in 'Oars for Pleasure Rowing (http://www.amazon.com/Oars-Pleasure-Rowing-Andrew-Steever/dp/091337265X)' If you want to know too much about oar on gunnel, Andy wrote the book. Fast narrow boats handle best with long oars. Most rowers in these boats are comfortable with a long stroke, and you don't want to dig the blade too deep in the water, so you row one of these, your oars have to cross. The dory stroke (http://forum.woodenboat.com/showthread.php?107891-Dory-Stroke) works on the wider, higher sided dory. It is a shorter stroke and oar dug in deep and quick. The oar should fit the rower. The length of the oar, the weather and the type of boat add up to where the oar rest on the oarlock, and the beam determines whether the oars will cross. My point is that you will find that the boat determines whether you cross, and your preference for crossing might influence the choice of boat.


I was really just saying the results of the poll so far do not tally with my day to day observation/expectation.

I agree with what you said. It is easier to make a point in response to another good point than to start from scratch.

Phil Y
01-14-2015, 02:21 AM
I might question the validity of this question, as a segue into a question about rowing for the sake of moving a short distance because you need to and rowing for the sake of rowing. If you are referring to the use of oars to get a tender to a mooring, or maneuvering a sailing dingy in close quarters where you can't sail, I don't think that falls under the definition of rowing here. Who rows dinghies for pleasure?

Either way, why not ask who rows with crossed hands? It will tell you a lot about the boats we row. I do think that the respondents will be mostly rowing enthusiasts. Who would bother to chime in if they only row a short distance because they have to?



I was really just saying the results of the poll so far do not tally with my day to day observation/expectation.

To respond to your points above-the poll just asks about rowing, not rowing for pleasure, so I figure it includes tender rowing. But maybe thats just my bias, missing something that might have been obvious to or inferred by others.

Your second point I think backs up what Im trying to say-the respondents have tended to self select as "specialist" rowers for pleasure, rather than all rowers.

I dont think it matters, twas just an observation born of the apparent dissonance between the results, and what I thought the results might be.

Ben Fuller
01-14-2015, 07:24 AM
Don,

Those are really nice, kind of like the Andy Steever oars that we built at Mystic. We used teflon instead of leather and counterweighted the square looms so you had only a pound or so in hand. I think it was a tuna can full of copper nails. Smoothest oars I ever used.

Imagine the corners of the square trimmed off so you had an even octagon then pointy bits of leather run up on them. Very medieval. The Delaware boat sharps often used sassafras or ash for the oars.

Generally, dinghy rowing is a different beast. Oar lengths are often selected to fit into the dinghy rather than for optimal rowing, so that you have to spread your arms to get blades into the water. Their length is such that max rowing power is not needed or indeed useful. What really bugs me though is lack of stretchers on glued ply and glass dinghies. I keep a rung and rope handy.

Don Kurylko
01-14-2015, 11:42 AM
Ben, I can imagine those Delaware oars are pretty nice as you describe with the turned up leathers. A very nice aesthetic touch.

For balancing oars, I've often thought that those ankle weights that some people use for exercising would be great. They are fabric covered and slightly padded, which would protect the finish, and have Velcro straps that could probably be cinched down quite tightly to hold them in place. They would also be infinitely adjustable so that they could be slid up and down to find the perfect position for each individual rower.

As for dinghy oars...don't get me started. Most are utter crap and I don't know how anyone can stand to row any distance with the "store bought's" available today. They look better suited to stirring mash at a backwoods still. No wonder rowing is viewed as an ordeal by most.

Andy Steever and Pete Culler are the primary influences on the oars I like to make and use. The ones in the photo are for my 8' tender.

Eric Hvalsoe
01-14-2015, 05:45 PM
I do not cross on my 16. To be honest that was originally because I am able to purchase a good stock spoon oar at 8' for a very good price. Now I'm just used to it. Don't recall pulling into a cross for power. Maybe sort of subconsciously for a short period without thinking about it. I rest my thumbs against the inboard tip of the handle in a natural position and pull with relaxed fingers. I have some experience rowing more hard core sliding seats crossed. I tend to set my leather buttons at the rowing position and they do get a bit mashed over time.

rogue
01-14-2015, 09:04 PM
I row without buttons, but have long leathers so I can change the gearing, both on my Swampscot dory and my 8.5 ft. skiff (which I DO row for pleasure, because she rows so sweet, and is way easier to deal with than the dory). I cross my hands at times but mostly don't...depends on the conditions. On a long row, I "rest" by pulling the oars inboard a bit, and also stagger the height of my hands, and lag one side's stroke a bit behind the other. This gives a bit of relief position wise, and I can go all day long by changing between strokes. Technically, my hands would cross during my "resting" stroke (I call it my "dory stroke" because I developed it rowing my dory to my island house back in the day. Sometimes, when wind and tide were both against me, I would use this technique to keep going, often staying so close to the shallows one oar would be black from mud..), but because I staggered the stroke, with one hand starting before the other, they really didn't. I checked "Do not cross", but it is a bit of a grey area..

Chip-skiff
01-14-2015, 11:24 PM
The main advantage of cross-hand rowing would seem to be the greater mechanical advantage owing to a greater length of oar inboard of the lock. But it seems more awkward, physically, because the body weight is not applied in as straight a line.

Most of my rowing is on rivers, often in whitewater. It's not uncommon to catch an oar on a boulder, which would be a serious problem for a cross-handed setup, as you could lose the use of both oars. I've never seen anyone rowing a river cross-handed.

Ben Fuller
01-15-2015, 02:53 PM
An additional advantage of modest cross hand rowing ( just grip overlap) which you see on a racing shell is the effort to keep the pull in as straight a line as possible over the arc of the pull. Shoulder width or slightly less at the catch leads to crossed hands at the middle of the stroke. Shells are rigged so that one lock is a touch higher than the other. I and others often stagger things so that one hand comes through just in front of the other one.

timo4352
01-15-2015, 04:36 PM
An additional advantage of modest cross hand rowing ( just grip overlap) which you see on a racing shell is the effort to keep the pull in as straight a line as possible over the arc of the pull. Shoulder width or slightly less at the catch leads to crossed hands at the middle of the stroke. Shells are rigged so that one lock is a touch higher than the other. I and others often stagger things so that one hand comes through just in front of the other one.

So if someone was a full time cross hander - would they install the locks offset from one another on the gunnels? One farther forward than the other?
- or am I just showing my ignorance here?

Don Kurylko
01-15-2015, 07:12 PM
My oarlocks are symmetrical and I have no problem. Cross handed rowing is no big deal, really. The cross handed part is usually on the return stroke, not necessarily on the pull.

MN Dave
01-16-2015, 02:27 AM
I do not cross on my 16. To be honest that was originally because I am able to purchase a good stock spoon oar at 8' for a very good price. Now I'm just used to it. Don't recall pulling into a cross for power. Maybe sort of subconsciously for a short period without thinking about it. I rest my thumbs against the inboard tip of the handle in a natural position and pull with relaxed fingers. I have some experience rowing more hard core sliding seats crossed. I tend to set my leather buttons at the rowing position and they do get a bit mashed over time.

HV 16 Facts (https://sites.google.com/site/erichvalsoe/13and16)



Length: 15 feet 9 inches (4.8 meters)
Beam:4 feet 6 inches (1.4 meters)

You don't row cross handed because the beam would make it uncomfortable with 8' oars.Nice boat, by the way. Same for Chip-skiff in the inflatable catamaran. Add the whitewater, and you do what you have to do for lots of good reasons.

Guideboats have a beam of 39-40 inches. The same 8' oar would be very difficult not to cross in a guideboat. You could use 6' oars in a guideboat, but knot furlong.

You row cross handed when the boat, the oars and the conditions make it practical. The preference for cross handed rowing starts with the choice of boat.

Ben Fuller
01-16-2015, 11:40 AM
So if someone was a full time cross hander - would they install the locks offset from one another on the gunnels? One farther forward than the other?
- or am I just showing my ignorance here?

Shells are symmetrical but one is rigged a touch higher than the other. Don't remember how much. I have never heard of putting one lock further forward than the other. I expect that it would mess up the catch which is symmetrical.

Ben Fuller
01-16-2015, 11:46 AM
HV 16 Facts (https://sites.google.com/site/erichvalsoe/13and16)



Length: 15 feet 9 inches (4.8 meters)
Beam:4 feet 6 inches (1.4 meters)

You don't row cross handed because the beam would make it uncomfortable with 8' oars.Nice boat, by the way. Same for Chip-skiff in the inflatable catamaran. Add the whitewater, and you do what you have to do for lots of good reasons.

Guideboats have a beam of 39-40 inches. The same 8' oar would be very difficult not to cross in a guideboat. You could use 6' oars in a guideboat, but knot furlong.

You row cross handed when the boat, the oars and the conditions make it practical. The preference for cross handed rowing starts with the choice of boat.


For a 4.5 beam I'd probably have 8.5 oars. A challenge with boats whose beam varies between rowing stations is using one set of oars on all of them. Seven and a halfs work great at the stern station on my dory where midships wants 8 and at the bow I can use either.
One thing that the formulas don't take into account is how far the boat is off the water. Case in point, I have some 9.5 sculls which are used on a slider with 5 feet between the locks. When I tried them on RANTAN my Dias Harrier with a 5' beam they were too short, and I made up some 10+ footers which were just right.

BrianM
01-16-2015, 12:01 PM
Thole Pins and uncrossed oars... thunk-thunk, thunk-thunk, thunk-thunk........... music to me ears.

I find rowing cross oared hampers small boat handling skills, especially when approaching a hull, dock or pier. The fine tuning and ability to ship the oars at the last second is foiled by too big a stick. We (Sea Scouts) were beaten with a 14' oar if the small boat TOUCHED the hull of the "mother ship".

Paint integrity and finish were number one..

12 year olds were easily replaced....:d

Besides, a properly sized set of oars and a strong back is all you need for speed.

gilberj
01-16-2015, 07:28 PM
I like the oars on the main rowing station to almost meet in the middle. 1/2 " or so clearance or there-abouts. I have always preferred having buttons or collars to help locate the oars. Rowing at the forward station always means crossing the hands..OK
I have no clear preference regarding open or ring rowlocks. Each has advantages. I do not like pinned oarlocks.
I have specifically rowed recreationally about 1000 miles. I now row a dinghy for getting out to the anchorage.