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Thread: Use of open water rowing wherries--Ruth, Annapolis Wherry, Firefly, etc.

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Apr 2020
    Location
    Chicago, IL, USA
    Posts
    95

    Default Use of open water rowing wherries--Ruth, Annapolis Wherry, Firefly, etc.

    I have a question for people who have one of the many splendid open water rowing boats out there that are used with a sliding seat rowing rig. Where do you use them and what kind of water can they handle?
    I built a SOF Ruth over the winter and took out for the first time yesterday with a Piantedosi rowing unit. It rows beautifully, but it felt a little tippier than my Annapolis Wherry, which is 15-20 pounds heavier and about 5" wider. (I also dumped it as I was leaving the dock--that's my own incompetence, not the boat.) I suppose I'll feel more confident as I use it more, but I'd like to hear more about the experience of other people who have these boats. For example, I would feel okay taking the Annapolis wherry out on Lake Michigan in calm weather, but I'm less sure about the Ruth.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Nov 2014
    Location
    Seattle, WA
    Posts
    4,930

    Default Re: Use of open water rowing wherries--Ruth, Annapolis Wherry, Firefly, etc.

    Ruth is on my list of boats I’d like to row but I haven’t yet so I can’t offer any advice from experience. But having rowed and sculled many different boats from racing singles to open water shells, whitehalls, wherries, skiffs, etc. I’d offer two thoughts. First, only you can decide what your comfort level is with a given combination of boat, water and conditions. Conditions that would keep me at the dock with a relatively stable boat like an Annapolis Wherry might be fine for another person in a single shell. And as you know already, after a few hours on the water in Ruth you will likely be more comfortable with her.
    - Chris

    Life is short. Go boating now!

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jan 2002
    Location
    victoria, australia. (1 address now)
    Posts
    66,539

    Default Re: Use of open water rowing wherries--Ruth, Annapolis Wherry, Firefly, etc.

    Reminds me of my first few attempts at a K1 sprint kayak. But I got used to it an did a 400K 6 day event without coming out once.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Apr 2004
    Location
    Pender Harbour BC Canada
    Posts
    108

    Default Re: Use of open water rowing wherries--Ruth, Annapolis Wherry, Firefly, etc.

    I take my boat "Fine" out year round in Pender Harbour. Fine is a direct descendant of Ruth, built in cedar strip. For me the worry is not falling out of the boat, but taking water over the gunwales in rough conditions. I had a really uncomfortable time just off of Halfmoon Bay in a strong wind and 1 foot chop. With a quartering wind little waves would slop over the side and I really didn't want to let go of the oars to bail. All turned out well, but that turned out to be a limitation. I've been thinking about putting in a deck above the waterline, and opening up the transom to make it self-bailing but I'm busy building right now. With that modification, I think that you could go out in most conditions and self rescue would be possible.
    So many boats, so little time.

    Rick
    oysterbayboats.ca

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Nov 2014
    Location
    Seattle, WA
    Posts
    4,930

    Default Re: Use of open water rowing wherries--Ruth, Annapolis Wherry, Firefly, etc.

    Decks definitely help. This boat is a bit smaller/narrower than Ruth/Fine. I've had her out in 1'-2' waves on Puget Sound with no problems. Took plenty of water over the bow but nothing in the boat at all. There are also flotation bags under the decks forward and aft. I haven't tried self-recovery yet though. On my list of things to do. I used to be able to get back onto a racing single from the water. Thirty years ago... Not sure I could do it now. But ability to self recover as well as water and air temperature should also be considerations for what conditions are suitable.

    Also on the question of letting go of the oars. It's worth getting comfortable holding both oar handles in one hand to keep the boat balanced while you bail, don or remove a jacket, eat a sandwich or do whatever else needs doing. It's also possible to tuck the oars into your body with your elbows if two hands are needed. But for bailing I've also been meaning to install a foot pump of the sort used in kayaks. I expect it could be really handy for just that situation.


    - Chris

    Life is short. Go boating now!

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Apr 2013
    Location
    corpus christi, TX USA
    Posts
    8

    Default Re: Use of open water rowing wherries--Ruth, Annapolis Wherry, Firefly, etc.

    For me it breaks down along the lines of
    1) What is likely or possible to happen?
    2) What are the consequences if it does?

    flotation in boat? self bailing? warm water? good swimmer? how far out? passengers/crew? their fitness? can they bail fast

    I row a Merry Wherry II (19' x 39") on the bays, etc on gulf coast of Texas. No decks or flotation. We have a lot of windy days (25 knots not uncommon in summer) but the water is warm. If I get swamped, I might lose the boat (not optimal), but could swim to shore (or in many cases, walk!)

    That said, if conditions (or forecast) is over 15 or so, I'll usually stay inside a breakwater or windward shore-- it gets less fun to row before it gets dangerous. I've made exceptions for strictly downwind trips. Chop over 2' and/or lots of whitecaps is out of bounds for me. Have gotten away with it for an hour or two, but sooner or later somethings gonna come aboard and I doubt I could bail and keep the boat pointed. She tends to turn broadside to the wind, at which point its pretty much game over.

    I've been caught out in heavy rain and was surprised at how often I had to stop and bail. Fortunately that was on pretty flat water so I could do so easily. Also got caught out once in a microburst (wind went from 5mph to over 40 in less than 30 seconds). It blew over in 10 minutes, but the sea state deteriorated very quickly. No blood no foul, but it was pretty sobering. I'm gonna add some bow/stern flotation.

    As others said, getting out in your boat in different conditions will a) give you a better feel for what you and she can do and b) probably increase those bounds, to a limit. The trick is to keep an eye on the downside while you're learning.

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