Rowing in the Wind using the EZ-Rower with Sling System to Brace Into: The Time When Going Downwind Was More Work Than Going Upwind. - Gail Ferris


On a February winter Sunday afternoon I finally got a chance to row because the wind and the ice were not too bad.  I tentatively started out wondering how all would go.  I am not all that accustomed to how a lightly built dory will handle in wind.  The traditional dory has a lot of windage and this dory, the Avery Point Dory being 12.5 feet at the waterline might have the most windage for its waterline length.

The wind was blowing at a generally steady blow from the northwest at about 15 knots.

I installed my EZ-Row forward facing mechanism using the oarlock sockets.  Then I arranged my sling system for my seatback and foot brace by wrapping its already measured loops around the T bolts that secured the front of the rowing mechanism to the gunwales.

I was glad that I did not have to make any adjustments because it was not the best day for bare hands.

It was a typical February type of day with the temperature above freezing in the bright sun but the snow on the ground was not melting.  I took advantage of the soft fluffy snow using it as a convenient slippery surface to slide the dory over down to the water.  The tide was dropping so in anticipation I put my pool noodles in the boat for the return trip.  The dory is light enough to roll up the beach using the pool noodles as rollers.

Alone I set off in the sheltered area with the wind at my back figuring that I could easily enough rescue myself in this protected area. 

I got underway carefully and wound around the corner of the docks in the lee of the wind.  All was well.

Emerging from the shelter of the lee I encountered a fifteen know wind against me but I had no problem making progress because I was generating plenty of power in my stroke from the leverage I have with my sling system around my back and feet as I sat on the solid plank seat.

I had arranged the length of the foot sling such that I could lean forward at the catch and bend my knees.  This is a stationary sliding seat type of stroke.  The stroke is a typical sliding seat stroke only I am rocking on my buttocks instead of sliding my body back and forth as I take a stroke.  I am able to bend my knees and then extend them because my heels suspended in air just below the level of my seat and are off the floor.  My sitting height, leg angle and foot height are very similar to sliding seat.

As I start the stroke I rock back on my buttocks and extend my legs fully in front of me. 

Because I am able to do this I have muscles in both my back and legs providing me with full leverage I transfer into my stroke via my arms.  I row at a comfortable chest level with slight cross over of the oars. 

During my row across the harbor directly into the wind I was comfortable rowing and covered the distance easily because of this leverage my sling system gave me.

I remembered the first time I used this rowing system without the sling around my back and feet.  Rowing on quiet water with even a mere 5 knots of wind became an arduous task I began to regret increasingly as I vainly sought anything I could brace my feet against.  Even after I could somewhat brace my feet I could feel my buttocks slipping back on the smooth plank seat.

I could feel that I had just lost any gain in leverage I had made by bracing my feet. 

That was not good and I grew more and more miserable as my simple row progressed.  All the fun and sense of accomplishment was diminishing as I realized that I was performing the most inefficient rowing stroke possible.  I felt as though I was just doing everything in mid air for nothing I was moving the oars but not propelling the boat.

Rowing on flat water is not very interesting I like to row in the wind to experiment with the boat as to how the dory interacts with the air currents and enjoy the waves.  A dory is an interesting shape it has a cross section like a Dixie cup that is pointed on both ends.  The shape also has high sides to further embellish airfoil definition, in other words the dory is high out of the water relative to its waterline length.

Rowing into the wind was straightforward.  I was facing forward.

As I took a stroke at the catch I leaned forward and then I rocked back toward the stern.  By rocking toward the stern during my stroke it allowed the bow to rise and at the catch let the bow settle down again.  The weight distribution of my body during the stroke harmonized with the forward propulsion spurt.

I thought about the flat bottom of the dory. 

I fantasized to myself, suppose I was able to row fast enough could I get the hull up on a plane.  Probably that idea was not too realistic but then again the opportunity might be there under some other circumstances.  Who knows!

I have always been interested it the idea of hydrofoils going foiling anything to help the bow climb up onto some foils such as facing forward during rowing would be just fine with me.  Ah fantasy, imagine foiling while rowing, how neat!

I just need the foils and a few other things.

Getting back to reality once again.

I was in a relative lee on the other side of the bay, Mystic heading south toward Noank.  I found myself challenged as I tried rowing broadside to the wind.  During the gusts I found that my dory had a serious weather helm.  I had to really crank on the windward oar to prevent the dory from heading into the wind.

I realized that returning down wind is going to be even harder work than rowing against the wind, because home was down wind.

Sure enough when I rowed down wind I really had to exert myself to prevent my bow from heading into the wind. 

The complete lack of weight in the stern a result of my sitting on the plank seat mid ship facing forward with the weight of my feet and legs in front of me left very little skeg in the water if any, during the catch when I was leaning forward.

Ah the humility of rowing an unballasted dory alone came to mind.  Humility in the sense that I was having a direct learning experience about the uncontrolled airfoil I was propelling.  I could see that I was blowing sideways at an alarming rate.  I realized that I was not going to cross to the opposite exposed side on my way back with the wind blowing broadside at me.

I made my way along the lee shore without too much trouble controlling my dory down as far as I thought my quest for adventure dared take me considering that I had to make it back and that my strength had to hold out.

Near South Cove in Noank I turned around and the following wind did its tricks.  I had to pull hard on the windward side to control the bow, sometimes just rowing on the windward side.  Meanwhile the dory was rapidly skimming sideways toward the exposed shore of Mason’s Island.

I felt foolish.

As was passing a very shallow peninsula I noticed the outgoing tidal current and the lateral skim of my hull was nearly holding me stationary.  In some alarm I applied more power and looked straight ahead.  I powered my self past the peninsula putting some rowing energy into my sling system.  I could feel the leverage this sling system was giving me.

The wind was blowing just strong enough to lift the side of the dory and as I leaned toward the wind to settle the hull I was glad that my simple slings were of flexible line padded for my feet and back.

The last thing I wanted to do was to let the wind flip the dory.

With my flexible slings I could lean and counter lean as the wind gusted and diminished.  I was glad I happened to have cooked up this simple system rather than created some more rigid system and that I was sitting on a plank seat so that I could slide my buttocks over to compensate for the wind as need be. 

As I found myself being hit broadside by consistent 15 knots of wind I did slide my buttocks over toward the wind allowing me to use my body as ballast.

I stared at my objectives in front of me and decided that I would take the chicken route, in other words I would row in the lee up as far as I could and then head down wind for home.  I did not want to risk making a direct run home because I would be exposed to the full power of this broadside wind for a long distance.

I knew I would have to work hard going down wind but as long as I paid attention to not letting the dory slew around upwind I would not have to worry about being blown over broadside.

Without my simple line slings this rowing would have not been possible because I would have not been able to control the helm of the dory.

I could feel every little gust as I paddled broadside to the wind in the lee because of even the slightest difference in land height.  Although I could see the differences in the wind riffles on the water I could not anticipate how the resulting wind would affect the dory.

Had I been paddling my kayak the latitude for sensitivity to the wind is much less.  I would have been able to easily just lean toward the wind and use a windward brace instantly as needed.  In the dory this sensitivity to the wind was much greater the unballasted hull was extremely tender in the wind.

The corrective strokes had a very temporary effect on the overall direction of the hull.  I was glad I had not tried the windward shore because I think I might have fetched up in rocky shallows.


November 9th 2004

I devised a system utilizing the EZ-Row for an Avery Point dory which allows me to row well braced utilizing both the power from my arms and upper body and legs in a system similar to the technique used with the Frontrower and as if I were doing sliding seat rowing.

To brace my lower back against I attached a padded U shaped length of padded line around my back attached to the EZ-Rower gunwale bracket attachment to the dory gunwale forward of me at a position just forward of my knees.

I am seated on the dory seat facing forward.

For my feet to brace against U shaped length of line is attached to the EZ-Rower gunwale bracket running around my feet with my feet just off the bottom of the boat.

Rowing technique allows me to lean forward and retract my legs at the catch.  The pull on the stroke is executed in stages similar to sliding seat.  First as I begin to pull on the looms I begin to extend my legs, then follow through by lean back complete the pull by using my back and arms in concert with the extension of my legs.

Throughout the stroke my feet are off the floor.

My rope slings around my back and feet allow me to row while firmly anchored front to back.  I found that I was comfortably able to power an Avery Point dory in 15 to 20 knots of head wind and able to run down wind under complete control.

I had in mind from discussing rowing with Doug Martin that an orthopedic physician had proven that a rower’s pelvis must be solidly braced on a solid seat.

The design of the original Oarmaster has the defect of large holes in the wood seat beneath the wings of the rower’s pelvis.  The seat should be of solid wood without these holes.  The plank seat on the dory I was rowing was best pelvic support for rowing.