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Old 05-19-2009   #1
Bozeman, Montana
Paddling Since: 2001
Join Date: Mar 2009
Posts: 5
Fun with Oars


First Post, so bear with me. I'm a few steps along in a new boat and the oar placement has me pondering. I got NRS oarstands and using the formula (which completely used up my algebra skills)with 3 inches of relief between the oars leaves me unable to get the blade in the water. Simple fix is to rotate the stands, right? Then the relief increases. So shorten the oars.... hmmm, now they dont get into the water, again. This is .

The oars are 8 1/2 foot on a 60 inch wide frame which I'm assured is adequate. The beginning question I think, is how to position the uprights. Or am I missing something incredibly obvious?

So, be gentle, its my first time. Thanks to all of you posting back and forth. I've learned a terrific amount just by listening in.

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Old 05-19-2009   #2
Fort Collins, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1998
Join Date: Dec 2004
Posts: 129
Hi Rod,

I'm going through the same set-up question. I was told/saw/read somewhere that its good to shoot for 1/3 in, 2/3 outside the stands. So, at 102 inches (8.5 ft), that'd be about 34 in and 68 out. That seems pretty good for a 60 inch frame (give or take).
I've got a 72 inch wide frame, and am thinking 10 footers right now (40/80 inches in/out). I"ve tried 9ers, and was rowing all day with about 20 inches between the handles. Talk about sore shoulders!

What does education often do? It makes a straight-cut ditch of a free, meandering brook. HENRY DAVID THOREAU, Journal
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Old 05-19-2009   #3
lhowemt's Avatar
at my house, Montana
Paddling Since: 2020
Join Date: Apr 2007
Posts: 4,346
How about a photo, that would help visualize the geometry. there's a lot of factors, tip/angle of oarlock, height of oarlock, oar inside oarlock, height of boat (waterline), etc, etc, etc. What I did on my raft was I started with the seat. Sit on the cooler, how high do I need my oar towers (how short can I get away with?). The tower height and distance between, really drive the oar length. 8 1/2 oars sound short to me.

When I started boating, this was a frustrating thing for me once I realized it was all wrong! Too many thing to change, you have to choose your "control point" and go from there.

My oar inside of the towers is also dictated by me and my pfd, so I don't hit them on my body/pfd. This also drives the fore/aft positioning of the towers.

And asking this group of people to be nice because you are new, well you might as well throw chum in an ocean of sharks!

Welcome to the Buzz, expect the worst, get it all, and have fun.
I am a river, babe - I've got plenty of time, I don't know where I'm going, I'm just following the lines..... - "We are water" by Shaye
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Old 05-19-2009   #4
Bozeman, Montana
Paddling Since: 2001
Join Date: Mar 2009
Posts: 5
Chum eh? Always be nice first, then.... Hey thanks for the reply, I really like your frame discussions. One thing you said brings more questions. I read that higher towers are better(dunno why). The frame guy said add spacers to the smaller NRS towers as a low tech (cheaper) solution to buying the big ones. Is it possible I'm making a problem instead of a solution? Why do you want lower? I'll work on a picture.
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Old 05-19-2009   #5
I'm wrong 50% of the time
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RFV, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1977
Join Date: Jul 2004
Posts: 857
Are you sitting in a seat on the frame, or on top of a cooler or dry box?

If you are sitting above the frame, higher towers are in order, so as you do not row into your knees.

If you are sitting at frame level, longer oars are in order.

Maybe a combination of both. I would start by buying (assuming you have carlyle oars) is to beg/borrow/buy some 1 foot oar extensions.

Put the boat on a trailer and set it up like you are in the water. Try as many combinations as you can think of until something works well. Nothing worse than struggling all day to find your perfect placement while on the river.
Claimer: Someone that makes a claim that they have been there and done that, can do anything you can do better than you. I hate "claimers"
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Old 05-19-2009   #6
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Huson, Montana
Paddling Since: 1988
Join Date: Mar 2004
Posts: 986
It's like the zen of a perfect roll, a perfect fly cast or or anything else that you just have to keep doing until it feels good.
"You're gonna be doin a lot of doobie rolling when youre LIVIN IN A VAN DOWN BY THE RIVER"
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Old 05-19-2009   #7
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Boulder, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2000
Join Date: Jul 2005
Posts: 1,128
Sometimes I think that these discussions get far too technical - they are just oars, and yes you will be sore after using them for the first time. That is a sign of working your muscles in a way that they aren't used to. In general you should use the 1/3 rule and leave about 2-3 inches in between your oar handles. If you sit up high use taller oar locks, if you sit low use shorter ones. If you love math have fun solving equations - but you don't need them. After rowing your boat for a while it will feel natural. In truth most of the changes people make are rather small deviations from the general rules. Don't sweat the small stuff.
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Old 05-20-2009   #8
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SE, Wyoming
Paddling Since: 1986
Join Date: Apr 2007
Posts: 1,098
The critical dimension isn't the width of your frame but the distance between the oarlocks. Most oar towers place the locks farther apart than the frame width by 6-10 inches.

Standard oartower heights are 6 and 8 inches. If you've got the frame and the seat, you can check it out using scrap wood for towers and a piece of bamboo or a fishing rod to stand in for the oar. Or just sketch it.

Figure a waterline 1/3 up the tube for a loaded raft. You want the oar blades completely in the water during a stroke, and the grips at a comfortable level (say bottom of your breastbone) for pulling. With the oarblades clear of the water, the grips should clear your knees.

Figuring this out by trial and error is expensive (I've gone through 3 oar lengths on my big cat). So do some sketches and mess around with your frame. The 1/3 - 2/3 formula is for rowboats with lower freeboard than most rafts. Rafters tend to like oars a foot or more longer than the formula dictates.
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Old 05-20-2009   #9
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at my house, Montana
Paddling Since: 2020
Join Date: Apr 2007
Posts: 4,346
I also played with the rigging with the boat on the ground, not blades in the oars, figured the blades would be submerged once the tip of the oars were just above the ground. Have the boat soft to mimic the waterline at ground level (boat sinks down).

Raftus has a good point, sometimes we can make too much of it, but if you are finding something feels wrong, it's likely time to make more of it. And once you begin to play with it, you'll start learning what you like and don't like, and enter "rigging hell"!
I am a river, babe - I've got plenty of time, I don't know where I'm going, I'm just following the lines..... - "We are water" by Shaye
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Old 05-20-2009   #10
San Juan Islands, Washington
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 217
Last year I moved things around and had everything where I liked it but my oars were a foot too long. I cut my oars down and put them on the boat and now with the boat on the trailer I don't think I like where the oarlocks are anymore, I'm going to have to throw it in the water tonight and start over.

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