oarlocks vs. pins/clips, etc. - Mountain Buzz

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Old 07-20-2009   #1
the Porch, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1980
Join Date: Jun 2009
Posts: 4
oarlocks vs. pins/clips, etc.

Hi, I'm a former paddle-boat guide with a season of oarboat guiding experience. We ran trips on class III through V in ME and CA, but all of this happened in a past life, more than 10 years ago.

Now I have two kids and live in the land of beautiful multi-day canyon trips. I want to get back into rafting, but now in a family-style, non-commercial kind of way, and I'm looking for advice from private rafters.

Our company used stern-mount frames on 14-foot boats, and solid-ash oars with pins and clips. I loved the maneuverability and precision of the stern-mount, as well as the uninterrupted passenger/gear space, and the option for the passengers to paddle. But I seldom see this setup in use among private boaters. Why?

Does a center-oriented frame have certain advantages over a stern-mount in the private-rafting realm? Are oarlocks better than pins/clips for some reason, or is it a matter of personal preference? And what about wood oars? Why do most private rafters I see use synthetic oars?

Just trying to reinvent myself as a private rafter. Thanks in advance for any advice. Lay it on me.


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Old 07-20-2009   #2
GoodTimes's Avatar
Eagle, Idaho
Paddling Since: '78
Join Date: Mar 2006
Posts: 795
Personally, I'd love to have a stern mount frame for day trips and goofing around with my buddies......but for longer trips, even over-nighters, I'd rather have traditional center mounts. First reason being....I don't have many passengers when on multi-days...maybe one or two?? So their paddle assist is virtually non-existant. I wouldn't want to oar a loaded rig from the stern...plus, if you're in bigger water, you'll want to be a little farther forward to aid in punchin' the big holes! (I hope to have a nice 16' cat someday....and I plan on FRONT mounting for multi-days)

I would say if you're comfortable with a stern mount and you have 2 good paddlers to assist, you can put the frame wherever you want.

As for pins/clip vs. oarlocks....that'll be a personal preference. Seems there are definitely more peeps these days on oarlocks. I grew up on pins/clips, but I'd never go back to em. The nice thing about oarlocks is the freedom..... i.e. feathering the blade, ease of re-positioning if knocked out of place, etc... There have been countless times that my oar got knocked out with pins/clips and I spent the rest of the rapid trying to get it locked back in, with oarlocks, you really don't even have to look at what your doing....they slide right back into place (especially with oar-rights). To me, it's ease of use AND safety...I don't have to worry about missing a move (as much) because I can't get the clips locked back in.
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Old 07-20-2009   #3
denver, Colorado
Join Date: Aug 2008
Posts: 29
Oar Locks get my vote...less gnarly hardware to get hung up on...and yea way easier to get back in after they get knocked out...right before that have to make move.
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Old 07-20-2009   #4
kree's Avatar
Frisco, Colorado
Paddling Since: 07
Join Date: May 2009
Posts: 29
I totally agree with GoodTimes. I have a 15' with a stern frame, oarlocks, and rights. In big water the weight in the front is crucial. If I only have 1 or 2 paddlers it can get a little light up there. I think it's great for places like Ruby-Horsethief where you can pack a family and some gear for a day or two. I also love it for the Shoshone bombs and mellow day cruises where you can pack on a bunch of your friends and get it done!

As far as locks vs. pins, etc., I'd say that's all personal preference.

Have fun and be safe!
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Old 07-20-2009   #5
fdon's Avatar
Christopher Creek, Arizona
Paddling Since: 1969
Join Date: Jul 2008
Posts: 309
Good advice all around. The best thing about western boating is like you said; multi day adventures with family and friends. A full frame allows a raft to carry all that heavy load in a well-distributed fashion and more. Strap the big cooler up front and a dry box aft or visaversa into that frame and you have a bomber gear hauler plus built is seating with a view. We are now ready to go GRAND. The oar station thing...Pins/Clips, open locks, rights; do what ever feels best for you. What I love about my setup might mean jack to you and knowone will hold your choice against you. BTW: I always carry two paddles if I have a couple passengers. On a strong headwind, they cure the headway and passengers wanting to help issue quite well. If I am traveling solo or with my partner, I travel with only one paddle that is always secured by the side rail in case the boat goes bottom up. Then when someone makes it back on top, they can grab the paddle and work for shore. Regardless, welcome to family boating western style!
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Old 07-20-2009   #6
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Eagle County, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2002
Join Date: Apr 2004
Posts: 969
I have pins and clips and both a stern and center mount day frame. The pins and clips are ok. It isn't that hard to get them back in usually, but I have had issues. I had the hose clamps come loose on one side and almost lost the clip part while in a bigish rapid about to assist a boat in trouble once. That sucked.

I rowed a boat with open oarlocks for the first time (no oar rights) and found it was very difficult. I'm sure with some practice, it would be fine, and maybe even better. I think next time I will try open oar locks with oar rights.

I think that there are some boaters who still use wooden oars (check out sawyer). I think they are expensive, not as durable as the other kinds. The synthetic ones you mentioned are also expensive, but very durable. Cataract comes to mind. I use the plasticy looking Carlisle ones (they are actually metal under the plastic coating). They are inexpensive and somewhat durable, but not as nice to row. My decision was purely economics.

The stern frame is not as effective as center mount frame for driving the boat through holes and waves as mentioned, or for turning the boat. The boat turns around the oarsman as a pivot. You have a lot more boat to move in front of you then when you are a center pivot. The stern frame is generally used for paddle assist, think hybrid between paddle guiding and rowing. It does give you a bunch of room for passengers, but for rowing only, the center frame is hands down better, which is why most private boaters go this route. The outfitters use the stern frame so the guests can paddle along, but the guide can have the added power of the oars. The guide can also "override" crappy paddlers, and use less commands, or only use forward strokes with the paddlers, etc. Great for retarded tourists or kids who want to feel like they are doing something.
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Old 07-21-2009   #7
Davis, California
Join Date: Apr 2007
Posts: 71
its really all weight distribution vs space utilization. ultimately you want the weight centered. if you are running a large paddle/oar combo boat you are going to want to push the frame way back, if not a stern rig. any loss in nimbleness is made up with having 4-6 paddlers to do your work with you as a the power. whereas a gear boat is mostly about load so the center rig allows for better distribution while maintaing some semblance of manuverability.
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Old 07-27-2009   #8
the Porch, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1980
Join Date: Jun 2009
Posts: 4
Hey all, thanks for the advice! Now I just need some cash!
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Old 07-27-2009   #9
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SE, Wyoming
Paddling Since: 1986
Join Date: Apr 2007
Posts: 1,099
On my cats, I center the seat, with the locks forward, passenger seat (on deckboard or cooler) aft.

For multi-day runs I mount a separate gearframe for York Packs (plastic dryboxes) forward.

I vastly prefer open locks (Sawyer Cobras and Mini-Cobras) and wood oars (Gull NZ, laminated fir and laminated ash) with blade guards, rope wraps, and donuts. And bare wood grips.

There was a long thread on this very subject recently, but I don't recall the title.
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