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Discussion Starter #1
Anyone out there who has rowed with wood and thereafter switched to Sawyer composites? Not interested in Cataract oars please, just former woody rowers who switched to Sawyer. Thanks.
 

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I used to use Gull woodies then switched to Sawyer Composites with the laminated fir blade. These were the original yellow ones from 20 years ago. I've had them the whole time and they're still my faves. They have been re wrapped (rope) once and blades refurbished with the dynel edge guards. Still going strong. I also have smokers, the newer dual spun composites, and several pairs of Polecats. I've found the Sawyer composites to have the most natural wood like flex of most of the oars I've either owned and got rid of or tried. I don't like whippy oars like Cat's or dead oars like Carlisle. The dual spun composites were more stiff than I liked. Once you get into the 10 foot and longer oars, the Sawyers definitely feel more wood like. Under 9 feet I can't feel much difference between a Pole cat and a Cataract. I would recommend going with the 36 inch laminated blades though. Gives you some options with size. For example, you get a 10 foot oar with a 36 inch blade. Replace the 36" with a standard 30" blade and you have a 9.5 oar. Sawyer does use two diameters though. I like the larger, or outfitter size. This limits you to Sawyer blades. The MX-s and Polecats use standard size blades and are interchangeable with all manufactured brands.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Tthanks MG. Our histories are similar. I rowed with Gulls too, and have been using Smokers the past 8-10 years but need a second set of oars. Love the Smokers, but as I age (gracefully) every once in a while I think about something lighter at the lock. I tried Cats and rowed some commercial trips with Carlisle. Whippy is a good word for em. So what I was after was some first-hand feedback because I'm thinking about getting a set of Sawyers (will still keep the Smokers) but haven't had a chance to row with them. I would definitely go with the large diameter. For blades, I talked to Sawyer and you can actually get a long 5" width solid ash blade similar to the Smoker. I've always felt those Smoker blades are an advantage somehow, e.g., easy to feather. I notice the laminate blades are wider, as are the ash pro-tip. Any observations on the blade width on the laminate or pro-tip ash blade?

PS Sounds like the standard Sawyer FX (or whatever) is enough to satisfy someone who likes a relatively stiff oar, i.e., one that grabs quickly and doesn't feel rubbery. Smokers are definitely a positive feeling oar, i.e., when I need to pull, they're always with me.
 

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My take on the blades is this; I didn't like the ash pro tips, too wide. The width is what is key for me. I like narrow blades, 5 to 5 and a half inches. Easier on the joints, and feathering, etc. The Laminated blades are 5.5. I like the longer blade length like on the smokers but think the 36"ers are fine. I use the laminated because they tend not to warp, and they are virtually unbreakable. Just sand 'em out and refinish if you really bang 'em up. I run them on all my oars , even the Pole cats. Price wise they are only a few dollars more than plastic blades. The plastic's break easily so where's the savings there.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Excellent. Good to hear all this from an old-schooler. I definitely don't want wide blades. Sounds like the laminates will be good. BTW, the last time I saw any new Gulls for sale my buddy and I bought 8 of em. Searched and searched and found a marine dealer in Portland. (good story here). I asked and he said "Yeah, I have some of those big whitewater oars here, but we don't ever sell any." So I asked how many he had and what would he take to clear them all out. He got on his puter and clicked and said "I have 8, and I'll take $88.00 each for them, plus shipping." Shipping was around $90. My bud Art is still rowing his. The rest went with a boat I sold about 6 years ago. Adios
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Thanks. Whitewater West did have an unwrapped set of squaretops in stock and I checked them out. They look well made but I'm into the Dynel razor (or whatever it's called) blade which is permanently attachhed. Once that breaks, bye bye. Mostly I'm a traditional wood oar fan coz I like somethin' that feels solid when I pull to move the boat. I have a set of Smokers that were built in 1996 - - that's 15 years. No breaks, no warps and they feel great. Can't say I've seen that many Carlisles or Cats around that long. When I rowed Carlisles as a commercial guide in the early 80's we'd get up early to get first crack at the oar pile to find straight ones. Cats are good but too rubbery (whippy) for me. Anyway, since this is just a place to express opinion, for a second set I'm going with either another set of Smokers or may try the Sawyer large diameters that MG talked about. See a lot of those Sawyers in the Grand Canyon. They seem to hold up well and be strong. But nothing beats a Smoker. I'll still keep those. Peace.
 

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Those look really cool but what happens when you break the blade, it's all one piece with the blade not detachable. And if your using a dynalite blade it's just a matter of time.


You maybe interested in a new oar Sawyer has called the square top. It is has laminate fir core with a graphite wrap. I doubt Whitewater West has them in stock yet, but I am sure they can order them. DRE has them on their website, but not sure if they are stocking them yet:
http://downriverequip.com/index.php/oars-paddles/sawyer-oars/sawyer-square-top-dynelite-oar.html
http://downriverequip.com/index.php/oars-paddles/sawyer-oars/sawyer-square-top-dynelite-oar.html
 

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I too have used Gull oars and used the Sawyer composite oars for this year's Grand trip. They were not as light as the wood laminate oars, but felt pretty light in the hands due to the counterbalancing. These oars do sink. The removable blades are very susceptible to breaking off - a friend at Canyon REO told me that almost every rental comes back with a blade broken off.

I would recommend checking out the laminate Sawyer Lite oars, sold on NRS. They seem like a lighter, much nicer oar than the Sawyer composite. No offense to anyone who prefers the Sawyers, I just don't see why so many people buy these pieces....
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Good points Randaddy. More to consider. All in all, I'm having a hard time deciding I need anything but the Smokers, which cover all bases. I did have some Sawyer S/P lights for a time. Actually had a pair of those and pair of Smokers on a 14 Adventurer and tried both. Found the Smokers pulled better, but certainly are heavier. Good to share the experience. Graci.
 

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So BCJ, did choose some oars? I am thinking about what set to get, I am looking at sawyer smokers and the sawyer square top with dynelite blades, or the clavey wood ash oars. I like that these oars float.
I have some 25+ year old gull solid wood oars that I use for spares and are different lengths due to being cut down and beat up over the years. I put the gull oars on and rowed them this weekend for the first time in a long time and they felt so much nicer than the carisles I've gotten used to, Id like to use the mismatched gulls and make the carisles spares, never really knew what I was missing, anyway..... now Id like to get some real nice oars.
I have the chance to row these oars this fall which will be great but until then, Any input discussion would be nice seeing that these oars are over $750 for two 10'.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Ha! I just happened to be up at this hour Nicho and saw your post from what is now an 18 month old post! Cool enuf eh?

I did make some choices. First, since that post I did pick up a set of Sawyers MX/F's. I used them on a Middle Fork and a couple of Westwaters this year and really liked them. They feel quite a bit like wood, and are not whippy or rubbery. Good oar, which is why I think they've become the favorite replacement for wood in the Grand Canyon.

But along the way I also fell into a deal on some Gull oars, imported directly from NZ. So I set those up too and used those. I'm sticking with Gulls because that's what I'm used to and ultimately I am just a "wood oar guy." I used Gulls exclusively for along time early on.

It was interesting, because I have also Smokers and love those, I used Gulls for years before that, and I always wanted to try the Sawyers. I was setting up a 3rd boat and that's why I got some Gulls too. But that boat is gone now so I just sold the Sawyers which became extras. I had no disappointment with the Sawyers.

Some pointers: The Smokers are probably the best pulling oar I've ever used, even better than Gull. But they are a bit heavier, so go with the Drifter model, which is overall about 1/8" slimmer in diameter than the Whitewater model but is really a fine pulling oar and plenty strong. It will move my heavy Avon Pro or the dory fully-loaded easily, with a nice feel.

If you do go with Sawyer, note that they've simplified what used to be an overcomplicated lettering system. The oar is an MX. MX/F stands for fiberglass. MX/FG stands for fiberglass with an added graphite wrap, for a stiffer oar if you want that option. The graphite is now simply listed as an "option" you can get, whereas before they had them all listed separately and it got a little confusing. (I think they also did away with the letter "S" which referred to shaft diameter. If you want the large diameter now you just click that option, otherwise they're all "S"'s)

To me, I don't see how anyone would need or want a stiffer oar than the regular MX/F. It was more than adequately beefy. And for price I stayed with the "S" shaft, which is 1 5/8". The outfitter diameter is larger. I like those, but didn't see the value. So I went with standard MX oars (i.e., MX/FS - - does that make sense?).

Now, there is a new oar out there, and I had a pair that I sold with a boat earlier this year. They are Gull River oars. The Gulls you have are probably the Whitewater oar, about 2 1/4' thick. The River Oar is built the same, only thinner at about 2" diameter. They looked and felt very sweet in my hands, but I never got to row them because they went away with the boat.

Gull is still making great oars, but they are hard to find. I have a source, and could be ordering some in the spring. If you're willing to wait and want to add to the order let me know. To get the best price-point on them last time around I ordered 10 total. With shipping to Grand Junction they came in way less than either the Smokers or the Sawyers. You should PM me about that if you're interested.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
PS Nicho, I did not get counterbalance in the Sawyers. I've held them both and adding 2-4 lbs to the dead weight of the oar on land did not make much sense to me. Frankly, I rowed with some once and they felt sort of artificial to me. It's like anything, to sell a product the seller will keep adding features as long as someone wants it. I don't think counterbalancing is necessary, and like the more natural feel of not having it. People rave about the square tops too, and I'm sure they feel great on the water, but over the years, well, let's just say the rocks have taught me some lessons about what is durable and what is not. The Smokers are very durable, as are the Gulls. I use thick-walled industrial shrink tubing to make my own tip protectors.
 

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Thanks for the info! I do like the Gulls I have they're nice to row, they are the 2 1/4" pretty burly and not too heavy. I will send you a pm.
 
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