An LFH 17 Built by Chris Jones, Based on John Gardner's Lines

Sunday, January 14, 2018

L. Francis Herreshoff 17' Pulling Boat

L. Francis Herreshoff (LFH) 17' Pulling Boat was originally presented in Sensible Cruising Designs by LFH. Later, John Gardner formalized the design in his Building Classic Small Craft, Vol 2.

Lines of the LFH 17' Drawn by John Gardner
Later, Jim Michalak, using Gardner's lines, drew a plywood on frame version. Comparing the set of lines above by Gardner to those of Michalak below, the most noticeable difference is the shape of the sheer line and that in Jim's version both (fore and aft) halves are identical.
Lines of LFH 17' Drawn by Jim Michalak

Stewart River Boatworks sells a slightly modified LFH 17' based on the Gardner version. The modification adds slightly more flair to the topsides at the bow than Gardner's lines call for.

A Finished LFH 17' Offered by Stewart River Boatworks

Chris Jones built the boat pictured below (and at the top of this post). This was his first boat and he built it based on Gardner's plans and instructions in Building Classic Small Craft.

Chris Jones' LFH 17' He Built
I've read about people who have built the LFH 17' as a skin-on-frame (SOF) using Jim Michalak's plans. However, I could not find any photos nor the articles about them.

I bought Jim's plans and made a 8:1 scale model with 4 modifications:
  1. Built it SOF
  2. Made the bottom panel of plywood rather than SOF
  3. Added 2 bulkheads approximately 7' feet apart for a central cockpit
  4. Added framing for SOF decking at each end and along side of the cockpit opening. 
The photos below show the build process, which is quite straight forward using Jim's plans.

An 8:1 Scale Model of LFH 17' with Plywood Bottom and First Ribands Installed

All Framing Installed, ready for "Skin"

Skin Started...

...and Showing SOF Deck Partially Completed...

...and What Happens When the 'Heat Gun' (for shrinking the skin) Gets Too Close

My opinion is that the LFH 17', using Jim's plans, would make an outstanding oar cruiser. She would be light, very sea worthy, fast and very pretty.

If you know of any SOF LFH 17's that have been built, I'd love to see photos and will post if permitted.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

CATCH: Sliding-Seat Conversion

The December 2017 issue of Small Boats Monthly includes an article on how to make a sliding-seat that can be used on a fixed seat rowing boat. The author is Ben Fuller with Chris Cunningham adding a section on how he built his conversion.

Ben Fuller's Sliding-Seat Conversion

Pictured at the top of this post is Chris's sliding-seat. The article contains more photos showing both construction and a video of Chris rowing using his sliding-seat.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Lightning Protection

It's not 'lightning prevention', it's lightning protection.

BoatUS published an article in 2015 identifying the probability of lightning strikes as a function of type of boat and size of boat.
Table 1. The probability of a lightning strike by type of boat, 2003–2013 
Type of Boat                                          Chances per 1,000
Multihull Sailboat                                   6.9
Monohull Sailboat                                  3.8
Trawler/Motoryacht                               1.5
All – Overall Average                            0.9
Bass Boat, Runabout, Pontoon Boat    0.1

Table 2. The probability of a lightning strike by size of boat, 2003–2013
Type of Boat Chances per 1,000
0-15 Feet         0
16–25 Feet 0.2
26–39 Feet 2.1
40–64 Feet 6
The same article also identifies what to do if you are caught out on the water when there is lightning:
What To Do If You're Caught Out On The Water 
"When thunder roars, go indoors." If there is time, return to shore and take shelter in an enclosed building (not open-sided) or your car. They are not impervious to lightning, but the lightning is less likely to do damage.
But if lightning has already begun, getting closer to shore may bring you close to trees and other objects that could be lightning targets. In that case, stay on the boat and do the following:

  • Go indoors — go down below. Stay in the center of the cabin if the boat is so designed. If no enclosure (cabin) is available, stay low in the boat. Don't turn yourself into a lightning rod! 

  • Keep arms and legs in the boat. Do not dangle them in the water. 

  • Discontinue fishing, water skiing, scuba diving, swimming, or other water activity when there is lightning or even when weather conditions look threatening. The first lightning strike can be a mile or more in front of an approaching thunderstorm cloud 

  • Disconnect and do not use or touch major electronic equipment, including the radio, throughout the duration of the storm. 

  • Lower, remove, or tie down the radio antenna and other protruding devices if they are not part of the lightning protection system. 

  • To the degree possible, avoid making contact with any portion of the boat connected to the lightning protection system 

  • On larger boats with an oven or microwave, putting electronics inside should prevent them from being damaged as the oven or microwave will act as a Farraday cage, allowing the charge to pass harmlessly through the metal around the devices."
From University of Florida's "Boating-Lightning Protection" by William Becker

Another article worth reading is Lightning-Proof Your Boat. Note especially the damage done to the electronics through “electromagnetic induction” and “side flashing”… scary stuff.

An article in BoatUS provides more information. The author is James Coté “…an electrical engineer, ABYC Master Technician, Fire Investigator and Marine Investigator. He operates a marine electric and corrosion control consulting firm located in Florida. For more information, go to:” 

Following are excerpts from DWFORUM in April 2017 in which contributors shared their personal experience in dealing with lightning: 
"I have relied on the stainless stays on the sides with a 2’ square of copper sheeting mounted below the water line and a flattened 1/2” pipe to carry the stay anchor point over the edge to the plate. I’m not sure how effective it is at the top relative to the radio mast, but the connection to the water should be fine. I’ve never known it to be tested, however!"
Schultz Apr 3, 2017
"My Paradox does have lightning protection as per plan.  It consists of a copper strap which leads from the top of the mast directly through the boat to the water."Andre-Francois Apr 3, 2017
"The static wicks on an airplane are only meant to dissipate the static charges that build up from the friction of air rushing over the skin.They do nothing against lightning. The skin of the aircraft is your protection, as electricity only travels on the outside of a metal object. Composite aircraft get a layer of metal mesh like window screen to provide this protection. In a boat, just like on land, a metal cage or can is your safest place in a lightning storm.So carry a metal garbage can you fit into on the boat, or build a cage of wires into the cabin for crew safety. A cable from the mast to the water will keep the hull from damage."Josh (Rowerwet) Apr 5, 2017
"...that's what we did on Dad's Wharram. He had a permanent rod off the backstay coming off above an insulator and running down under water and a pair of thick jumpers we'd deploy off the shrouds if we were out in dicey conditions."
Michael Burwell 4/11/17


Sunday, December 17, 2017


"Yawl" – from the Dutch “jol”
"Yawl" – a two-masted sailboat in which the rearmost mast (mizzenmast) is aft of the rudder post… a classic example is Olin Stephens' Dorade

Olin Stevens' Yawl Dorade (52' [15.9m] by 10' 3" [3.2m])

(Canoe) "Yawl" – a two-masted large canoe-shaped sailboat popular in the late 19th century such as the Iris

Yawl Canoe Iris...

Iris lines...

...and Specs.

(Source for Iris information above -- scroll to bottom of this linked page.)

"Yawl" – a four or six oared small boat used as a tender for large sailing vessels (A small ships boat, usually rowed by four or six oars. (Webster's dictionary 1828))

HMS Victory Yawl Boat

The term “yawl” (in rowing craft) is rather loose in modern usage, often interchanged with Wherries  and Whitehalls. Rowing versions of “yawls” are typically characterized by ‘round’ bottom lapstrake hulls with ‘wine-glass’ transoms and vertical stems. Given the wide meaning of the term “yawl”, following are some examples of various yawls that could be oar cruisers.

Modern Adaptations:

CLC’s Chester Yawl
"Boats like the Chester Yawl were used as working craft in 19th-century.  Efficiency was critical in these human powered craft, so they evolved easily driven hull shapes.  Working watermen weren’t immune to good looks, either, so these “livery boats” were often beautiful.  The most famous of the type, the “Whitehall” boats of New England, are still considered a touchstone of small craft elegance.  The Chester Yawl is based on the Whitehall and adopts its distinctive plumb bow and “wineglass” transom." (From CLC writeup)

Chester Yawl from CLC: 15' (4.6m) by 42" (1067mm)

This would be a very effective and beautiful kit-boat oar cruiser… I’d add SOF decks fore and aft and provide for temporary shelter such as these.

Selway-Fisher's Dronheim Yawl

This is a large ‘yawl’ for at least two rowers.

Selway-Fisher's Drontheim Yawl Lines


  • LOA 21'8" (6.6m)
  • Beam 6' (1.8m)
  • Hull Mid Depth 2'1" (0.64m)

Commentary from the write-up...
The Drontheim Yawl was designed for the Causeway Coast Kayak Assoc. - this is a traditional Irish open yawl and we have been asked to model her on the computer and develop the 9 hull planks for stitch and tape construction plus frame shapes only - guidance is available for those who need construction details, or we can draw up plans to suit.

The following are not true 'oar cruisers', but rather sail boats using oars as auxiliary power. (For purposes of this blog, we define an 'oar cruiser' an oar powered boat with (optional) sails as auxiliary power.)

Selway-Fisher Canoe Yawls

Selway-Fisher has two ‘canoe yawl’designs. The first is the 15’ (4.6m) Lillie  The second is an 18’4” (5.6m) version of Lillie called Jim Canoe Yawl.

Description of Lillie from Selway-Fisher
This lovely craft was commissioned by Tom Dunderdale after reading the series of articles in the Classic Boat magazine on the 13’ strip planked canoe yawl Ethel. The idea was to produce a canoe yawl of similar style to those of the last century used by Baden Powell and MacGregor and which formed the basis of modern canoeing today but using modern ply/epoxy construction methods with computer generated plank shapes. Her length is based upon the maximum length of plank that you can get out of 2 sheets of ply and we have increased the beam a little over the original Ethel design which allows more extensive cruising and even the ability to sleep on board. She uses 6 sheets of 6mm and one of 9mm ply in her construction. The standard set of plans show details for stitch and epoxy construction using 7 planks per side to give a beautiful round bottom hull shape and details are given for her to be fitted out in classic style with a lug yawl rig. The plans include mould shapes and construction details for her to be made using the strip plank method. Tom reports that up to a force 2 she will sail herself both before and into the wind hands off allowing the helmsman to drink his beer  in comfort. Above that, she handles herself with grace and she rows very well with excellent tracking.


LOA 14'11" 4.53m
Beam 4'8" 1.43m
Hull Mid Depth 1' 5" 0.43m
Draft 8"/2'1" 0.2/0.63m
Sail Area 106 sq.ft 9.84 sq.m
Approx. Dry Weight 353 lbs 160 kg

Selway-Fisher's Lillie lines...

...and Sailing

Iain Oughtred’s Caledonia Yawl 

(Click on Catalog>>Double Ended Beachboats>>Caledonia)


  • LOA:        19' 6" (5.95m)
  • Beam:       6' 2" (1.88m)
  • Sail Area: 170.01 sqf (15.8 sq m)
  • Weight:     330 lbs (150Kg)

Description of Caledonia Yawl from Iain’s website…
I first saw one of these sailing with the gunter yawl rig in Tasmania about 8 years ago. It was a very cold, windy day, white topped waves whipping down the Derwent toward Constitution Dock. The Caledonian Yawl, with it's crew of five, looked very at ease in the unwelcoming Derwent, and I had the feeling that they could have taken much more. 

Iain Oughred's Caledonia Yawl...

...and Profile.

Yawls are beautiful boats and in smaller sizes, make outstanding row boats that are fast and seaworthy.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Feathering Without Pain

(Note: This is a series of posts originally published 2016 each focused on a different aspect of powering small boats with oars. So far, we have re-posted the following topics:
  • Designs for various oars, including how to determine oar length... Sept 24
  • How to make a set of spoon-blade oars... Oct 1
  • The various ways to connect the oars to the boat... Oct 8
  • Alternative outriggers... moving the oar locks to a proper 'span' on a narrow hull...Oct 15
  • Various foot braces... Oct 22
  • Rowing geometry... Oct 29
  • Sliding seat/rigger options... Nov 5
  • Changing 'gear' when rowing...Nov 12
  • Rowing in Wind...Nov 26
  • Rowing in Rough Waters...Dec 3
  • Today: Feathering without Pain

(This post was originally published February 21, 2016)

To feather an oar is to spin it forward approximately 90 degrees so that the blade, during recovery, is almost level (keep the leading edge of the blade slightly above horizontal) to the water. Why feather? Two reasons:
  1. Wind resistance is reduced, especially when rowing upwind. When rowing upwind and I don’t feather, I can definitely feel the resistance.
  2. In rough water, sometimes we don’t raise the blade high enough. If the oar is feathered, then the blade will cut through the wave… if not feathered, it’s called “catching a crab”, which not only slows the boat down but can be dangerous if only one oar catches.
In private correspondence with Christopher Cunningham, Editor of Small Boats Monthly, we discussed feathering and why people find it uncomfortable after just a couple of minutes. I mentioned to him that I feather by rolling my fingers, rather than cocking my wrist. He told me that his father, a rowing coach for many years (see for a write-up about his late father) taught his rowing students this technique to feather.

Hand and Wrist During the Pull Portion of the Stroke
This photo shows the hand position during the power portion of the stroke. Notice the blade is almost vertical and the wrist is straight.

Hand and Wrist When Feathering by 'Cocking' the Wrist

Here, the oar has been feathered (blade is horizontal) by cocking the wrist. I found, after a couple of minutes of feathering this way, my wrist starts to feel uncomfortable… soon leading to pain.

Hand and Wrist When Feathering by 'Unrolling' Your Fingers

And here the oar is feathered the same amount, but the wrist is straight. Just ‘unroll’ your fingers and loosen the thumb (exaggerated here). When the oar is all the way forward, raise your hand and 
at the same time ‘reroll’ your fingers for the ‘catch’. Your hand will look like that in the first photo above.

If you don’t feel the need to feather your oars, you may want to practice feathering in case you are in a situation (high wind, rough water) when it will be essential that you do. Try it and let us know your experience.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Rowing in Rough Water

(Note: This is a series of posts originally published 2016 each focused on a different aspect of powering small boats with oars. So far, we have re-posted the following topics:
  • Designs for various oars, including how to determine oar length... Sept 24
  • How to make a set of spoon-blade oars... Oct 1
  • The various ways to connect the oars to the boat... Oct 8
  • Alternative outriggers... moving the oar locks to a proper 'span' on a narrow hull...Oct 15
  • Various foot braces... Oct 22
  • Rowing geometry... Oct 29
  • Sliding seat/rigger options... Nov 5
  • Changing 'gear' when rowing...Nov 12
  • Rowing in Wind...Nov 26
  • This week... Rowing in Rough Waters

(This post was originally published February 28, 2016)

Rough water can happen to any of us: The wind gains strength while we’ve been easily rowing downwind… A sudden thunder storm comes up… A wind shift causes a ‘confused sea’, waves from multiple directions. Regardless of how much we love nice calm rowing conditions, stuff happens… Here are ideas on how to deal with unexpected rough water.

Dale McKinnon, in an article in Small Boats Monthly, Rowing Rough Water , identified three keys for rowing in rough water:

1. Shorten your stroke by a quarter to a half.

 Birgit Skarstein, of the Lidchhardt Rowing Club agrees:

“When the water is very rough, you need shorter, more frequent strokes and steady, smooth power.”
 In another article Rough Water Technique, the author states:
“In extremely rough water, stop your hands about 3 or 4 inches away from your ribcage at the finish of the stroke. This will allow more room to drop your hands [lifting the blades higher to avoid hitting waves] and release the blades from the water.”
 2. Relax.

Dale says: 
“Concentrate on softening your grip… you will calm the rest of your body. Stay balanced and relaxed, and let the boat do its wild hokey-pokey beneath you…”
Shirwin Smith, Founder of Open Water Rowing Center in Sausalito, California, states:

“Don’t fight the water. The biggest problem for scullers on rough water is their tendency to stiffen their upper body, arms and hands. “
3. Zigzag to deal with a ‘beam’ sea.
Dale recommends, rather than rowing parallel to the waves (with first one oar and then the other oar digging in and water possibly pouring over the gunnel), we angle (30 to 45 degrees) into the wind. The boat will not roll so much and it will be easier to keep both oars in the water. Turning into the wind will also offset the distance the boat is being blown down wind.

My personal ‘learnings’ from rowing in rough water:

  • Stop the ‘death grip’ on handles
  • Stop trying to power through wind and waves… Use steady pressure with shorter, more frequent, strokes
  • Stop smashing into the waves with the oars… Make the stroke recovery higher and feather the oars so they either skim over waves or ‘cut’ through them
  • Think “Relax, firm and steady… I can do this.” Repeat.

An excerpt from Dale’s article:

“Halfway across the entrance to McKay Reach [in the 3rd week of an 800 mile row from Ketchikan, Alaska, to Bellingham, Washington in a 20’ Sam Devlin designed dory] I encountered swirling gale-force winds and waves coming at me from all directions. As my fear increased, my grip on the oars grew tighter. I was tiring quickly and my hands, forearms, and back ached. I knew that if I didn’t regain my composure and relax, fatigue would add exponentially to the danger I was in. To reach the safety of even the nearest lee I would have to conserve energy. I kept pulling and calmed myself. I loosened my grip and soon felt my body begin to relax. As my spine became less stiff, my hips could adjust to the wild gyrations of the hull. My head no longer swayed with every wave, and my growing dizziness subsided. My blades stopped getting slapped skyward off the tops of waves, and my tendency to “catch a crab” disappeared. I could feel the water on each blade and adjust more quickly to the waves’ erratic shapes.”
Tell us about your experience rowing in rough waters.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Rowing in Wind

(Note: This is a series of posts originally published 2016 each focused on a different aspect of powering small boats with oars. So far, we have re-posted the following topics:
  • Designs for various oars, including how to determine oar length... Sept 24
  • How to make a set of spoon-blade oars... Oct 1
  • The various ways to connect the oars to the boat... Oct 8
  • Alternative outriggers... moving the oar locks to a proper 'span' on a narrow hull...Oct 15
  • Various foot braces... Oct 22
  • Rowing geometry... Oct 29
  • Sliding seat/rigger options... Nov 5
  • Changing 'gear' when rowing...Nov 12
  • This week, Rowing in Wind...Nov 26
  • Next, Rowing in Rough Waters
“While not pleasant, rain has little adverse effect on rowers. Heat stress can be a problem for athletes, but the major impact is wind speed and direction.”
BBC July 28, 2012 in discussion about rowing events at London Olympics 
“Sailing would be great if it wasn’t for the calms…
Rowing would be great if it wasn’t for the winds.”

                                                                          T. Clarke 2016

Impact of Wind on Rowing

Klaus Filter of the DDR (Deutsche Demokratische Republik), in 1970s, using a wind tunnel, measured the impact of wind (strength and direction) on rowing racing shells of 1-, 2-, 4- and 8-person crews. It is summarized below, extrapolated from his data posted in the Rowing Biomechanics Newsletter.

I combined the data for the four different racing shells since the differences among the 4 were all less than 5%, in most cases only 1% or 2%. Wind direction is relative to course… 0° is a head wind and 180° is wind directly from the stern. Wind speed is given in meters/second and miles per hour. The tabular data is the percent impact on speed.

Per Cent Impact on Speed as a Function of Wind Speed and Direction

The key ‘takeaway’ from this chart, for me, is not so much the percent cost, or benefit, from the wind, but rather it is how the course relative to the wind direction impacts speed… rowing against the wind costs a lot more than the benefit of rowing with a wind of the same speed.

And rowing at an angle to a headwind (tacking, in effect) eases the drag (slightly), but increases the distance to be rowed. See Small Boats Monthly article on Tacking for Rowing.

For the oar cruiser, the percent impact would be greater than in the table above, since the oar cruiser has much more aero drag than the racing shell. How do we calculate the aero drag of an oar cruiser?

The formula for determining aero drag is:
Aero drag (pounds) = .0034 x S x C x V x V where:
.0034 is a constant
 S is the square feet of frontal area exposed to the wind
C is the “drag coefficient”… for simplicity we’ll use “1”
V is the velocity of the wind over the boat.
What is the square feet of frontal area exposed to the wind for a typical oar cruiser?

It’s the frontal area of the boat itself (let’s assume 4’ wide and 18” high for 6 sq. ft.) plus the exposed portion of the rower (assume 2’ wide by 2.5’ above the gunnel for 5 sq. ft.) for a total frontal area of 11 sq. ft.

“V”, velocity of the wind is the wind speed in miles per hour plus the speed of the boat (if a headwind… minus boat speed if heading downwind). Let’s assume a 10 mph head wind and a boat speed of 3 mph for a V of 13.

Plugging these numbers into the formula, we get:
Boat aero drag = .0034 x 11 x 1 x 13 x 13 = 6.3 lbs of aero drag from a 10 mph head wind.
There is another aero drag component that Klaus Filter mentions in his article. And it is a component that we can control… to feather the oars or not.

Lets assume I’m using a set of oars 94.5 inches (a little less than 8 feet [2.4m]) long, with a gear ratio of 2.5 (end of blade to oar lock [67.5 inches] divided by oar lock to end of handle [27 inches]). Let’s further assume the blade is 5” by 24”, which is .83 sq. ft.

When I’m rowing, the handles will move through an arc let’s say 2 feet long. This means the blades will be moving through an arc 2.5 times as long… 5 feet. If I’m rowing at 3 mph at a stroke rate of 20/minute, the blades are moving 5’ under water (no windage), but during recovery they are moving 5 feet in 1.5 seconds (2.3 mph) added to the boat speed of 3 mph for a total of 5.3 mph. If the wind is blowing at 10 mph, then V (velocity of wind over the oars) is 15.3 mph. Plugging these numbers into the formula, we get…
Oars aero drag = .0034 x 1.66 x 1 x 15.32 = 1.32 pounds. 
But since the oars are moving against the wind only half the time, the actual aero drag from this set of oars under the given conditions is 0.66 pounds.

To put this into the context of the real world, we need to add yet another drag component… let’s call it ‘water drag’, which is made up of skin resistance, form resistance and wave resistance.  A complex calculation, but Jim Michalak comes to the rescue.

Jim used his Roar2, which is 14’LOA and 42” wide, as his ‘test boat’. He found that the water drag was (slightly less than) 5 pounds at 3 knots. This figure came from a Hullform derived analysis of Roar2 which he then confirmed by measuring the force on the oars in his own Roar2.

Putting all this information together, we can come up with the following summary:

  • Rowing a 14’ nicely shaped row boat at 3 knots in calm conditions (no wind, no waves) requires 5 pounds of force by the rower (to overcome the 5 pounds of water drag).
  • Rowing a 14’ nicely shaped row boat at 3 knots against a 10 mph headwind requires 5 + 6.3 (=11.3) foot pounds of force by the rower, if the oars are feathered during recovery.
  • Rowing a 14’ nicely shaped row boat at 3 knots against a 10 mph headwind requires 5 + 6.3 + 0.66 (=12) pounds of force by the rower, if the oars are NOT feathered during recovery.

Rowing in the Wind

As we calculated above, rowing against a 10 knot wind takes more than twice the energy than rowing in a calm. But what if it’s blowing 20 knots?

With a 20 knot headwind, rowing at 3 mph requires 24.8 pounds of force on the (feathered) oars, five (5) times the energy required for rowing in a calm…not a pretty picture.

Rowing in a beam wind (90° to the wind direction) presents its own set of problems. In my Lillistone Flint, a beam wind causes the boat to turn into the wind…this, in spite of more windage from the bow vs. stern.

Rob Fisher and his son rowed a Welsford Mollyhawk in the 2016 Texas 200. He relates that at one point, when rowing in a beam wind of 20+ knots, they rowed for miles using only the starboard oars in order to maintain course. He felt that a rudder would have helped.

My own thinking is that the ends of the boat should be low (with fore and aft decks added) in order to reduce windage in beam winds. For me, rowing into a headwind is just ‘grunt’ work. But rowing with a strong beam wind is more difficult because the impact on rowing varies and I’m always pulling harder with one oar or the other to keep on course.