Mark Wallace's Black Skiff

Friday, May 20, 2016

Sliding Seat/Rigger Options


Sliding seat/riggers enable you to use your leg muscles to row, as well as your back and arms, increasing the power of your stroke. This post is about various alternative systems that can be used.

Sliding SEAT systems enable the rower to move while the oarlocks are stationary.

Sliding RIGGER systems enable the rower to be stationary (in his/her location in the hull) while the oarlocks move. The advantage of the sliding rigger systems is that the weight of the rower is not shifting fore and aft with each stroke which can cause the hull to pitch. Sliding rigger systems are banned in formal races.

Sliding seat/rigger systems that include, in one unit, the seat, outriggers to hold the oar locks, rails for either the seat or the outriggers to roll on and foot braces are typically called “DROP-IN UNITS”. The unit can be detached from the boat, and the boat ‘converted’ to fixed seat rowing.

Sliding seat/rigger COMPONENT systems are custom made such that the various separate components (seat, outriggers, rails and foot braces) are independent and are stored in the boat.

If you intend to sleep in the boat AND you are considering a drop-in system, where will you store the drop-in unit while you are sleeping? The only solutions I’ve seen are to 1) design a custom component system in which the pieces can be separately stored and/or are a built-in part of the boat, OR 2) only use fixed seat rowing.

If you are looking for parts to make your own system, then one source is Latanzo.

Following is a wide variety of sliding seat/rigger options, divided into three categories:
1) Plans and Kits
2) Commercial systems
3) Custom made systems, both component and drop-in

Plans and Kits

Glen-L Sliding Seat System

 Glen-L has both plans and a hardware (only) kit for this system.


Colin Angus sells both plans and a kit for this sliding seat unit that he uses in his boats.

Colon Angus Sliding Seat System


Platt Monfort’s article contains plans for a  home-made drop-in sliding seat system based on a 1947 design, with ‘upgrades’ provided by Platt.


Kudzu Craft sells (only) the plans for this drop-in unit which can be customized to fit most boats.

Kudzu Craft Sliding Seat from Plans

Commercial Systems

Drop-in Sliding Rigger

Drop-in Sliding Rigger Unit from "Sliding Rigger"

Shown above is the end view and side view of their system. Note the very low profile, which would require the whole system to be raised in order to clear the gunnels of a typical oar cruiser.


Adirondack Rowing has a review of seven commercial drop-in sliding seat units which they sell.


Wayland Marine

RowWing by Piantedosi sold by Wayland Marine


Poseidon sliding seat system

Double Seat version showing only Foot Rests for the Forward Seat

Both a single and double version are available, and either system can be fully adjusted to fit rowers up to 6’ 6”.

The system can be mounted in virtually any boat because it is supported by two crossbars attached to ribs


Salt Pond Rowing

Wood Drop-in Sliding Seat Unit from "Salt Pond Rowing"


FrontRower(TM) is not a sliding seat nor sliding rigger system, but a rowing system that enables legs and/or arms to be used to row, while facing forward.

Custom Made Systems

Gig Harbor custom component system they use in their boats.

Example of a Wood Sliding Seat System from "Gig Harbor"

They sell units with both wood (as here) as well as fiberglass seats. Eight wheels keep the seat located properly (See Rick Thompson's comments below.)


Clovelly Sculls

Custom Component Sliding Rigger System for Their Boat


Home Made Sliding Seat System

I found this photo of a home-made, drop-in, sliding seat (only) unit.  The dowel under the seat runs through a piece of PVC pipe to limit movement only to fore and aft. There was no ‘builder’ information.


Custom (?) Drop-in Sliding Seat System

No builder information available.


Rick Thompson, (Welsford custom Walkabout, shown here) wrote to me describing his custom designed component sliding seat system. He included many pictures. Following is the text and pictures he sent me:

"1) Many slide seats use 4 wheels held in tracks. The problem with those is that the wheel edges rub on the sides of the tracks, that's how they stay in the tracks. The wheels need to be a hard material, sometimes metal, which can cause a rough and noisy ride. 
2) My first open water rowing boat (that got me started on this activity) was a Gig Harbor Whitehall. Gig Harbor [See Gig Harbor link earlier in this post] has a seat system that uses 8 wheels - 4 supporting the seat and 4 keeping it on the flat top track. I like this system, mine is copied and revised from that. The GH wheels are soft urethane, making for a very smooth slide. The seat is securely held, it would have to jump up above the side wheels to come off track. The 4 wheel systems can jump track easier, unless there is also an upper retaining track. 
3) My GH boat and the Walkabout have side seats, making a convenient place to run the tracks. The Walkabout side seats curve upward at bow and stern, I just made my tracks to follow the curve and the slide seat works fine. The seat can easily be lifted out to make the center of the boat clear. The drop in seat units like Piantedosi or Angus can be added to boats with no side seat, but they are not quick to remove. 
4) If you look at the "Wheel Detail" tab on the GH page, you can see that they make their own wheel bearings from plastic parts. I have heard that these work well and have crossed oceans. I used standard skate board wheels and bearings which are readily available. The bearings can be found in stainless and even in ceramic. I used stainless, but re-packed them with heavy waterproof marine grade wheel bearing grease. They have not needed any service in over 2000 saltwater miles so far. 
5) My gray rafting seat is a little unusual. I have it angled backward by 12 degrees to better accommodate slide rowing geometry. It is very comfortable, even for a week of extended cruising. The low back part could interfere with layback, but I don't use much layback [for the ‘catch’] so it is not a problem.

[I asked Rick for the source of the seat he uses.]

This is what he uses.

Seat Rick Thompson Uses 

Underside of the Seat Showing the Eight Rollers to Keep it Aligned

Foot Rests of the Custom Component System

And a Close-up View

The Hinged 'Stop' Quickly Converts His Rig to a Fixed Seat Rig (Genius!)

In the next post, we’ll give you 5 breakfast menus you can use in your oar cruising expeditions.


  1. To more options for drop-in sliding seat units similar to the Piantedosi are Fyne in the UK: and Denman Marine from Tasmania:
    In addition to the sliding rigger unit by Rum International that you show, a promising option for a drop-in sliding rigger unit is the RowSurfer: The people at RowSurfer are very helpful in answering questions (I have no affiliation).

  2. There are a few other systems I've noticed advertised, no affiliation with any of them:

    This X-Cat forward facing slide seat rig has a lot of engineering, including automatic feathering:

    The Whitehall guys in Victoria sell a rig to convert a SUP to slide seat rowing:

    This one never made it to market as far as I can tell, an English design sliding rigger:

  3. I found a video of the X-Cat rig. It looks cool, but probably expensive, hard to fix if something breaks, and it would make me lazy since it feathers itself.

  4. Justin and Rick, thanks for the links. I'll put up a "CATCH" post to highlight them.


  5. Would Rick be willing to share how he attached the wheels to his seat? I presume there were bearings and some sort of threaded rod involved. I am trying to design my own sliding seat since I am averse to spending $600+ for a manufactured version or even $300+ for the very intriguing Angus kit, but am puzzled by how to attach the wheels both horizontally and vertically to the seat mechanism. Any advice appreciated. In frustration sometimes I am thinking of using a lengthwise seat plank and just putting a second hand skateboard on it to use as a seat!

    1. Hi Christopher,

      The skateboard wheels use bearings sized for 5/16" (8 mm) shafts. The main horizontal wheels are on 5/16" stainless steel bolts, with the heads sawed off and then epoxied into holes drilled into the ends of the seat support rods. The nuts are locking Nylock, they are checked annually and just need a little snugging.
      The vertical wheels are on 5/16" bolts also, but just in holes drilled through the supports. There is much less load on these wheels, they could even be simpler bushings but it seemed a safe plan to use the same wheels as the load bearing ones so they could be used as spares.

  6. PS the boat I am building is the Not-a-Gull from Triloboats, which has a lengthwise seat and looks cheap enough that I will not go broke if/when I mess it up. In addition to exercise rowing it looks like a pretty fair design for an inexpensive oarcruiser as well?

    1. Hi Christopher... I've written to Rick and asked him to "Reply" to your request.

      The Not-A-Gull is interesting... The longitudinal seat works very well... She does have a lot of windage, and if you've been following this blog, you know that's a real bugger for me... given that he wanted a 'dory style' boat, I like the mods he's made... they make a lot of sense as long as you're not out to go 'fast'.

      I'd love to hear how you are progressing on this project....Let me know if there is anything else I can do for you.

      BR... Tom

  7. Rick, what are the seat support rods made of? I appreciate you sharing details of your design. It looks really elegant, but simple, affordable, quiet and rugged.