Mark Wallace's Black Skiff

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Snacks for Oar Cruising

This post provides alternatives to ‘feed the need’ for carbohydrates and hydration every hour or so throughout the day. We are assuming you ate breakfast, you will have your main meal at night and that you will not stop for a mid-day meal, but rather eat and drink throughout the day (recommended for all-day physical exertion).

Brenda L. Braaten, Ph.D., R.D. writes:
“To maintain energy levels over the long haul, snack on carbohydrate AND fat. Like M&M peanuts [30g carbohydrates, 13g fat], GORP [1 cup, 54g carbo, 50g fat], PopTarts [35-38g carbo, 3.5-7g fat], crackers or granola bars [17-28g carbo, 2-8g fat]. AVOID excessive amounts of the high sugar snacks, especially just before beginning your day--they may cause insulin levels to rise, which will work against you, locking your fat in storage, rather than making it available to your muscles…feed your body small frequent doses (25-50 grams every few hours) of carbohydrates throughout the day… [preferably with] complex carbohydrates, [such as] cereals, grains, fruits and vegetables, all good sources of carbohydrates.”
See Nutrition for the Rower for background information.

In her website, Brenda Braaten includes a table of various snacks. Shown below are the snacks that are high in complex carbohydrate (>90%) she recommends:
                         Qnty        Cal. Carbo(grams) Fat(g) Protein(g)
Dried apples     7 pieces   108  28                   .1        .4
Raisins              2 Tbls       75  20                    .1        .8
Prunes               5 pieces  100  26.3                .2      1.1
Dried apricots   10 pieces  83  21.6                 .2      1.3
Dried figs          2 pieces    95  24.5                 .4      1.1
Fruit leather 1 oz. 100 24.2 .8 .3
Listed below are a sample of ‘energy bars’ taken from the Wild Back Packer site:

Larabar, Cinnamon Roll
Size: 51 g
Calories: 240; from fat: 110
Fat: 12 g
Carbs: 30 g 
PowerBar Triple Threat, Caramel Peanut Fusion
Size: 55g
Calories: 230; from fat: 70
Fat: 9 g
Carbs: 30 g 
Clif Bar, Chocolate Chip
Size: 68 g
Calories: 240; from fat: 45
Fat: 5 g
Carbs: 44 g 
Bear Valley Pemmican, Carob-Cocoa
Size: 106 g
Calories: 440
Fat: 12 g
Carbs: 68 g
“Tom” and “John” took part in a Trans-Atlantic rowing race, covering 2900 nautical miles in 58 days, 3 hours… arriving “in Barbados tired, sore, and leaner.” A thorough analysis of what they ate, what worked and what didn’t work is documented in the Journal of Human Kinetics.

Listed below (from pages 16-17 in the document) are examples of the ‘snacks’ they ate during two days (after breakfast and before evening dinner). The carbohydrate (carbo) and fat content is taken from "fatsecret" site... (Click on “Foods” tab and enter food in the search bar.)
Day 1:
Nuts: 1.5 cups peanuts (36g carbohydrate, 105g fat)
Fruit: 10 oz. dried apricots (some eaten at breakfast) (150g carbo, 0g fat)
Bars: 4 bars (1 Balance Bar (20-22g carbo, 7g fat), 2 NutriGrain Bars (24-34g carbo, 3-5g fat), 1 Clif Bar (29-45g carbo, 5-10g fat)
Sweet: 1 large (7 oz.) Hershey bar (117g carbo, 58g fat) 
Day 2:
Nuts: 6 oz. (3/4 cup) mixed nuts (27g carbohydrate, 52g fat)
Fruit: 10 oz. (about 2 cups) dried dates (215g carbo, 0g fat)
Bars: 3 Harvest PowerBars (20-22g carbo, 7g fat each), assorted flavors
Sweet: 3 Snickers Bars (1.86 oz, 33g carbo, 12g fat each)
In addition to carbohydrates, it is essential to hydrate… at least one pint an hour (one liter every two hours) depending upon temperature, humidity and level of effort. (See your doctor or a registered dietician to confirm how much you will need).

Using water as a base, following are suggestions on how you can add carbohydrates and provide some variety to what you drink:
Coffee. Starbucks carries a wide range of their “VIA” brand of instant coffees: for example, “Columbia”, “Latte Vanilla”, “Pike Roast”, “Italian Roast”, “White Chocolate Mocha”. Uses 8 ounces (236mL) of water per packet.
Gatorade Low Calorie G2 Powder. Three flavors, “Fruit Punch”, “Grape” and “Glacier Freeze”. Nutrition per packet: 45 calories, 250mg sodium, 75mg Potassium and 12g carbo (from sugar).Uses 20 ounces (1.25 pints, 590ml) of water per packet. 
Gatorade Endurance Formula Thirst Quencher Powder would be better for very hot conditions e.g., Texas 200, in which we are perspiring a great deal. Nutrition per 1.5 tbsp (22mL) of powder: 240mg Sodium, 140mg Potassium, 21g carbo and 80 calories, mixed with 20 ounces (590mL) water. 
Low-fat dry milk, ¼ cup (4 tbsp, 2 ounces, 60 ml) powder mixed with 8 ounces (240mL) water provides 215 calories 
Cocoa, 2 tbsp (8g) in 6 ounces (120mL) of hot water, 20 calories.

Note,  I am NOT a doctor nor a dietitian. Please contact your doctor and/or a registered dietitian if you have any concerns about how these suggestions could impact your health.

The key to sustained rowing (or any other sustained exercise such as cycling) is 25 to 50 grams of carbohydrate AND at least two pints (one liter) water every two hours.

Let us know YOUR favorite snack when rowing.

Friday, June 24, 2016

CATCH: And Another Sliding Rigger

In the May 20 and May 27, 2016 posts, we presented a number of sliding seat/rigger systems. Here's another sliding rigger (seat is stationary while the locks and outriggers slide) that a reader sent me. No details except the photo.

Monday, June 20, 2016

CATCH: Over 500 Rowing Boats

Peter Evans has created an 'open source' listing of over 500 rowing boats. Each listing contains the link to the design/builder, name of the boat, the designer's/builder's name, and the length and width (in feet and inches).

The file is an HTML file, and is also available as a Text file and an Excel spreadsheet... the latter would enable you to sort the file by, for example, designer/builder.

Peter has done an extraordinary job in putting this list together. He can be reached at this address. The file itself is here.

If you are looking for a rowing boat, this is the place to start.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

What's Done Daily but Seldom Discussed?

Except with your Urologist or Gastroenterologist…

In April, we asked for how do you dispose of #1 and #2 in a small cruiser… Many answers, ranging from the delightful to the unprintable.


  • Only poop at night.
  • Go behind a sand dune and dig a hole.
  • Use a curtain (in a boat with a cabin or shelter).
  • Use a poncho to cover yourself while ‘sitting’.


  • Rather than using toilet paper, use bio-degradable baby wipes. 


  • “Cat hole”

When in a remote area, one can dig a 6” wide and 6” deep hole down wind and downhill (at least 200 feet (60m) from any camp ground). One respondant said he does this, but brings WagBags to prove to any ‘park ranger’ that they are not using cat holes.

  • Portable Toilets

An example from Walmart. There are a wide variety of alternatives. But then you have the delightful time of emptying and cleaning the ‘storage tank’.

  • Buckets, used with the three alternatives below.

Three-gallon or Five-gallon buckets available at Amazon, Walmart, Home Depot, etc. The 5-gallon bucket is 12” (305mm) in diameter and 14.2” (361mm) high. The 3-gallon is also 12” in diameter and 11” (279mm) high.  
The tops that come with these buckets do NOT provide a tight seal. It’s recommended to use a Gamma Lid that easily and securely seals the bucket. 
To provide a comfortable seat for the bucket, use a Luggable Loo.

  • ‘Bucket and Chuckit'

This is only applicable in the open ocean and is used by ocean-crossing /off-shore cruisers. One ocean-crossing rower responded to a critic of this method by saying that the amount of ‘material’ deposited in the ocean in the complete voyage did not equal that deposited by one whale in one day.

One respondant said that he found the WagBags still smelled in spite of the seal and deodorizer.  

  • Composting Toilets

Not the commercial composting toilets, but one you can make yourself using a bucket and composting materials. 
  1. Line the bucket with a strong plastic bag. This will remain in the bucket until you are ready to dispose of the ‘results’ (half to three-quarters full). Tightly seal the bag and deposit in a trash container along with all of the doggy poo bags, and dirty diapers. 
  2. To use, put a layer of “compost material” in the bottom of the bucket/bag. Deposit the human waste and immediately put another layer of compost material on top. Seal the bucket ready for next use.
  3. “Compost material”. Respondents provided four alternatives:

  •  Slightly damp mixture of wood shavings and sawdust (the dampness speeds up the composting process). 
  • Cedar shavings available in pet stores for lining bottom of (e.g.) Hamster cages.
  • Kitty Litter, no respondent used it, but many had heard of its use.
  • 50/50 mixture of peat  moss and wood shavings.

Two articles available in Duckworks describe in detail how to make and use a composting toilet. If you intend to use this method, read these: 
Rob Rohde-Szudy   
Roy Schrever 
Note that both authors state that there is NO SMELL with these composting toilets. Here’s why: When water is added to human waste, "anaerobic digestion"  occurs, which produces methane (the smell of open sewer) and carbon dioxide…. Composting toilets, on the other hand, use “aerobic decomposition”, which does NOT produce the ‘open sewer’ smells. See for detailed technical information.

Other alternatives for handling #1

Alternative solution(s) and experiences you’ve had? Please let us know in the Comments below.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

An Oar Cruiser for Still Waters?

Gavin Atkin’s Oarmouse plan is for an open row boat 14’ (4.3m) long and 33.4” (848mm) wide that will be very fast for its length due to the deep “V” hull… no immersed chines.

I built an 8:1 concept model from the plans to create a easily built, light weight, fast oar cruiser for inland waters.
An Oar Cruiser Based on Gavin Atkin's Oarmouse

The OarMouse Oar Cruiser is shorter, by 17” (432mm), than the Larsboat conversion.
Compared to the Larsboat Oar Cruiser

The profile view shows the blunt pram bow and low free-board.
Profile of the Oarmouse Oar Cruiser

This duck’s eye view shows the deep “V” bottom which helps to make her so fast (plus the narrow waterline width).
Duck's Eye View of the Bow

The interior shows the floor board (here simulated as plywood) and the ‘hoops’ to support a custom tent at night. The tent could be removed while rowing, or rolled from each end to provide sun protection for the rower.

What changes were made to convert the Oarmouse, as designed by Gavin, to an Oar Cruiser for Still Waters?

  • The center frame was cut down to enable the floor board to lie flat resting on the forward and aft frames
  • Curved deck beams were installed at the top of the forward and aft frames, even with the top of the gunnels.
  • The top of the two transoms were raised so that they had the same curve as the deck beams.
  • A foredeck was installed, running from the bow transom back 5’ 3” (1600mm).
  • Side decks, 6” (152mm) wide, were installed each side of the cockpit, which is 1’ 10” (559mm) wide and 3’ 9.5” (1156mm) long (inside of the 1/4” x 3” (6 x 76mm) coaming).
  • An after deck was run from the back end of the after coaming to the stern transom.
  • ¾” x ¾” (19 x 19mm) wood was fitted to the inside and outside top edge of the side pieces of the coaming to accommodate the new outriggers. These outriggers provide a 4’ (1220mm) oarlock span.
  • Two ‘hoops’ were laminated to provide headroom, 40” (1016mm) from the floorboard at the rower’s location.

What would I do differently?

  • Replace the plywood floorboard with strip wood  to provide air circulation.
  • Include an access ‘hatch’ in the floor boards to enable bailing and sponging out the bottom under the floor boards.
  • Extend the floor boards at least 6” (153mm) aft of the aft frame so that the sleeping position puts the sleeper’s head out from under the foredeck.
  • Reduce the ‘bluntness’ of the bow transom in order to better handle boat wakes, head seas, etc. Could do this by adding a separate bow piece, or extending the panels forward to make a much smaller bow transom. Other possibilities exist.
  • Provide for flotation: Foam blocks fore and aft, net bags filled with sealed plastic jugs, etc.

We’d really like to hear your thoughts and suggestions about this oar cruiser.

In next week’s post, we’ll share ways to handle body eliminations in a small boat (thanks to all who make suggestions).

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Want a Downwind Sail?

In an oar cruiser, there are times when a downwind sail could provide a rest from rowing or a safety 'valve' in an emergency.

In this post, we include plans, examples of homemade sails and commercial downwind sails.

WindPaddle's Downwind Sail on a Kayak

WindPaddle sells kayak sails that clip to available cleats, can be deployed in seconds, rotated to provide for varying wind directions, instantaneously eased to de-power in a gust, and folded in a couple of seconds to an approximately 19” diameter flat package. Three different diameters; 42”, 47” and 52”.


AirKayak's Downwind Sail

AirKayaks Corp. sell a kayak sail that could be used (downwind only) on oar cruisers. Five attachment points are needed on the fore-deck. The sail is stored in an 18” diameter bag. After clipped to the deck, it can be doused with a ‘dousing’ line. There is no ability to rotate the sail to control direction.


Balogh Sail Designs Downwind Sail

Balogh Sail Desings sells three different sizes of this sail, 20, 30 or 40 square feet. The sail can be doused instantaneously and can be used to sail “almost to a beam reach”.


Overview of Michael Storer's Plans for an Integrated Sail and Leeboard

Michael Storer sells plans for a drop-in sail unit with an integrated leeboard that could be used as a downwind sail for an oar cruiser.


“Blutack”, on Song of the Paddle posted this photo of a homebuilt downwind sail he made.

The Sail Described Below in Use

I believe this sail could be easily adapted to an oar cruiser. Based on what I read, the base must be curved in order to keep the two ‘masts’ spread. The bungees leading forward are what ‘launches’ the sail. The two ‘sheets’ leading aft control the sail, and also are used to bring the sail aft and flat when not used.

Instructions below for the sail came from a set of plans by Rebecca Heap that were posted on the New Zealand Kayak Building site, which is no longer active. I saved those plans and they are reproduced in full below.

The "Heaps of Fun" Kayak Sail

“The following was generously contributed by Rebecca Heap. She has offered the plans and concept as "Public Domain" so anybody can make one, but retains the copyright on any commercial production. Please respect this and manufacture for your personal use only.

"Paddling in the City of Sails has the major advantage that on virtually every trip there will be some wind. In 1995 I decided to make the most of that wind and designed the following sail. It has proven to be very popular and successful as it is safe as well as cheap and easy to make. Guaranteed to make your kayak go like a rocket downwind up to 40 degrees either side!

Plans for the Sail

"Shopping List

  • Ripstop Nylon - 1.5m x 150cm wide 
  • Thin nylon cord - approx 5m
  • Velcro - 20cm or 25mm wide 
  • Bungee 6 or 8 mm - approx 0.6m
  • Bungee 5mm - approx 2.5m
  • 15mm Class E PVC pipe x 2 
  • Tee peices for 15mm pipe x 2 
  • Bamboo Canes 1.2m long x 2 
  • End caps to fit over pipe x 2 
  • Tiny Stainless shackles x 2
  • Brass dog clips 2 x 12mm, 
  • 1 x 20mm Saddles and bolts (see note below)

"Making the Sail

"There are two techniques - either sewing as given below or use seamstick which is a 3M product used by sail makers. It is like double sided sticky tape and you won't need to do any sewing at all.

1. Draw the sail pattern into the ripstop nylon using the dimensions shown and cut it out. Using the off cuts make up two strips 12cm wide and about 1.7m long for the mast pockets. 
2. Fold over a 1cm hem on top and bottom of sail, pin and sew. 
3. Hem the ends of the mast pockets then fold mast pockets in half lengthwise and pin down each side of sail. Sew allowing a 1cm seam. Reinforce the tops of the pockets if desired to reduce wear. Sew across tops. 
4. Half way down mast pockets, cut a hole 8cm long and 4cm wide to allow guy lines to be tied to the mast. 
5. To make velcro sail tie, overlap 2cm of the fuzzy side with 2cm of the hooky side to make a long strip. Place a 20cm length of cord across the join between the two pieces and sew together. The cord is used to hold the tie to a convenient saddle.

"Making the Masts

1. Cut a 5mm ring off the end of each mast and cut across to make a split ring. Glue these with pipe cement or Uhu to the masts about 2cm up from where the bottom of the hole in the mast pocket is positioned. They will stop the guy lines sliding down. 
2. Find some bamboo canes about 1.2m long that are a tight fit inside the pipe (the split rings are a good thing to take to the garden center to use to test the diameter!). These reduce the amount of flex in the pipe - dowel or other ridged material will also work. 
3. Glue or tape end caps on. 
4. Insert masts into pockets on sail.

"Fixing the Footing

1. Fibreglass and Kevlar boats will require the addition of two saddles 25cm apart just forward of the front hatch. Puffins have these saddles already, and plastics like the Penquin and Squall can have the footing tied around the mouldings where the deck lines go. 
2. Make the foot as shown in the diagram. It is essential that the hose betweeen the tee pieces forms a tight fit so that the foot is not sloppy. Wrap with high density foam to avoid scratching the deck. You may need to build up the foam if you have a flat decked boat like a Spectrum or one with a steep pitch like the Squall so that the sail opens nicely - try first and see. 
3. Using the 6 or 8mm bungee loop it either round a saddle or deck moulding (or shackles) then through the hose and tie off round the other saddle or deck mounting. You will need to pull it up very tight. The footing is usually left permanently on the deck and the masts inserted when needed.

"Rigging the Sail

1. Place the masts into the footings and get a friend to hold the sail perpendicular to the deck. Tie a length of bungee onto one side above the split ring, add the 20mm brass dog clip and clip it on to the carry handle. Tie the other end of the bungee to the mast on the other side. The bungee should be firm but not stretched. 
2. Do similar with the nylon cord looping it twice through each of the 12mm brass dog clips as this acts like a locking knot so the angle of the sail can be adjusted.

"Stowing the Sail

"Pull the nylon guy lines towards you to lower the sail and secure using the Velcro tie which should be attached to a saddle near the cockpit. To release the sail, undo the Velcro and the bungee will automatically pull the sail up into position. Adjust the lines to catch maximum wind.

"Important Note

"Although this is a very safe sail in that the bungee footing gives way in a strong side gust before you get tossed out, I recommend carrying a good paddlers knife just in case you need to cut the guy lines for any reason. However, the good news is that there are about 60 of these sails in use in Auckland and there have never been any near misses or nasty accidents.

Happy Sailing!

Rebecca Heap March 2002”


Marc Dufour on the and I had an email conversation about a downwind sail he make for his canoe.  Following is a description of the sail and its set-up:

The sail is 5’ (1.5m) by 8’ (2.4m). The mast is approximately 8’ long, depending upon how much bury there is from the mast partner (he ties the mast to a thwart) to the base. The yard is 10’ (3m).

At the top of the mast is a short rope double loop. The halyard is tied to the middle of the yard, runs through the loops and down to be tied off. Marc ties it off to the thwart with a quick release knot (such as one round turn on the thwart and then a slipped half-hitch so that he can douse the sail quickly if required. As Marc noted, “That only happened once and it worked perfectly! Sail dropped, swim averted”).

He ties the forestay to the bow (Marc uses the bow lift-loop in his canoe). He ties two backstays to a thwart using ‘trucker’s hitches to tighten them.

The two sheets, one to each bottom corner of the sail, lead back to the slots between the inwale and the gunnel with the two sheets tied together. He says the friction of going through the slot is sufficient to hold the sail at the angle he wants. Only when on a reach does he have to actually tie the windward sheet.

In his canoe, he ties one paddle vertically to the side of the canoe at the thwart with a line running from the paddle (at waterline level), under the canoe and up to the thwart on the opposite side. A short line holds the top of the paddle to the same thwart on the other side. He steers using the second paddle.


Rick Thompson's Downwind Sail

Control for the Sail

Rick Thompson made this downwind sail for his custom Walkabout. He told me that he used the sail only once, when these photos were taken.

Rowing downwind, he said I can go almost as fast as sailing and I just don’t use the sail anymore.

Let us know your experience using downwind sails.

Friday, June 3, 2016

CATCH: An English Rowing Venue

Helena Smalman, in her blog Expedition Rowing posted an informative and delightful description of a rowing expedition: If Disney did rivers: Skiffing the Severn and Avon... (about 75 miles NW of London)... includes photos, points of interest and recommendations.