Row, row, row your boat...

Discussion in 'General Writing Discussion' started by The Judge, Aug 16, 2011.

  1.  
    The Judge

    The Judge Truth. Order. Moderation. Staff Member

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    I need to pick brains, please.

    Does anyone know anything about rowing boats? Specifically, what would be a normal speed for rowing one? I've googled all kinds of combinations of words but most sites only deal with racing skiffs and sculls and the like, that's if they're not simply talking exercise machines! I found one helpful place which set out hull speeds, when a boat starts to climb its own bow-wave (which I assume is not a Good Thing), but I've no idea how far above optimum/normal those speeds are.

    What I'm looking at it a kind of passenger row-boat, probably not as long as an Elizabethan wherry, and not as narrow as a Venetian gondola. Probably rowed English-fashion (ie sitting and facing backwards) if that makes a difference. One very experienced, strong-armed man rowing, two passengers, calm conditions, ignoring the tide (haven't made up my mind what state the tide is in, yet, nor how strong it would be), rowing about three/three and a half miles. The rower's in no particular hurry, but not idling either -- the rowing equivalent of a walk with intent, rather than a stroll or a route march. How long would it take?

    If anyone can help, I'd be grateful. Otherwise it's re-reading The Riddle of the Sands yet again. (Or getting the other half into a boat...)
  2.  
    Lenny

    Lenny Edit Ninja In Training

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    I think a lot depends on the rower and the design of the boat, even if you've got the one strong-armed rower and two idle passengers.

    From my quick Googles, I've already learnt that short, fat boats (I'm assuming something like a dory), say twelve feet long and four feet wide, offer a lot more stability, but are harder and slower to row, than a similar 16 foot by 4 foot boat. On top of that, flat-bottomed boats won't go as fast as the pointy ones (yeah, my boat knowledge ends there! :p).

    I have found one interesting link that might be of use to you:

    http://greenspun.com/bboard/q-and-a-fetch-msg.tcl?msg_id=00AEMv

    Open up the page and you'll find a fellow asking about the maximum speed of a rowboat similar to that used by Paul Revere :) http://www.paulreverehouse.org/ride/boat.html). One of the answers is that it looks like a typical dory (14-16 feet long), with a speed of around three to four knots.

    I'll see what my rowing friends think (they're all competitive rowers, and I know you don't want racing skiffs and sculls, but they're also engineers and physicists, so I imagine they can do some magic with fluid dynamics and make an educated guess). A few of them have been out in Browns Boats on the R. Wear, so they might be able to give a good idea based on that, too. I'm not sure how long the company has been around, so here's a picture of what the boats look like:

    [​IMG]
  3.  
    The Judge

    The Judge Truth. Order. Moderation. Staff Member

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    Oooh, that piccy brings back memories... (Except for the boats. Don't remember them at all.) It's no good, I'm going to have to go back and have a memory-wallow sometime soon.

    Anyway, thanks, Lenny! Excellent link -- your googling skills are manifestly better than mine. I did find one other site this afternoon which mentioned a "cruising" speed of 4-5 knots for a particular supposedly wherry-type boat, but it had a payload of only one rower and a child (or a dog) and only achieved that speed with the use of a sliding seat.

    It looks like my three miles would take the best part of an hour, so the jaunt I had planned for heroine is off, dammit. :(
  4.  
    Lenny

    Lenny Edit Ninja In Training

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    Thought you might like the pic! :) The boats can be hired for an hour and belong to a company that also has a cruise boat that takes you up and down the river (and hosts late-night disco barbecues).

    As for your story, if you had your heroin sitting where the cox does in a quad, or even an eight... :rolleyes:

    One of my rower friends got back to me with a similar, estimated speed as the question I linked to, I'm afraid.

    Is there anything that can be changed? Obviously, having a longer, more pointy boat would speed up the trip (I couldn't for the life of me tell you by how much, though). I've just been reading through Wikipedia and there's mention of steamboats on the Thames (the Nuneham, for example, which is from the late 1800s).
  5.  
    The Judge

    The Judge Truth. Order. Moderation. Staff Member

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    Disco barbecue cruise boats?! Good grief. There were none of that there when I were a lass. We had to make our own entertainment. A piece of paper over a comb and a twiglet in the JCR, that was our limit...


    No steamboats for me, I'm afraid. I'm playing a bit fast and loose with what was really invented in 1485, but I think anticipating steampower by 300 years is a bit much!

    However, if I can only think of a reason for her to go there I do have an island only a short hop and a skip away, which couldn't take more than 20 mins max at these kinds of speeds, which would be about right.

    Thanks again for your help. Much appreciated!
  6.  
    pyan

    pyan Fortiter et recte! Staff Member

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    Based on my experiences on the Norfolk Broads, a 12/14 ft rowing dinghy travels at about 2-3 knots, if you were actually needing to get somewhere and not idly sculling along. And it really should be sculling if one person is using two oars - strictly speaking, rowing is when you have two, four or more people, each using one oar each with both hands.

    Sailing speed is easier - there's a formula, and (conveniently) a page of useful calculators online:

    http://www.sailingusa.info/cal__hull_speed.htm

    Nauticalia? Bring it on!...:)
  7.  
    The Judge

    The Judge Truth. Order. Moderation. Staff Member

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    Thanks for that!

    Watch this space, then! I am a landlubber with a story in a maritime city and try as I might to avoid them, at some point I'm going to have to get to grips with caravels and carracks, not to mention tacking, beating, sextants and astrolabes... *briefly considers setting the damn book in the middle of the continent*
    Last edited: Aug 16, 2011
  8.  
    paranoid marvin

    paranoid marvin Run VT Erroll!

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    It's really going to depend on the speed of the river and whether you're travelling against the current or not. If you're on a lake that's going to be different as well. Then you've got eddies and whirls to contend with. And of course whether it has a sail or not.
  9.  
    pyan

    pyan Fortiter et recte! Staff Member

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    And the rest of the minefield: frapping, spirketting, robands and kentledge? Not to mention the the difference between a snow, a pink, a jackass-barque and a hermaphrodite-brig...:D
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    The Judge

    The Judge Truth. Order. Moderation. Staff Member

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    Thanks, Marvin. It's actually a bay, so the tide will be a factor -- but I figured if it helps one way, it'll hinder the other so it would even out in the end. I'm trying to avoid sails, though -- at least till I get to the caravels.


    You don't faze me with those -- I've read Patrick O'Brian, too! :p All of them, and at least twice. Couldn't define any of the boats, though. I'm at Maturin's level of sea-knowledge!
  11.  
    pyan

    pyan Fortiter et recte! Staff Member

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    Patrick O'Brien/Jack Aubrey? Not bad, but for the best, try CS Forester's doyen of the genre, Horatio Hornblower, R.N....
  12.  
    Peter Graham

    Peter Graham New Member

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    Hullo Yer Honner

    As others have mentioned, it depends on the speed of the tide, the wind conditions and the shape of the boat.

    I'd reckon that with the tide, an experienced rower in a nice little boat could do your 3.5 miles in under two hours. Against the tide would take much longer - especially if there is a contrary wind. In fact, trying to head into the wind against a big, spring tide would almost certainly see our chap going backwards.

    Water water everywhere, and all the boards did shrink.

    Regards,

    Peter
  13.  
    The Judge

    The Judge Truth. Order. Moderation. Staff Member

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    Eek! Two hours?! I thought one hour was bad enough! At this rate I shall make them all walk and they can lump it.

    Thanks, Peter -- and good to see you posting again!
  14.  
    paranoid marvin

    paranoid marvin Run VT Erroll!

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    I'm not an expert , but I would have thought that most boats that usually sailed in a bay would have a sail of some sort? Boats which transported people from a large ship to the shore may be oars only though.
  15.  
    Sapheron

    Sapheron Making no sense.

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    My personal experience of rowing, little that it is, suggests that it should not be tried. Perhaps even by fictional characters.

    I can't really help other than that though.
  16.  
    Peter Graham

    Peter Graham New Member

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    Fear not - that estimate was based on someone not running at full tilt and on the tides not being too severe. If your rower was with the tide and the tide was a biggy - perhaps with a following wind - he could do it much quicker.

    If it needs to be an hour for the book - well, I'm sure the weather gods can twiddle their wands. Of coure, if our chap is rowing to an outgoing boat, they'd want to be leaving with the tide anyway.

    Regards,

    Peter

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