I taught myself how to scull as a kid, while on a cruise to Canada on the schooner Truant. I became intrigued watching the fishermen propel themselves around with one oar just as fast as I could row with two! On a stopover in Head Harbor NB I took the 12-foot dory to a quiet spot in the cove and started to figure out the back and forth, figure 8 motion. After a while I had myself going from point A to point B at a reasonable pace. Quite proud of my achievement, I decided to show off my new skill by making a pass in review, under Truantís stern. As the crew gathered to watch me go by, I tried to put on a good burst of speed. I guess on one stroke, I feathered the oar too much as I gave a mighty pullÖ
Talk about bursting your bubble!
There are two styles of sculling that Iíve seen. One way is to feather the oar and tip it up then de-feather and pull forward, more or less wedging the boat forward. This is the style that Iíve seen used by most fishermen working their skiffs out to their boats. The other, as mentioned above is an athwartship figure 8 motion where the blade is angled to propel on both strokes. This seems to be the most efficient and easiest style to learn. Itís best done with a long sweep, standing up.
Although I consider myself to be an excellent oarsman, Iíd still prefer two oars instead of one. As for using a sculling oar as an emergency tiller, yes, I think it would work great. Iíd be willing to bet that with practice, you could skull a 19-footer into a slip. I doubt though that you would be happy trying to scull yourself any distance. For that you may need two oars and some sort of oarlock system that may attach to your winches. I would recommend finding a pair of 9 foot ash dory oars for your purpose. I keep a pair of 9 Ĺ footers aboard my Jesse Boyce for just that purpose, although trying to pull against her 8 tons is no easy task!