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CirclethatA 03-26-2009 01:48 PM

Sculling sailboats?
So, I've got a question, and an anecdote.

I've heard stories of sailboats, even over 35 feet, being sculled into ports, without motor. Most of these stories come from either Bermuda or China, consequently (and seem dated). In fact, in China there is a saying "a scull equals 3 oars", though this is beside the point...

Has anyone ever seen this done? I'm sure it's not easy, but it seems invaluable, especially if you're minus the iron jib. So basically my question is whether this is a practical thing to do for a moderate/heavy displacement 27 foot boat, full keel with cutaway for-foot, attached rudder, or any boat for that matter.

That and I basically want to see what everyone thinks of this idea, because if you can still maneuver the boat it seems pretty ideal.


sailingdog 03-26-2009 01:56 PM

Yes, it can be done. But you need a fairly long oar to do it with and a set of thole pins or some other notch for the oar on the transom of the boat.

capttb 03-26-2009 02:27 PM

A dockmate does it quite often, first time I offered him my dinghy engine and found out he does it for recreation, as Dog said he uses a very long oar and a couple thole pins. I'm not sure what his boat was when first built but it is now a 27' junk rigged ketch with a very large unstayed wooden mainmast. I swear that my description of this boat is accurate.

CharlieCobra 03-26-2009 02:34 PM

I've sculled both of my boats with the rudder at various times. It is very slow but it works.

redstripesailor 03-26-2009 02:40 PM

There's a group of guys out in Bellingham WA call the Oar Club. They sail boats of all types (from a J30 to a Atkin double ender) sans engine and use sweeps and sculling oars for propulsion when there is no wind. The guy who started the group, Jerome Fitzgerald, wrote a great book called "The Purpose of Sailing" in which he details just how efficiently one can handle a boat with no engine. If you're interested in this stuff it's definitely a worthy read. Personally, I'm currently looking into a sculling or for my engineless Triton.

MorganPaul 03-26-2009 03:21 PM

Here is a article on sculling.
Check it out :

Sculling One

CrazyRu 03-26-2009 05:27 PM


Originally Posted by redstripesailor (Post 466945)
There's a group of guys out in Bellingham WA call the Oar Club. .

Their website
Home Page

tdw 03-26-2009 06:23 PM

Sculling is a pretty cool thing to do. If the idea appeals the obvious thing to do is rig up a pair of thole pins (to be honest a rowlock will suffice) on the stern of your dinghy and have at it.

Does depend somewhat on your dinghy of course. Inflatables are not the best nor are today's typically lightweight and tippy fibreglass things but something with good directional stability is worth a shot.

Succeed and admiring glances will be your reward. Fail...well lets just say that standing in a dinghy in the middle of a mooring field going round in circles does not increase your overall standing in the community. :) Trust me, I know. :eek:.

btw....skulling a sub 30' engineless craft is a whole heap different to trying to punt something with a bloody great lump of cast iron under the cockpit, !!!!

hphoen 03-26-2009 07:08 PM

When I was a teenager, our family spent summer vacations in an old farm house on Gwynn's Island, VA, on the Chesapeake Bay. We were adopted by a local waterman by the name of Fossie Smith. He taught me a lot about life on the Bay. One of the things he did was to take the time to teach me how to scull an 18' crab skiff. It's an absolutely Zen way to propel a small boat. You have to do it to understand that.

fullkeel7 03-26-2009 07:47 PM

I read an article some years ago that Lin and Larry Pardey had a sculling oar made for Taleisin. They had it custom made and brought it back in the hold of an airliner. As I remember, it was waaay long and had a long thin 'paddle' section for flexability. Taleisin is not a lite it must work.

I'm not THAT much of a traditionalist and I'm lazy, so I'll be firing up the iron genny thank you very much.:)

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