Yes it does take a bit of practice but this is
skill well worth acquiring.
is a handy way to
propel a dinghy through a crowded anchorage, not only can you face
see where they're going but steering is easy.
It is also an efficient way to move a sailboat when the wind has
dropped or any
boat if the engine is playing up.
I first became intrigued with this method of propulsion when I saw
heavy, traditional, French fishing boat being sculled out of the
Les Îles des Glénan.
When you are sculling you are exerting the propulsive power slowly and
continuously making it easier to move large loads relatively easily.
The Oar or Paddle.
If this is something you are
thinking of doing with a light dinghy over short distances then a
can be used quite adequately, preferably one which is at least two
length of your boat.
However, there are several
designs of paddle shaped
especially for this technique which are easier and less tiring to use.
Perhaps the best
known is the
Specialist sculling oars
usually have longer shafts and
longer blades than a rowing oar.
And more important they are
angled so that virtually no
wrist rotation is required.
The yuloh is usually made from
two or three straight
pieces set at an angle so the blade curves down into the water at an
about twenty five degrees.
The long blade should be
shaped so that it is flat on the
bottom and curved on top.
When used with the flat side
down the oar reverses pitch
easily at the end of each stroke.
The Chinese also
attach a rope
from the handle end down to the deck.
While this helps keep the oar
from digging too deep, it
is mainly used to help twist the oar and assist the sideways pull.
A deep oarlock will make
sculling much easier for the
novice as it will help overcome the beginner’s tendency to allow the
to jump up out of the rowlock, some even use a captive rowlock or a
If you watch an expert, sculling looks
However there is a knack to it
which requires patience
and practice to get it right.
There are two basic methods;
where you start off with
the oar blade vertical in the
and where you start with
Both methods use the same
The oar blade is swept back
and forth across the stern
with the leading edge always angled downwards.
For the beginner
using a standard oar the first method is the easiest to master (which
is why I
do it this way).
This vertical or slalom stroke
also makes it easier to
steer the boat and there is less tendency for the oar to jump out of
With this method the lower
edge of the oar blade always
So start with the blade
vertical then use your wrists to
turn the oar blade then push it so that bottom edge is leading.
At the end of the stroke
reverse the twist so that the
bottom edge is facing the opposite way then begin the reverse
To begin with just use a small
amount of twist until you
become more adept at reversing the pitch at the end of the stroke.
As you get more confident
begin to give the blade more
twist so you get more forward momentum and less zigzag.
With practice, you'll find
that you can steer by varying
the pitch on alternate strokes.
method with the
blade starting in the horizontal position is the one most commonly used
This is a much more powerful
The stroke begins with the
flat side of the blade facing
It is then twisted and the
lower of the edges is always
the leading edge as you push from side to side.
With either method, the pitch
of the blade must be
changed as the direction of thrust is altered otherwise the oar will
of the water.
With the Chinese yuloh, one
hand holds the oar end at
head eight while the other hand uses the lanyard to move it from side
The yuloh’s lanyard also puts
the required twist on
the oar so little or no wrist action is required to put the pitch on
Sculling is not as fast as
rowing, however it is a skill
It is a handy way to thread
your way through a crowded
harbor or narrow creek.
And it is an easier way to
move a heavy boat in an
All it takes is a little bit
a Sculling Paddle
This is how I recently built a quick, easy and rough sculling paddle.
The bend in the shaft at roughly 1/3 of the distance from the
handle end and at roughly about 20 degrees from the blade.
The bend was created while laminating the outer strips to the
central shaped piece.
Below is how the paddle is used.
It can also be used very
easily one handed by just holding the handle.
It is an easier way to
move a heavy boat in an
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