In praise of “poverty sticks”

Wee Lass has always carried a pair of oars when she’s on the water.  Not only do they look cool, but on occasion they can be downright useful.  Such a deal!

Rowing has been much maligned by some; one of my reference books even refers to oars as “poverty sticks”, the idea being that if you had any money, you’d buy an outboard motor.  But from the outset, Wee Lass has had a nice pair of oars.  My previous sailboat was hard-chined and beamy, and was so stable that you could almost dance in the boat without rocking it.  While building Wee Lass,  I saw that it had a slightly more slender hull, and was round bottomed rather than hard-chined.  I was concerned that the boat might be much more tippy than my previous boat.  Since I was still very much a neophyte sailor, I decided it would be best to practice rowing with the boat first so I could get used to how the hull handled before hanging canvas.  The local boat store sold a pair of oars which I thought looked hideous.  However, the oars made up for their ugly looks by being expensive.  “I can do better.  If I can build a boat, I certainly ought to be able to build a pair of oars.”  I found a dimensioned drawing for Pete Culler’s oar design, and after several weekends of work, had a nice set of oars that put the ones in the local boat store to shame.

A new pair of oars ready for varnish, then leathers.
2004 06 12 launch day

To my great surprise and relief, Wee Lass was much less tippy than I expected.  Now I could make the sail rig and really have fun with the boat.

When sailing the previous boat, I had mounted a trolling motor on the transom.  The process was to get everything rigged, then motor away from the dock, then raise canvas.  Coming in to dock was just the reverse.  The thinking was that in leaving or coming into dock, I had better control with the boat powered by the trolling motor as opposed to being powered by sail (what it really meant was that I wasn’t a very good sailor).  But some more experience sailing Wee Lass, and soon I was able to leave and sail up to the dock under canvas.

I thought the trolling motor would remain a good source of auxiliary power until I did a simple experiment.  On flat water at one of the local bayous, my GPS told me that without too much effort, I could row just as fast as the trolling motor would push me.  After that experiment, the trolling motor’s days were numbered.

Although Wee Lass is primarily a sailing boat, I still row on occasion.  I believe that a person should row every now and again, if for no other reason than it helps you appreciate sailing all the more.  On days when there is absolutely no wind, I can still take the boat out.   As long as I don’t venture out too far – I’m relying on potato power to get me home.  On more than one occasion, I’ve been out sailing and going at a nice easy pace when the wind died down.  Usually that’s not a concern.  Just wait a few minutes and the breeze will generally pick up again.  But in a few instances, the wind never would pick up and so I’d row back to dock.  Problem solved.

So how does this relate to Tammie Norrie?  On Tammie Norrie, I plan to use the same sail rig as Wee Lass.  I have a fantastic sail made by a good friend, and both the yard and the boom are in good shape.  The mast is a different story – it’s a survivor from Hurricane Ike, and shows it’s battle scars if you look close enough.  I was planning on making a new mast if Tammie Norrie ever gets close to launch day.

Over this past Memorial Day weekend, I took Wee Lass out for a sail, and the wind was blowing pretty well.  Not strong enough to where I felt I needed to reef the sail, but my GPS showed the boat making 5 knots on occasion.  On one of the outings I heard an unmistakable “crack” and a quick look confirmed that it was the mast.  I suppose the good news was that the mast had cracked and didn’t snap – that would have been much more exciting.  To take the strain off the mast, I loosed the downhaul and the sheet.  Now that I’d minimized the chances of the mast snapping in two, it was a simple matter to break out the oars and row back to the dock.

It looks like I’ll be building a new mast earlier than I anticipated.

2012 09 29 Not a good day to sail.


2 thoughts on “In praise of “poverty sticks””

  1. Poverty Sticks ?…. lolol,,,, OK, I have a couple of those, and not afraid to use them…. and actually I thought Lewis was the only one that could “sail” into the slip !…. anyway, SHE is looking SUPER good Al,,,, and I will boil you some crawfish if you will bring her up here to Striker for a sail !…. Bill


  2. So sad about the mast, but at least you planned to build a new one anyway. You don’t have to build for Wee Lass and then not be able to use it on Tammie.


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