Much faster & longer range solo canoeing

Much straighter than solo paddle or std. row

Watch where you’re going & avoid collisions

Row straight there or explore ahead

Oars automatically feather on return stroke

16’ Canoe speeds can reach 8 mph burst


 - Legs-only rowing  allows taking video : waving;  holding charts, binoculars; jig fishing  etc.

 - Arms pull against legs pushing  for whole body exercise. Dead weight of oars  and legs supported    

 - Simpler and more compact than the FrontRower:

           -1 pair of major springs easy to make vs 2 pairs with difficult ends

            -1 pair of pulleys vs 3 on the Front Rower

          -ball bearings for twist also roll to sweep the oar 

          -Simplified lighter aluminum frame with wood seat snaps in and out of canoe

          -Simple one piece foot  pedals. Light adjustable seat belt supports back

          -Generally far fewer moving parts and lighter at 15 lbs total

         -Simpler lighter handles allow most comfortable pulling position


   Prototype Composite Oar

                                                                                          CLICK  for photo of end view of pedestal 

      DESCRIPTION and MOTION                 

     The oar ends in a bearing in an alumimun block with a SS pivot pin through the bottom, cutout in the middle where it is TIG welded in situ to the head of a long SS bolt with its opposite threaded end milled to have side flats. The bolt and so the bearing can rotate through a bronze machine screw sandwiching the pedestal plate as well as slide up and down. A helical spring with one straight tail clamped in the washer nut on the bronze machine screw,  and the other tail  formed to grip the flats of the bolt,  spring loads the bolt and oar end down,  and the oar forward.  A setscrewed nut and washer set the vertical travel and a nut below compresses the spring to set the lifting force.

     About 3 inches outboard,  a pillow bearing insert  rotates around the oarshaft and its radiused outside rolls on a steel track. It and the springloaded inner bearing support the weight of the oar whilst allowing it to sweep depressed or lifted, and to feather on its own axis. Feather stops on top of the inner bearing block limit the extended setscrew of the inner bearing. Between the bearing block and the outer bearing setscrew and around the oar is a light secondary spring (with bent ends) which biases the oar towards feathered. The feathered limit is say 5° to horizontal to ensure the lifted blade skips in any water contact and lifts in the apparent wind. The tripped limit is the blade angled to vertical aft to drive it down in the water, so the net blade turn is about 70°.

      The ideal rocking point is at the same height as the track surface so there is no in and out movement of the rolling wheel on the track just a change in contact between its convex radius and the track’s greater concave radius. To achieve this height match to the SS pivot pin and prevent wear a very short 6”XH steel pipe cutting is machined to the angle and radius and then split for the two sides and tapped to receive machine screws through the pedestal plate.  The foot pedals hinges are tapped into the aft underside back of the pedestal plate

     At 20.5” outboard the rope wraps around the oar shaft, so the jerk from the seat pulley unfeathers as well as lowers the oars to catch. This jerk is natural at the end of the oar return as the slack comes out of the ropes. Once caught the blade inclination to vertical drives the blade down into the water to a few inches immersion as set by the limit on the mainspring compression. When the rope pull from the arms and legs stops at the end of the sweep, the oar springs out of the water to drain and then slowly feathers to clear the water on its return and reduce the wind resistance. The oar’s emergence is aided by tilting the pedestal forward about 5 deg relative to the waterline.

       The oar blades are curved shaftwise and angled so that they skip on any incidental water contact on the return and lift in the headwind. Their edges should be parallel to the water on entry and immersion to minimise the travel required. For light rowing or at the finish of the stroke the top of the blades needn’t be immersed and there is no loss by flow over the top, but for the beginning of strong strokes the tops have to be immersed a few inches to prevent ventilation destroying any suction behind the blades. The hatchet shape is close to ideal and suggests composite shafts for the tapering, changes of section, and for a very low tip weight to lift. In any case it is practically very important that the blade ends do not leak any water into the oar shafts.



Main springs: port left handed, starboard right handed approx pitch  of .142” music wire wound on ¾” pipe mandrel  4 turns at about ½” pitch finished OD about 1.7”  Twist spring  wire

Feathering springs: port left handed, starboard right handed 6 turns .075” music wire OD about 1”

rolling” Bearings: RHP 1017-5/8G radiused Insert only for 5/8” pillow block $8x2

                                 end insert bearing RHP 1117-5/8 $10x2

Oar Length 7.5’ Blades Average Depth 7.5” , Length 18 “,



    A canoe hull is suitable for open water fast rowing because unlike a shell it can have static stability with a rowing rig and has sufficient freeboard for rowing  against any waves that may spring up. Its fineness and stability put it in between a shell and a Whitehall dinghy. Since sliding seats are used in some Whitehalls and all shells, they are appropriate for the intermediate canoe.

     One drop-in sliding seat rig attaches to a canoe’s gunnels but weighs 50 lbs, as much as the canoe. The shorter waterline and recurved ends of the canoe vs. the shell will exacerbate the oscillation of  pitch and surge as the rower slides,  which loses energy to radiative wave damping as well as increasing the average of the quartic drag near the ‘hump’.  The rower’s feet push the boat back as he ends his recoil and begins a new forward slide, slowing the boat even more at its slowest point. Likewise at the end of the stroke his deceleration exacerbates the peaking of the hull speed against the wave drag hump.

     I conceived of a sliding feet alternative where the seat and the rowers cg is fixed and his feet and the oarlocks slide instead. A web search found with this idea in a production shell. That site gives the history of the sliding wing rig back to the 19th century, and its banning by FISA when it indeed proved more efficient in racing in the 1980’s.The site animation shows the sliding feet driving the oarlocks back as the arms swing the oars about them. Thus in a final advantage Virus do not themselves recognise,  the blade’s velocity relative to the boat is increased, so the oars can be shortened. For example with 8’ oars 6’ beyond the oarlock swung through 60 deg the stroke relative to the boat of normally  6’ is  increased to 7.5’ with a scull’s 18”  slide.

     A review of  the classic rowing motion shows  that the main muscle duties are legs push open by 1.5’ and lock, arms lock and flex by 1.5’, and finally the back hold for these 3’ strokes and rotate for  another 2.5’. The strain on the back is out of all proportion to its normal use  in the body and explains why back injury is the overwhelmingly predominant injury amongst rowers. Muscle mass and comparative studies between leg and hand cranking on bicycles show the legs are capable of  about twice the muscle power of the arms.

      By raising  the seat and lowering the feet and having the stretcher pivot, the (foot) slide can be easily raised to 24”. Then the hand grips of the oars needn’t move fore and aft (see the return stroke of the Virus animation) and can be tied to the bow, as well as elastically counterbalanced to the floor of the canoe. This saves arm and back static muscle energy consumption on long distances; the arms only have to twist and lower the oars during the leg stroke which reacts against the weight on the seat as in cycling. (The Ro-Cat exploits the lack of  movement of the oar end in its slider geometry but still has the hand and back muscles statically restraining the end, consuming muscle power but doing no useful work.)

         At the end of the leg stroke, the arms  and back can still be used to unload the wire  for extra sweep and especially to steer. (The angle of such one-sided arm strokes doesn’t reduce its yaw torque about amidships).  Then the foot movement is 2’  multiplied by 4:1 to give 8’ of blade movement whereas the arm  movement is 1.5’ max applied 3:1 for a blade movement of 4.5’,  roughly ½ as required. In sprints, like on a bike, arm pull also serves to brace the body against the extra leg force  beyond what the seat can  restrain.

        But with this evolution of the foot rowing concept to include cables restraining and counterbalancing the oars at the inboard end, it is just a reversal of the inboard end pivots and cables pulling  the ‘rowlock’ in .  Ron Rantilla has so outraced sliding seats with the same hull. His has the obvious advantages of seeing where one is going,  and only pivoting not linear motions. The lack of overhanging riggers and the oars moving independently movable very high makes docking much easier. Not least it alone can be rowed hands-free or with  armpower throughout the stroke.  So it was decided to customise, lighten and if possible simplify this system for the Canuda Ply.

        The frame was triangulated by a strut from the pedestal to the seat between the legs, and by side stays from the pedestal to snap over the gunnels of the canoe with a compression strut to the keel.The feathering motion was made external and to use  a bearing in common with the sweeping motion. The oar lift and return springs were combined by using easy to wind helical springs with straight ends clamped in the pedestal and in bottom spring blocks, eliminating the return lines, pulleys and springs. A simple seat belt from the pedestal looped around the back provides comfortable adjustable back support.Another pair of pulleys was eliminated from the leg drive, and a pair of moving parts and pivots from the leg levers.