Ben Meakins learns some top tricks with a boat oar from champion sculler Glyn Foulkes


Single oar sculling is the art of propelling a boat with an oar over the stern. It’s a useful way of moving a loaded dinghy that’s too laden for you to use both oars.

Another usage is when coming alongside in an inflatable dinghy. This works especially well with flat-bottomed, traditional Avon-style dinghies, which you can simply scull sideways using the normal rowlocks.

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In a sailing dinghy it means you can make headway even if the boom is too low or furled sails prevent rowing. It’s handy for making headway up a channel that’s too narrow for a pair of oars, between moored boats, or in busy harbours where standing up and looking over your shoulder allows you to see where you’re going. It’s a useful ‘get you home’ skill in case you break an oar. Try sculling and you’ll soon find that once mastered, it’s a traditional skill that is immensely satisfying.

Many people scull sitting down, either because their boat is not stable enough to stand, or because they’re more comfortable sitting. Some people find it easier to scull one-handed, and If you’re struggling to scull with both while sitting down, learn the movement with one and add the second hand once you’ve got the hang of it.

To alter course while underway, simply work the blade to one side, with a shorter lateral movement, until the bow is pointing the right way. To make bigger course alterations, you just need to ‘row’ the stern around until the bow is pointing the right way.


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This feature appeared in Practical Boat Owner magazine. For more articles like this, including DIY, money-saving advice, great boat projects, expert tips and ways to improve your boat’s performance, take out a subscription to Britain’s best-selling boating magazine.

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