ROBOTE, LIGHT ROWBOAT, 14' X 45",
60 POUNDS EMPTY
Robote was designed for Frank Kahr of
Rhode Island strictly as a rowing boat, very light and
simple and fast and seaworthy. Frank had started a few
years back with my WeeVee design shown here:
What surprised both Frank and me was
that both of our WeeVee's would row at 4 mph, blinding
speed for a 7-1/2' boat! WeeVee has a deep V center, 42"
wide and 9" deep with a lot of rocker and no twisting
to the bottom panels. It's actually pretty seaworthy too
but is tippy if you are not seated. It's not for everyone.
I followed WeeVee with the less extreme
12' Vireo shown here:
has a 6" V on a 42" beam so is more stable.
And it has a pointy bow. The bottom planks in Vireo twist
in the bow to make a wave cutting deeper V. Frank built
the boat shown and rowed some long stretches with it.
But he thought I was on the wrong track. WeeVee's deeper
V and untwisted panels were the way to go, he said. How
about a 14' boat with the same cross section and untwisted
panels but with a long pointy bow? Here are the lines
we agreed on:
Frank built the boat, which he called
Robote, from three sheets of Okoume plywood with taped
seams. It went together easily as longer boats with gentle
curves often do. He said it weighs about 60 pounds, light
enough that he can carry it on one shoulder for a short
way. Here is Frank first time out with Robote:
Frank entered himself and Robote in
the Blackburn Challenge, where one has to row about 20
miles around Cape Anne in Massachusetts, most of it on
the open ocean. But it wasn't meant to be and he wrote:
"Wind was SE 15+, rising, with
2-3' chop off the ocean. I rowed about 10 miles, then
ran for cover in Pigeon Cove. The alternative was several
more miles of windward slog followed by more miles of
crosswind. It would have been too much for me."
"The boat was dry, in good control
always. It will cope with conditions in which you have
no business being out."
If I had seen that forecast I would
have left my boat on the cartop. I haven't yet seen any
photos of this year's race, but the results of 1999 and
2000 races are posted at
www.blackburnchallenge.com . Last year 2 entries
scratched and this year 35 scratched! But that brings
up a very good point. Good rowboats with experienced hands
can handle those conditions for a while but you shouldn't
set off into them if you can avoid it. You can get "blown
away", especially if anything goes wrong, such as
losing an oar or rowlock. And the same is true for any
sort of power or sail boat - a small failure in moderate
conditions can bring on a disaster. My own rule of thumb
is to not venture out too far in whitecaps.
Another subject came up between us,
the fact that almost any good conventional rowing boat
that has no extremes will row about 4-1/2 mph and no faster,
at least not in a long row. My
RB42 and now Robote
all go about that speed. Frank adds:
"I agree with your observations
about good plywood rowboats. While robote is not a real
speedster, it is very pleasant and responds to greater
effort with greater speed. Beaching is no problem; in
calm water just lean over so one side of the V is horizontal.
The boat grew on me during my 2 weeks on Cape Cod and
is now beached at a town landing, to be used weekends
the rest of the summer. One of my adventures involved
a sudden storm with 2' chop crashing on the beach at South
Monomoy when I needed to launch to return home; this wasn't
pretty, but I got away on the second try.