Good boats for rowing up rivers...

Discussion in 'All Things Boats & Boating' started by codgerhiker, May 19, 2014.

  1. codgerhiker
    Joined: May 2014
    Posts: 0
    Likes: 0, Points: 0, Legacy Rep: 10
    Location: Everett, WA

    codgerhiker New Member

    I’m interested in some expert opinions on my nautical ambitions. I’ve been admiring all the shallow water in my part of the country – tidal reaches of river mouths, sloughs & main channels of rivers (“my part” = WA state). There is a lot to see: osprey & eagle nests on pilings, bank swallows, otters, etc. I’m currently in Everett, WA so the Stilly, the Snohomish, the Pilchuck etc. all look appetizing, at least based on what can be seen from park areas with river access.

    Experience: I’ve done a small amount of lake kayaking. I’m not a V-shaped strong upper body type & so paddling has never been my strong point (as opposed to rowing, where I can use my legs). I’m also not generally happy in low overturning moment boats like canoes & kayaks. But a rowing boat with a sliding seat, hmmm.

    It looks like the best shallow draft rowing boat would be catrafts (twin inflatable hulls + frames). Easy to beach on all kinds of bottom, unlikely to be damaged in a collision with hidden obstructions at rowing + current speed, very safe even if you mis read a ripple & find it’s a small falls, plenty of load capacity for 2 birdwatchers + camping gear, can be stored in an apartment as opposed to paying to park a trailer + boat in storage.

    That leaves a few Q’s.

    Q1: I have no idea what the tidal & slack water currents are in the Stillaguamish / Snohomish / Pilchuck. So I have no idea if rowing up & then drifting back to the mouth of these rivers would actually work out as easily as I am imagining. Is it failsafe to row until your arms drop off then drift back to where you put in?

    Q2: Just how navigable are these rivers going upstream from Port of Everett? Obstructions all obvious? Safe to go blind & scope it out as we row? Or so many lurking strainers that we won’t realize we are in trouble until we are headed back downstream & find ourselves drifting down on them, rowing desperately to port or starboard to avoid?

    Q3: I’m concerned that these catrafts might be difficult to row in a straight line. Do they not track worth a hoot? Would my net speed thru the water be far better with a conventional monohull, even if I had to jump up to 8” draft from 3” or 4”?

    Q4: Am I grossly underestimating the likelihood that after one outing on the river I would find myself at the nearest marine outlet, shopping for an outboard & mounting bracket?

    The engine: I’m 64.5, bike daily to work (about 20 miles RT).

  2. upchurchmr
    Joined: Feb 2011
    Posts: 2,783
    Likes: 78, Points: 48, Legacy Rep: 579
    Location: Ft. Worth, Tx, USA

    upchurchmr Senior Member

    I can't answer anything about your area - but you are lucky to have so many interesting choices.

    On a short catamaran rowing boat with round bottom hulls, I found that when I had the bottom of the bow and stern right at the waterline, I had no directional control. This was for a 11' one person 5' total width boat with a sliding rigger system.
    I tried a skeg off the back and about 3x6 inches of blade on both hulls made the boat almost excessively straight tracking.
    The skegs (like a fixed rudder) seemed too delicate, so I dropped the bow and stern so that they had 1.5" underwater, with a more oval profile. The boat is now great, tracks easily and can be turned with moderate effort.

    I suspect the inflatable will act like my original boat and not have good directional control. You can learn to compensate, but I didn't want the learning time.
    I don't know how much surface area you will have in the water, but my (our) boat is very easy to drive. It is strip planked with glass/ epoxy inside and out. About 50# which is still too heavy for what I wanted.
    I also have 9' carbon fiber hatchet oars, which are wonderful for power and control. If you get shorter you might end up wanting a motor.

    Everyone says the catamaran will have more drag than a monohull. Our catamaran is so easy to drive that I would have to try a mono, but the 5' width gives immense stability for things like bird watching or if you are just not such a good swimmer.

    Good luck
  3. upchurchmr
    Joined: Feb 2011
    Posts: 2,783
    Likes: 78, Points: 48, Legacy Rep: 579
    Location: Ft. Worth, Tx, USA

    upchurchmr Senior Member

    I forgot to show you my favorite monohull boat - which I haven't built, yet!

    Dave Gentry's Ruth is a really pretty boat, might work for 2. You could talk to Dave, he is easy to get a response from. There are other good pictures on this page. page.html

  4. cthippo
    Joined: Sep 2010
    Posts: 736
    Likes: 35, Points: 0, Legacy Rep: 465
    Location: Bellingham WA

    cthippo Senior Member

    I've paddled all over the Snohomish Delta in my kayak chasing shipwrecks and so I know a little about the river there. The main channel of the Snohomish varies seasonally from fairly easy to totally unmanagable, depending on the flow rate. Before I go out I check the flow gauge at Monroe and if it's over 20,000 cfs I'll think twice about it. The most challenging part is under the I-5 bridge where the river gets channelized and speeds up, and lots of log jams also accumulate here.

    The sloughs off the main channel tend to have very little current and should be easialy rowable. If the current on the main channel is too bad, try the boat launch at Marysville onto Ebey slough.

    Except at winter high water, the Snohomish doesn't run fast enough to really get you in trouble. Launching from the Everett marina is viable, but the channel between the mainland and Jetty Island can get pretty choppy if the wind comes up. I've seen solid 1 foot chop out there on a fairly regular basis, though keep in mind we paddle all year round, so I'm sure it has it's calm days.

    We usually use the launch at Langus Riverfront Park which is far enough upstream to get you out of the chop, but still below the I-5 bridge.

    I don't know anything about catrafts, but I Usually paddle the river in 8-10 foot plastic kayaks and if I can make it work in that, you should have no problems.

    I doubt it, but you do need to check the river gauge before you go. The sloughs are viable all year round, the main channel most of the time, down around the Port the weather becomes an issue. I would say there is never a day you can't get out on the water around Everett, (I've done it in the snow), but you might have to pick you destination based on conditions.

    Let me know if you want to give it a shot and we'll be happy to take you out and show you around down there. I don't have a rowboat, but we can certainly bring an extra kayak for you.

  5. gonzo
    Joined: Aug 2002
    Posts: 13,342
    Likes: 325, Points: 93, Legacy Rep: 2031
    Location: Milwaukee, WI

    gonzo Senior Member

    Inflatables are OK for rowing down river. Up river you need something efficient. That is, a hard hull that is rather long and narrow.
Forum posts represent the experience, opinion, and view of individual users. Boat Design Net does not necessarily endorse nor share the view of each individual post.
When making potentially dangerous or financial decisions, always employ and consult appropriate professionals. Your circumstances or experience may be different.