About the Urban Oarsman:

 Gwragedd Annwnn drawing

Mike  is The Urban Oarsman.  He started to build Gwragedd Annwn on August 1st, 2011 and launched her on August 21st, 2012.


He rows  “Gwragedd Annwn” in the waters around Vancouver’s Lower Mainland.

She is baised on Phil Bolger’s “Defender” design.   “Gwragedd Annwn” is 130% bigger, 14’6″ long from 11′.  Gwragedd Annwn was built for the 180km row down the Fraser River from Hope to the Hollyburn Sailing Club.


Gwragedd Annwn on a gravel bar in Widgeon Creek.

“Gwragedd Annwn” (goo-RAG-eth ANN oon), named after Welsh water fairies,  is an epoxy & cedar strip built boat displacing 220 lbs. Her LOA is 14’6″, her WL is 14′.  She is 5′ wide and her depth from keel to gunwale is 2′.  She draws 10″ of water giving her 14″ of freeboard.  The spread of her oars is 18′.  She can switch between a fixed-seat or sliding rowing stations.  She has four red cedar “D” section cupped spoon oars, 8′ 6″ long with 125 square inches of blade area.  Each oar weighs less than 5 lbs.  She has Phil Bolger designed oarlocks.

The Urban Oarsman


14 Responses to About the Urban Oarsman:

  1. Allan Harrington says:

    Hi Mike,
    I believe it was you I met at the Hollyburn Sailing Club open house this past community day. I mentioned an old friend Ted Eggert (604-922-3863) who has a beautiful wood sail boat he wishes to sell.
    The boat is an Enterprise with a drooping E which I am told is a extended hull. He has kept the boat and trailer immaculately and his current age and mobility does not allow him to use it. He is an X British Navy man, Policeman and Veteran.
    He has no computer and I was wondering if you could phone him to give some direction on selling his boat.
    With thanks,

  2. Lou Parsons says:


    I used to row… an ugly, converted, 17 foot ‘frieghter’ canoe, but much better than the kayaking I’d been doing locally for years. And in a few days (this being the 15th November, 2014) I’ll have a new boat. See http://www.boothboats.com/whitehall/

    Your blog has given me a few hours of pleasure, some interesting perspectives on rigging out a boat, and I hope you’ll post again in the future.




  3. Jim McDowell says:

    I am an independent historian based in Steveston, currently writing a guidebook to historic locations in the Vancouver area. One of those locations is “Noon Breakfast Point” near Wreck Beach. I have taken adequate photos from the shore, but I need a few from the water. Do you have any suggestions as to how I might accomplish that task at reasonable expense? Any advice will be greatly appreciated.
    Jim McDowell
    Author of UNCHARTED WATERS: THE EXPLORATIONS OF JOSE NARVAEZ (1768–1840), Ronsdale Press, 2015.

  4. Hi Mike,

    Thanks for posting your well-documented voyages.

    I needed to know the name of the treed island looking NE from the Pattullo Bridge. After a bit of googling, I found the information on your site. Thanks very much for your post!

    I hope to see more of your voyages online. It’s an eye-opener to see how everyday locations look from water level.

    I’m also wondering if you’ve ever made a trip to Poplar Island?

    Thanks again for all the effort that you have put into sharing your insights from your rowboat.


  5. Vic says:

    Hi Mike,
    Just discovered your website…pretty interesting stuff…reflects your passion about the rowing of things…I have just acquired a 14′ cosine wherry, Cedar strip…build by Oyster Bay boats….I’m going to be picking it up probably next week…I’m now wrestling with how to power this boat..ie. oars..the beam is 54″ so the oarlock distance is about 52″‘thinking of getting oars maybe 8 ‘ 4 ” long…but hard to find…I think I’ve decided on non spoon oars. I favour longer narrower blades, easier to manage in any weather….also, which material..Cedar? Spruce?…any thoughts about all of this would be much appreciated
    Thanks Vic

  6. Greg Euler says:

    I am not sure if you can help me, I am looking for information on an old teacher of mine named Ken Douglas who was a boat builder

  7. Chris Rorres says:

    Hello . . .

    I am a Professor Emeritus of Mathematics with Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA, USA, and am preparing a research paper on Archimedes’ influence on ship design. Some time ago I ran across an image of a deadhead log on one of your webpages and downloaded it. Unfortunately, I lost track of the webpage from which I downloaded it. I was wondering if you would give me permission to include it in my paper. I will, of course, give you any credit for it that you desire.


    Chris Rorres
    My Archimedes Web Site: https://www.math.nyu.edu/~crorres/Archimedes/contents.html

    • Hello Chris,

      I have sent you an email with the two deadhead photos from the post attached. You have my permission to use them as you see fit in your paper. A credit to the Urban Oarsman would be appreciated.


  8. Camille says:


    I was wondering about the numbers on the bow stem of the boat? What do they represent?

    Thanks for your help!

    • Hello Camille,

      I assume that you are referring to the numbers on the bow of “Snowdrop” the Turner Clinker Lifeboat. The numbers are her length (12′.1″), width(4’4″), depth (1’9″), Number of persons(4) and her build date(Jan 14, 1952). I have never been able to find out what the initials “FNE” stand for…but, I have seen those initials on other lifeboats.

  9. Dr Max Simmons says:

    Are you able to offer advice on oar construction?
    I’ve recently afashioned a set usinf 50mm sq. Oregan. The three pieces of wood obviously had different densities as I now find, after carving and rounding, one oar is 200 grams heavier than the other and the mid-point- balance point is different.
    My question is this. Is equal weight of the two more important, or should I strive to equalise the mid-pint balance point. I assume this can be done with small weights embedded in the shaft.
    I read your posts and they inspire me on my various voyages around the port of Geelong, in the State of Victoria, Australia. Would appreciate, if possible a reply by email.

    • Hello Max,

      Sorry for the late reply…did not see this until now. The weights should be as close as possible to being the same and so should be the balance point. If they are not, you may notice a difference over the course of a long row. I suggest two ways and a compromise way… (1) Adding weight to the light oar (2) removing wood from the heavy oar by hollowing out the grip and plugging the hole with nothing in it…Or, remove some wood from the heavy oar and add some weight to the light oar. for example, if the difference is 200 grams, remove 100 grams of wood from the heavy oar and drilling the same size hole in the light oar, add 300 grams of weight (the difference in weight and the weight of the removed wood). I do not know how deep the hole must be to remove 100 grams of wood. This may not be a practical solution for you, you will have to experiment to see if it will work for you. I have had some success drilling a hole into the oar shaft at the grip and then fitting a new grip into the hole…making the grips replaceable. (I repaired an old pair of oars by cutting off the grips and drilling a hole into the remaining shaft and gluing new grips into the hole.)

      Again, sorry for the delay and good luck with your oars,


  10. Kathryn Waterx says:

    How do I get in touch with you about building a boat for me?

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