The Urban Oarsman asks: “How deep is the water?”


As an Urban Oarsman, you will occasionally want to know how deep is the water that you are rowing in.
What is the easiest way to do this you ask? Depth Sounder Oars are the answer.
Turn your oars into a depth sounding device. There are two methods:

Method one:

Turn your oars into a Depth Sounding device by marking one oar with lines 1” thick on the blade.

It helps to mark the lines with the depth (I use inches) so you know at a glance how deep the water is.

To use: Hold oar with both hands and stick upright into water. Read depth from scale on blade.
Note: this only works in water as deep as the scale is on the oar.

How useful is this you might well ask?…well not very…

1. Well Gwragedd Annwn needs eight to ten inches of water to float in. If she is not floating I already know that she is in less than eight to ten inches of water.
2. You have to stop rowing and take the oar out of the oarlock to use the Depth Sounder Oar.
3. You have to stand up in the boat to use the Depth Sounder Oar.
4. The scale on the blade does not go very deep:


Method two:

Is there a better way? A way to measure the depth and row at the same time? Yes there is.
Let me explain…

While I was rowing in the pitch-black waters of Burnaby Lake, I noticed that sometimes my oars were striking the bottom as I rowed along. The water was so black that I could not see through it to the bottom below, even in eight inches or less of water. I would just notice that Gwragedd Annwn would stop moving and the oars were churning up mud because she had run aground in the weeds and mud in the shallows of Burnaby Lake.

I noticed that the angle of my oars had a correlation to the depth of the water. When my oar blades were covered to the shoulder of the blade by the water, I was in about twelve inches of water. The deeper my oar stroke, the deeper the water. It was not hard to figure out the angle and the corresponding depth.

I did this the easy way, I put Gwragedd Annwn up on the beach at HSC and blocked her up so she was level and her waterline was at twelve inches above the beach. I then put her oars in the oarlocks and measured up from the beach to waterline and marked each oar. When she was on her road trailer, I measured to determine where the waterline would be on the oars for eighteen and twenty-four inches of depth. I marked my oars with white tape at Twelve, Eighteen and Twenty-four inches of depth.

See photos:


Gwragedd Annwn’s oar marked for Twelve Inches of depth.

This is my normal rowing stroke. I put the oars down between eight to twelve inches deep.

The water line is at the shoulder of the blade. The first stripe of tape is at the waterline, at twelve inches.



Gwragedd Annwn’s Oar marked for Eighteen Inches of depth.

If I bury the oar to the second strip of tape, the oar tip is at Eighteen inches below the waterline.

If I touch bottom with the oars, I know that I am rowing in Eighteen inches of water and I have about ten inches of clearance from the keel to the bottom.



Gwragedd Annwn’s Oar marked for Twenty-four Inches of depth.

If I bury the oars to the third strip, I am in Twenty-four or more inches of water.

Notice the steep entry angle of the oars…”Rowing over Stumps” to quote Philip Bolger.

Rowing Gwragedd Annwn is good in any water twelve inches or deeper. The oar blade is fully immersed and the angle at the oarlocks is easy to row with.
Once you have found where to put your stripes, get some one inch wide painting tape and mask off your oars. Be sure to mark the aft or inside of the oar so you can see the stripes as you row. You could do as I did, mark the forward or outside face of the blade with the horizontal strips every inch (or whatever measurement you like) and the aft or inside face with the angled stripes.

Paint the oar stripes white. Let dry. Mark the stripes with the measurements.

You can use waterproof white tape instead of painting if you like.

Go rowing. Bury your oars to test the depth. Take a stroke on the oars to sound the lead.
Two feet or more? Good Rowing.