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24 March 2018 | Pickering, Ontario, Canada
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21 July 2017

Building an Oar to get Ashore

21 April 2017 | Manhasset Bay, New York
The plan was simple. Move Issuma from the marina in Jersey City that she wintered in, to anchor in Port Washington (the winter docking contract was ending).

I invited a few people, who invited more people, and suddenly I had nine crew. The plan was to motor off the dock in Jersey City, take the East River to Long Island Sound, do a bit of sailing, and then anchor. I was hoping the Water Taxi would then take my crew off, but it hadn't started up yet this season. The forecast was moderately windy, dying down in the evening. I warned everyone before leaving the dock that it might be a long time before they could get off the boat, as the Water Taxi wasn't running and it was windy enough to make dinghying difficult.

The trip was pleasant, and, other than some technical issues, uneventful. The tide was falling, and I wasn't comfortable approaching any shallow docks to drop the crew off. I temporarily anchored within a few hundred metres of the beach, intending on making it a shorter row to dinghy people ashore.

There were whitecaps in the bay, and conditions for ferrying people with my (hard) rowing dinghy were marginal. We put the dinghy in the water and prepared it while monitoring the conditions, which were slowly improving. That's when I discovered that one of the oars was broken!

Phil went to work on splinting the broken oar back together.

I considered inflating the inflatable dinghy, which has an outboard motor which would handle those conditions well. But the motor not been run since it had been winterized, and it wasn't a good time to be relying on the motor, as if it failed, the inflatable dinghy would not row in those conditions (it has its own oars, which are not compatible with the hard dinghy), leaving no choice but to anchor and sit out in the cold wind until it moderated enough that rowing would be possible.

I had bought a couple of pieces of Okoume (an African hardwood) in South Africa for making another pair of oars, so, not sure the repaired oar would be strong enough, I got Stephen to work on a new oar. Stephen (mostly), I and Phil hand-sawed the oar out from the wood, then rounded the shaft enough with a rasp to make it functional as an oar.

By that time, the wind had died down, so rowing everyone ashore was much easier.

Later, I finished the oar with a sandpaper disc on an angle grinder, and built a second oar from the other piece of okume. Now the dinghy has a matched pair of sturdy oars.

When the weather warms up, I will paint the oars white so they can be seen better at night (and perhaps paint the dinghy, also :) ).
Vessel Name: Issuma
Vessel Make/Model: Damien II, 15m/50' steel staysail schooner with lifting keel
Extra: Designed for Antarctica. Built in France by META in 1981. Draft 1.3m/4.5' with keel up, 3.2m/10.5' with keel down. More details at
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Survey pictures taken of Shekin V
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Created 29 April 2008