How to Choose the Right Oar for your Small Boat or Dinghy – Foundry Outdoors
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How to Choose the Right Oar for your Small Boat or Dinghy

Choosing the right oar for your small boat can be tough. Oar length is important especially when you have a boat dependent on those oars for movement and control.

If you’ve ever wound up with the wrong size oars or even a makeshift oar on your boat, dinghy, or kayak you know the challenge is real. Balance can be thrown off, consistent movement in one direction can be nearly impossible, and your boat soon becomes a sitting buoy. To help make sure you equip you and your and boat with the right oars remember these three steps: Width, Oarlocks, and Weight. To successfully complete these steps you will need these tools: A tape measure, pencil, paper, and a calculator.



STEP ONE: Measuring the Width  

One of the easiest and quickest ways to find out the right length oars you need for your boat is to do some simple math. First take a tape measure and measure the widest distance of your boat. 

For this step simply eye your boat, generally the very middle of the boat will be the widest portion. Take out your tape measure and write down the number you record. Once you have this number multiply it by 2 and this will give you a great starting point for how long of oars you will need overall. .To get more precise we will do some further calculations in step two to figure out inboard and outboard lengths.


STEP TWO: Measurement of Oarlocks 

Measuring the distance between oarlocks is similar to step one, except for the additional calculations involved. Oarlocks on a boat are simply mechanisms that provide a pivot point for the oars to sit in. Once you have the distance between oarlocks you can divide that number by 2 to find the inboard oar length. The inboard oar length is the length of oar that is inside the boat. To find the outboard oar length take the inboard oar length and multiply by 3. This will give you the length of oar needed on the outside of your boat. Simply add the two measurements together to find your overall oar length. This in essence is the rule of thirds. The ideal oar will be a third of the length inside of the oarlock and two thirds will be outside of the oarlock, this measurement includes the blade as well.


STEP THREE: Boat Weight 

One last thing to keep in mind is the weight of your boat. Boats that are light may require longer oars; other boats that are difficult to control might work better with a shorter set of oars that you can control more efficiently. Start with longer oars and work from there. The important thing to consider when trying different lengths of oars is to see how well you can control and row your boat with ease. The right oars will save you energy and make your time out on the water nothing but enjoyable!

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Doug Hershman - Jan 02, 2021

I think step two is incorrect in your example above.
The final figure you get with your calculations does not fall into the rule of thirds.

If my inboard length is 20" multiplied by 3 gives me 60". If you add your inboard length 20" to your outboard length of 60" I would get a total of 80". That would end up being rule of quarters with 20" inside the boat and 60" outside the boat. Your formula is wrong. Please email me to discuss. I am curious.

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