Playing around with a canoe paddle at the end of a day sailing, filming and photographing on the river Fal.

The back-story here is that i am a firm believer in being able to move the boat around in very light or zero wind without an engine : in previous boats i have set up big lifeboat oars as emergency steering and rowing/sculling oars.  On the Frances 26 the one i had was about 12 feet or so and could be used to row from standing in the cockpit, although i tried it several times i never became competent at sculling but having watched some technique video i think i can see what i was doing wrong.

The Liberty is so light that i thought i would just have a go at moving the boat around with a canoe paddle, i used to canoe a lot so i knew enough to get myself right over the water with the paddle vertical : it worked ok except that the paddle isn’t quite long enough so i am having to lean down a long way to get the paddle in the water and it definitely won’t ‘J’ to get some steering.  With the board up and just the tip of the rudder down the boat doesn’t have much directional stability so i found that the trick is to get some forward movement with 10 or so good power strokes , apply some rudder but then swap sides and power from the opposite side, then once moving always to be paddling from the side that the boat is trying to steer towards.   I reckon i got up to about 1 and a half knots which is good enough to do what i needed that day, i did keep touching bottom as its that thin there.

When i get a chance i might make a longer paddle with a different (narrower) blade shape….maybe like a long otter-tail paddle with a very long shaft, a paddle board blade might work but the carbon ones are ridiculously expensive and i have trashed the budget already this month.


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