Wanting a rowboat to explore while sailing around the world

  • We are (slowly) preparing for a retirement sailing around the world.  I looked at an Oxford Wherry over 2 years ago but wasn't able to go further, now with Fyne Boat Kits able to provide a CNC kit things are different.

    Basically, I'm dreaming of taking the ultimate dinghy with us to explore anchorages, rivers, and islands while getting exercise and supporting our aim of being fossil fuel free.

    I dream of a combination of an Oxford Wherry with a few features taken from the Expedition Rowboat and Sailing RowCruiser to add some extra seaworthiness and sailing ability.

    1. Oxford Wherry because it is fast, has enough capacity for two of us, and is the smallest of the trio.

    2. Oxford Wherry because it should be reasonably straightforward to turn it into a 3 part nesting boat so that it would fit on our deck (I discussed this with Colin a few years ago). That would mean doubling bulkheads 2 and 4. The boat is then divided at these doubled bulkheads creating 3 parts. The bulkheads are bolted together to create the whole boat. To improve nesting the aft buoyancy tank is v-shaped so that the bow section fits in it. The position of bulkheads 2 and 4 might need a little adjustment so that you can place the aft section inside the midsection and then put the bow section inside the aft section. In a perfect world for us, the total nested length would be 1.5m which would mean shortening the wherry a little (reducing speed and weight capacity a little - but still better than most dinghies available).

    3. Steal the bow deck from the Expedition rowboat (up to bulkhead 2) as dry storage and to keep water out in a chop (we are not looking for the seagoing capabilities of either the Expedition or Rowcruiser but would like a little more than the open wherry). This would mean the doubled bulkhead 2 at the forward end of the mid-section is full height.

    4. To allow extra fun and longer trips add a smaller version of the Sailing Rowcruiser. So I'm assuming:

    • a single mast at bulkhead 2
    • smaller ama's
    • a rudder and tiller
    • a daggerboard (near bulkhead 3)

    5. To sell to people who think you need a rib, maybe a way to configure the amas to

    • protect the mothership's hull from the outriggers (maybe position the ama further aft than the Sailing Rowcruiser with shorter aka so they end just outside and under the outrigger - obviously reduced sailing stability)
    • use the ama when rowing to give the stability that puts people off fast rowboats as dinghies.

    Having looked there is a real lack of choice for rigid dingies that

    • can nest for smaller yachts (ours is a 1977 Rival 38, centre cockpit)
    • can row really well so suited for more anchorages
    • can be satisfying to sail, no need for other toys
    • are practical in poor conditions (our boat is on the Menai Straits with 1 mile to the nearest landing point with lots of chop in wind against tide).

    What do you think?

  • It's great to hear about your exciting plans for the Oxford Wherry! I would love to design similar concepts in-house and incorporate them into our offerings, as they would make excellent add-ons. However, at the moment, we are swamped with other projects, so it won't be possible in the near future.

    Nonetheless, I'm excited to see what you come up with, especially regarding the nesting Oxford Wherry. One of the remarkable features of the Oxford Wherry is its impressive speed. People are amazed when they transition from a typical short tender to the Oxford Wherry. The boat's length and narrow beam significantly enhance its performance. However, when it comes to handling the boat out of the water, especially as a tender on a sailboat, the length can become quite challenging. Thus, having a nesting option would be a practical solution.

    Additionally, your description of a sailing version sounds fun. The Rowcruiser hull is almost identical to the Oxford Wherry, but on a larger scale. By proportionally scaling down all the components of the Sailing RowCruiser to fit the Oxford Wherry, we could achieve similar performance. An easy way to accomplish this would be to use the plans from the RowCruiser and scale them down. The PDFs can be easily adjusted and printed, or if possible, you could scale the CNC cut files.

    I look forward to following your project's progress, and I believe many others would love to see how it all unfolds.

  • Just chiming in to say that this idea is really appealing and I'll be following as well!

  • @Colin Angus thanks for the encouragement!!

    A few more recent inputs to my thinking.

    1. The video from Sampson Boat Company "70 miles in TALLY HO's dinghy." where a good 11 foot nesting dinghy (PT11) took 25 hours 41 minutes to row 70 miles vs a 22 foot wherry that took 13 hours 10 minutes. Yes, the slower boat experienced a long time of strong headwinds because it was out so much longer, but that is part of the point.
    2. The series from Billy and Sierra of Tula's Endless Summer of a new outrigger canoe built with Chesapeake Light Craft. My reactions:
      - huge!
      - so much work to build using strip cedar rather than plywood
      - the pedal drive and single-bladed paddle do not seem efficient or practical compared to oars. The only advantage is the lack of interference with the amas.

    3. The Core Sound B&B designs for the Everglades challenge show how efficient a cat rig can be (even with the ability to add a code zero or asymmetric spinnaker on some designs https://bandbyachtdesigns.com

    4. Also just seen the rowcruiser "pontoons" https://www.flickr.com/photos/angusadventures/29209050864/in/album-72157670851299223/
      maybe there is a potential to create amas that are a cross between the sailing rowcruiser and the rowcruiser pontoons?

    There does seem to be a potential sweet spot with the Oxford Wherry (or scaled down, nesting sailing rowcruiser)

    • 3 way nesting of a narrow hull is as easy to fit on deck as a small rib or a 2 way more traditional nesting dinghy (height the key challenge?)
    • rowing speed (or even with an electric outboard) is going to be dramatically better than anything else without a 10hp plus outboard.
    • amas would make fast sailing safe and easy
    • Huge gains are possible with a simple, unstayed cat rig (maybe even with optional asymmetric spinnaker)
    • Folding amas are good but to be practical for a dinghy you need to be able to come alongside your boat or a dock with them folded. That means when folded the akas can't stick out. Folding like this https://www.flickr.com/photos/24476856@N04/51175784687/in/photostream/ seems to be a much better idea for a dinghy that needs to come alongside. With the sailing rowcruiser the amas when deployed are well forward so maybe they could swing in and aft ending under the rowing outrigger so that nothing sticks out and you have lots of extra stability for getting on and off. Loads are low so potentially avoid massive engineering of complex hinges, use dyneema with cascading low friction rings to pull the amas out and lock them in place?

    Thanks. More thinking to do. :-)


  • @Dave Warnock i think the same way you do, about the desire to explore islands and inlets w/o the constraints of a big boat (draft/etc). It was actually these constraining experiences on big boats that drove me towards small boats!

    When you say "a smaller version of the Sailing Rowcruiser." and "the ultimate dinghy " you might consider the Portland Pudgy?


    Hear me out.

    You want something:

    • With lots of storage for mini-excursions (potentially day sails and overnighters?)
    • that is purpose built to both sail and row
    • that will also serve well as a 'daily driver' dinghy for a larger vessel, for the stuff you use a dinghy for on a cruising boat (going to shore, grocery runs, getting water or gas for the outboard, etc)


    While the Pudgy isn't aestheically similar to the rowcruiser, or the other designs you mentioned, it is functionally quite similar and will excel at the third bullet.  Potentially superior in that bullet?

    A 19' epoxy-plywood trimaran might be cumbersome and maybe a bit prone to damage (and/or damage to the main vessel), would only fit in the davits of a HUGE sailboat, etc.  The Pudgy will be a safe drop-in replacement for a standard inflatable dinghy in most common scenarios.  Towing it, putting it in davits, bumping into the side of your boat, etc will be no big deal....might end up being a lot le

    I know its crazy and a bit of a departure from your original thinking, but might be worth considering?

  • @Eric Miller hi,

    Thanks for sharing, nice video. 

    We are not having davits, the stern of our 1977 Rival 38 is too narrow and not buoyant enough (in our opinion). We have a rib for practicality which goes on the foredeck (chosen for load carrying in the rough Menai Straits). So we are mainly looking for exercise, fun and exploring.

    Our only motor is an electric outboard, it is adequate for the rib but not good for longer day trips.

    So we need nesting down to 1.5m sections to fit on our aft cabin. We want to have the performance for longer trips (with the same motor the more easily driven Oxford Wherry should be a lot more practical).

    One of the things I like is the multiple potential configurations, but all with high performance. 

    So we can have fixed seat plus outboard for long dinghy trips in calmer conditions. 

    Sliding seat for fun, fast rowing exercise.

    Trimaran for longer exploration and enjoyable sailing even in poor conditions. 

    All the best. 


  • @Colin Angus

    I've been thinking about scaling the designs to tune the Oxford Wherry for nesting and as a tender. It does add upto a bit more than simply nesting an Oxford Wherry.

    My idea is a "Wherry Tender":

    • length 4400mm
      • so 480mm shorter than the Oxford Wherry because I'd like the nested size to be 1.5m to fit on our aft cabin.
    • beam 880mm
      • That gives a length/beam ratio of 5 compared to 5.03 Oxford Wherry and 5.09 Rowcruiser as I figure have to be proportionately beamier to have enough stability on the shorter length.
    • Waterline length: 4300mm (same difference from the overall length as the row cruiser so the waterline is 50mm longer than if we copied the Oxford Wherry).
    • freeboard: keep the same as the Oxford Wherry at bow, stern, and lowest point so a slightly steeper sheerline.
    • Nesting. This is the most complicated change as bulkheads 2 and 4 will need to be moved (as well as doubled) so that will change their shape.
      • Bow section total length: 1435mm
      • Aft section total length: 1465mm
      • Mid section total length: 1500mm
    • Bow bulkhead. This will be made full height so that the bow can be fully enclosed with a hatch for access. The deck also provides a mounting point for the akas.

    The amas are critical to achieving

    • the stability needed for sailing and more general-purpose use as a tender and
    • allowing the Wherry Tender to come alongside the yacht or a dock without the outrigger causing damage (or being damaged).

    So the akas will be separate sections for port and starboard and will be on pivots at both ends. This way the amas can "fold" by moving closer to the main hull while remaining parallel to it. The amas will be able to lock in 3 positions.

    • full deployed for sailing
    • folded to the outriggers. So that the overall beam is slightly more than the outrigger. The aft end of the ama should be lower than the outrigger and extend slightly aft of the outrigger. It should be possible to row using the outriggers in this position.
    • folded to the hull. This would be useful when coming alongside when not using the outrigger and sliding seat. It would protect the yachts hull from the fixed position oarlocks which protrude from the hull. In case of a capsize one ama could be folded to the hull making it easier to right without needing to detach the ama as on the rowcruiser.

    The folding mechanism will require a flat, horizontal quarter-circle pad at each attachment point on the amas and main hull (8 in total). A captive nut will be fitted to the "corner" of the straight edge of each pad. The akas will need a horizontal section at each end. The akas will have a through bolt into the captive nut and they will extend beyond that pivot point by the pad radius. The pads will also have timber stops to limit the movement of the akas for both fully deployed and fully folded. If we connect the stop blocks with a timber cap that the aka tucks under we will gain rigidity. A pin through the cap into the aka can be used to lock the aka in any of its 3 positions.

    If we use some strips of PE-UHMW or similar as bearing surfaces for the akas they should pivot easily without damaging the grp.

    It does mean that the plans would need more than simple scaling :-(



  • Overall, that sounds like a versatile design concept.  The first thought that jumps to mind is the scope of the project.  Creating/designing a nesting sailing sliding-seat rowboat with folding amas/akas is a huge untertaking.  I would imagine this to be as big an undertaking as designing our Sailing RowCruiser, which was  pretty big project.  If you are taking the project on because you love the idea of designing and building a unique craft, it will certainly be a fun project.  On the other hand, if you're just looking for a means to an end - having a functional tender for your sailboat, perhaps some kind nesting sailing pram might end up doing the job?

    Shortening the Oxford Wherry by 48 cm will make for a slower boat due to hull length limitations.  The advantage gained by adding amas instead of simply a wider boat for stability won't be much, but the complexity will get much greater.  Amas provide the most benefit to a long skinny central hull, not so much for shorter wider hulls.   Also, since the boat will now only be just over 13', it might be worth looking into a decent fixed seat rowing system, and then you won't need to worrry about riggers hitting the dock or main boat.   A good fixed seat system won't be much slower than a sliding seat system for a boat of that length.  A sliding system will be prone to hobby horsing, and will reduce interior cargo/passenger space when you're using the boat for regular tender use - carrying groceries and supplies back and forth from shore to the main ship.


  • @Dave Warnock have you considered the PT 11 nesting dinghy? http://www.ptwatercraft.com/ptwatercraft/PT11Home.html

    Probably not as fast a rowboat as the Oxford Wherry or other sliding-seat boats, but it seems pretty sweet. And you could put a drop-in “sliding rigger” setup like what Colin demo'd here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wCQJwXwymTc

Please login to reply this topic!