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What Is a Row Boat?

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  • Written By: Lori Kilchermann
  • Edited By: Lauren Fritsky
  • Last Modified Date: 01 November 2016
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A row boat is a small boat that is propelled by oars and the power of a human being. The boat can be of wooden or aluminum construction, with the aluminum version being the most common. Oars are long paddles that have a metal yoke affixed to them and fit into oar locks on the side of the row boat. A person sits facing the rear of the boat and pulls the oars towards his body, effectively driving the boat forward through the water. The row boat can utilize either a flat bottom or a V bottom, with the flat bottom-style being used in shallow, calm waters and the V bottom being used primarily in deeper and rougher waters.

Using human muscle power to propel the craft, the row boat takes advantage of an operator's ability to power the boat through all types of weather and wind conditions. Unlike a wind-powered vessel, the row boat is able to maintain forward propulsion in zero-wind conditions. Depending on the strength of the rower, the wind can occasionally create a difficulty in powering the row boat forward against the blowing conditions. With the wind at the boat's stern, however, the rower is assisted by the gusts and often is able to maintain a fast speed with little effort.

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At home in both fresh- and saltwater, the row boat has been a staple for fishermen for centuries. Used for setting and hauling in fishing nets, the small boat had sustained the fishing industry long before motor-powered boats emerged on the waters of the world. Many small boats are used for recreation and pleasure on the lakes and rivers of the world, offering the peaceful and relaxing sound of the creaking oars and the splash of the water against the hull to accompany a romantic picnic or nighttime excursion.

Advancements in oar technology have created lightweight aluminum and composite oars that are both easier to use and more efficient in powering the boat. By altering the shape of the oar blade, or the part of the oar that pushes through the water, the amount of water captured and pushed against the face of the blade is greatly increased. This causes the row boat to require less force from the rower to glide through the water at the same speed and velocity as a similarly-equipped boat using older oar styles.

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