Rowing / Pulling

Rowing is a sport that can be practised and enjoyed by yourself, with one other person or in a number of larger groups. Like every other kind of activity, if you are taking part with others, you have to be aware of your responsibility to the whole crew and you need to follow orders as they are given.

The Coxswain is the person who gives the orders and also steers the boat. The Stroke, who sits nearest to the coxswain, sets the time or rhythm and, as a member of the crew sitting forward of the stroke, you take your time from him. The bow is the person seated furthest forward.

Orders are orders and, in a crew, success depends on everyone understanding what is required of them. Because the progress of the boat depends on the smoothness of the rowing, most orders are obeyed on completing one full stroke after the order is given. Orders should be given when the blades are in the water. ‘Hold water’, ‘Trail oars’ and ‘Mind your oars’ are orders given in emergency or hazardous situations and are obeyed instantly.


When you hear...

This is what you do....

Sight your oars Check oars and crutches ready for shipping.
Let go for’ard Bow lets go and replies ------------ ‘All gone for’ard’.
Let go aft Stroke lets go and replies ---------- ‘All gone aft’.
Ship crutches Ship your crutch.
In Fenders Bring in fender if appropriate.
Shove off for’ard Bow pushes away from mooring.
Shove off aft Stroke pushes away.
Out oars

Port/Starboard out oars

Whole crew or

Port/Starboard oarsmen place oars in crutches ready to pull, blades feathered (parallel to water).

Stand by to give way

Stand by

Lean forward, arms and back straight, blades out of the water.
Give way together

Port/Starboard give way together

Start pulling, following the stroke.
Mind your oars

Mind your Port/Starboard oars

Keep clear of any obstruction

Obey Immediately

Back water or

Back together. Port/Starboard back together.

Push on the oars instead of pulling, to make the boat go in reverse.
Easy all

Port/Starboard easy

Reduce pulling rate to slow down or to turn.
Eyes in the boat Pay attention.
Trail oars Trail oars alongside the boat, passing the loom over your head and leaving the blade in the water. This is used when passage is restricted and prior to boating oars.
Oars Finish the stroke and complete one further stroke, stop pulling. Sit squarely and upright, oar parallel to the water with blade feathered.
Hold water

Port/Starboard hold water.

Hold or drop your blade in the water at right angles to the surface and keep it steady. This is an emergency order to stop or turn the boat sharply. Obey Immediately. It is a difficult action and the crew should practise to make it as effective as possible.
Gunwale oar. Rest oar athwart the boat and rest on the loom.
Toss oars. Only use in double banked boats of large size. Oars are brought smartly to the vertical position by pushing down on the looms, feathered and handles between the feet.
Boat oars. Oars placed neatly in the boat, with looms forward in a single banked boat, aft in a double banked boat.

When the boat is alongside, the bowman disembarks and secures the head-rope, stroke disembarks and secures the stern-rope. The coxswain unships the rudder while the crew squares off the oars and gear.


If the boat is steered by a rope operated rudder, the cox holds a rope in each hand, pulling on the starboard rope to go starboard, on the port rope to go to port.

The majority of Scout boats will have a wooden tiller, connected directly to the rudder. The tiller, kept amidships, will tend to steer a straight course unless it is affected by wind, waves or tide. To go to port, you put the tiller over to the starboard, for starboard, over to port.

Once you have started a boat turning, it will continue to turn, even though you bring the rudder back to amidships. Do this just before the boat is heading in the right direction and even ease it over the other way.

The slower a boat is moving , the more quickly a turn can be made.

A long shallow curve will keep the boat’s speed more constant than a sharp turn.

Steering when moving astern is not easy. Move the tiller to port to swing the bow to port, starboard to swing to starboard.


The Coxswain is in charge of the boat, and that means making sure that everything needed is taken, that all equipment is in good shape.


  1. Is the plug securely in it’s hole?
  2. Is there one oar for every person and one spare?
  3. Is there one crutch for every oar and one spare? All secured by their lanyards?
  4. Is there a stretcher for every oarsman?
  5. Is the rudder shipped and the tiller secured?
  6. Are the painters secured and coiled down?
  7. Is the anchor cable secured through the fore ring bolt at the inboard end? (if there is no fairlead fitted).
  8. Are bailers and fenders secured by their lanyards?
  9. If you are carrying a boathook, is the handle to the bowman?
  10. Is the Lifebuoy within easy reach?

The Cox is the boss and must keep a firm control on the crew.

Do Not Allow:-

Remember the pulling orders. Give orders loudly and clearly and in the correct sequence.

When coming alongside, judge the tide current and wind carefully, leaving just enough way on the boat so that it drifts into the mooring. When you have decided you have enough way, the orders will probably be:

Oars Trail oars Boat oars Fend off Hold on.

Most of all BE SAFE and have FUN.

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