Use of gig- On the water

Getting in the boatthe gigs are tippy, so be careful

  •  Choose who is going in which position before getting aboard to avoid unnecessary moving about in the boat
  •  Get into the boat one at a time and sit down in your position directly
  •  Avoid stepping onto the thwarts (seats) whenever possible
  •  The bottom of the boat is slippery when wet so take care and think about where you’re putting your feet
  •  Find your oar and have it ready to use before setting off. Numbers are Bow no.1, going toward Stroke, no.4
  •  Set your footrest so that your legs are  only just bent when leaning forward and straight when leaning back
  •  All rowers and the cox must be familiar with all the commands, and whether their oar is on the port (bow) or starboard (stroke) side


Leaving the jetty

  •  The gig is not very manoeuvrable!
  •  Steering is best done by the oars, rather than the rudder, so be alert to the cox’s orders at all times
  •  Think about which direction the tide is running (the time of high water is printed on the rowing calendar) and how hard the wind is blowing, and from what direction
  •  Usually the tide will have a greater effect than the wind, and you can use it to help turn the boat around
  •  If it’s windy, the wind will have more effect than the tide
  •  You may find it easier to go away backwards in certain conditions
  •  Rowers who can’t put their oar in the water while the gig is alongside may have their oar up vertically in the air until they can, unless it is windy- take windage into consideration
  •  If there is someone left on the jetty, use them to help get the boat away if necessary
  •  DO NOT leave the gig alongside the end/higher part of the town jetty as it can easily damage the gunwales (edges) of the boat. However, you may wish to move the boat there before leaving if it is windy/a lot of tide running- be careful to fend the boat off all the time, but don’t put your hands on the gunwales!


    The gigs demand good technique, but are very rewarding to row. Basics first-

  •  Sit on the opposite side of the boat to where your oar rests between the thole pins
  •  Rowers need to be staggered, and not in a line behind one another
  •  Make sure the thole pins are in the right places. They are made of hardwood and softwood- put a hardwood pin (darker coloured) in the forward hole and a softwood one (lighter) in the aft hole
  •  Your outboard hand should be over the oar handle, and your inboard hand should be under. This is for better control of the oar, and easy feathering of the blade
  •  Don’t be put off by the oar slopping around between the thole pins if you are used to rowing with rowlocks, soon you won’t notice it
  •  Make sure the oar is working on the leather while rowing- don’t push it so far out or in that it is working on the bare wood
  •  Keep an eye on your oar blade and ensure it is vertical when entering the water and during the stroke
  •  Sit square to the boat. It’s important to check that your foot rest is set at a comfortable position for you, allowing you to have your legs straight in front of you when leaning back
  •  Perch on the aft edge of the thwart rather than sit on the middle of it
  •  Concentrate on keeping in time, and if you are stroke oar, concentrate (don’t chat unless you can do two things at once!) on setting a consistent pace for the others to follow (ask the other rowers for feedback from time to time to check that you aren’t going too fast or slow)
  •  The thole pins prevent the oars from being swung along the side of the boat, so if you catch a crab, or need to get your oar out the way fast to avoid an obstruction, lift the handle straight up with the blade still in the water- the oar will trail alongside safely. Practise doing this before you need to!

Aim for a long, steady stroke-

  •  At the start of the stroke, lean right forward with your arms outstretched, as far as you can reach with a straightish back. Your nose will be almost above your feet
  •  After dipping the oar in the water, don’t let the blade go very far under the surface as you pull back on it. Only the painted part should be under water.
  •  Pull back steadily, speeding up towards the end of the stroke; save a little extra pull for the end of your stroke which you can help pull yourself back upright with
  •  Keep pulling the oar handle towards you until your hands touch your stomach before taking the oar out of the water
  •  Lean as far back as you possibly can! Your legs should end up straight. With practice, you will find yourself able to lean further and further back, which increases the length of time the oar is in the water driving the boat forward.
  •  As the thwarts are quite closely spaced in the gig, it is crucial for all rowers to lean as much as possible. If one person takes shorter strokes, it is impossible for the other rowers to take longer ones.

While out and about

The gig is fast enough not to take much notice of the tide in calm weather, but as soon as there’s a bit of wind

  •  Avoid the middle of the creek/river if the wind and tide are against you- as well as more tide, as it will be roughest there. Be aware of whether the tide is rising or falling.
  •  If it’s windy, get under the lee of the river bank for smoother water and less arduous rowing. It is good practice anyway to use the windward shore rather than the lee as if you get into difficulties you won’t get stuck aground.
  •  The easiest route may not be a straight line between two places!
  •  In big waves, try not to steer a course with them straight on the side

Changing positions in the boat

  •  Only have one person standing up at a time
  •  Take care with your footing especially with wet feet as the inside of the boat can be very slippery
  •  The rest of the (seated) crew should help balance the boat while someone is moving around

Enjoy being out in the boat and being sociable, but don’t forget to be alert for unexpected orders from the cox at all times!

Meeting other boats while out rowing

  •  We should obey the ‘Regulations for avoiding collisions at sea’ (the “rules of the road” for boats). If you’re not familiar with them, look them up, or ask if you are not sure. You may consider doing a short course sometime (such as the Competent Crew certificate) if you haven’t much experience of boating
  •  Rowing boats count as a (man)powered vessel and thus we give way to sailing boats.
  •  Other boats may not have come across a large rowing gig before and may wrongly estimate the speed we can row at, or not appreciate our relative lack of manoeuvrability
  •  Anticipate other boats’ likely movements
  •  Make the gig’s intentions clear to other boats- if you need to make a course alteration to avoid them, make it large and obvious so they can see what you’re doing
  •  Avoid the middle of the channel, particularly in Brightlingsea Creek, as the gig requires very little depth of water while other boats need more

Returning alongside

  •  Consider the tide and wind again before deciding how to come alongside the jetty- they may have changed since you left
  •  Listen to the cox’s orders, and take no notice of bystanders’ advice! The cox will be more aware of how the gig is handling than they may be
  •  The cox should ask the bow oar to put their oar away in plenty of time for them to be ready with a bow line
  •  Put the fenders over on the appropriate side before you make the approach to where you want to end up. Allow enough time for rowers to change fenders from one side to the other if required
  •  As the thole pins prevent the oars being turned along the length of the gig, lift them up vertically in the air (the order is “Up oars”) when coming alongside. This may be difficult in windy weather- think about holding the blade so doesn’t catch the wind when you do this
  •  Once the oars are finished with, take out the thole pins and their leathers
  •  There’s a lot of boat in front of the bow oar- don’t forget to allow for it!
  •  Make sure both mooring lines are clear and ready to hand. The longer one may be more useful as you can pass it along the boat to the shore to pull the boat’s bow/stern in
  •  You may come alongside the end (higher part) of the town jetty if conditions require, but DO NOT leave the boat there. Move her around to the lower part as soon as possible
  •  Get out of the boat in the same way you got in- one at a time. Avoid standing on the thwarts if possible
  •  Check that the boat is safely moored before leaving her for any length of time, particularly if you are not in Brightlingsea. Think about whether the tide is coming in or going out, and whether she is likely to be in anyone else’s way, as well as that she is not going to get damaged on anything. Don’t forget that we represent the club, and other members may want to return on another day!

Happy Rowing! – the more you put into it, the more you will get out of it…