Rowing in a Wherry Boat – Tour Rowing


Rowperfect has posted about Touring Boats some time ago and we have forgotten to mention wherry boats. I am a big fan of tour rowing and loved rowing in a wherry boat. I have used wherry boats many times. In England and in the Netherlands.

The Origin of Wherry Boats

A wherry boat is a type of boat that was traditionally used for carrying cargo or passengers on rivers and canals in England and Holland. These kind of water taxis were operated by watermen or rowers. It could be rowed by two men with long oars or by a single waterman using short oars or ‘sculls’. Today we would call these layouts probably single sculler and coxed double. They used the word “tandem” also in former times. Wikipedia mentions, that the Act of Parliament in 1555 specified that a wherry should be “22½ feet long and 4½ wide ‘amidships'” and could carry up to five passengers.

During the eighteenth century rowing competitions for watermen became established on the River Thames, and the prize was often a new wherry. The Sporting Magazine describes an event on 6 August 1795 as “the contest for the annual wherry given by the Proprietors of Vauxhall by six pairs of oars in three heats”. Wherries made it to continental rowing clubs in 1829, when a Hamburg based rowing club purchased a used wherry as racing shell for their use.

Wherry boats for recreational rowing

Boat design

We know there are very many different wherry boat producers, producing them in very many styles. We focus here on the ones we can us as a rowing crew. In this respect, wherries have changed over time. All started with a clinker and inrigger structure and fixed seat benches. Today, wherries combine the traditional “beauty and charme” of the past with modern design and functionality. Fixed seat systems are changed to sliding seats. Outriggers have substituted inriggers. Wood is still the most commonly used material. If you row them you feel like in a touring shell.

Looking skeptical – Rowing in a wherry boat

Passenger – Communication at Its Best

Great communication in a wherry boat

The wherries we rowed could accommodate up to 4 people. A double – some call it tandem. Surprise-surprise: two rowers and two persons at the steering bench. You might think of your back and the pain it will cause to move this boat. No way – The longer you row the better you feel. The wherry glides softly thru the water and you start talking. 4 persons sitting together so closely. I never chatted as much as when rowing in a wherry.

How do I get a wherry into the water?

Wherry boats are small and agile  but – also heavy. I would suggest to carry a double with at least 6 people. A double weighs about 100-125 kg. The clubs are prepared. You either have a suitable trolley nearby or a small boat lift in the hangar. We used the latter and it worked very well.

Rowing in a Wherry Boat

Rowing in the wherry boat is great. The boat is easy to steer and easy to row. My initial skepticism (back pain) was not justified. The boat runs well in the water. My feeling was, that it was gliding much better than a C-GIG. It reacts immediately to steering impulses, is agile and can be rowed in narrow areas such as canals or small river passages. The fun factor is extremely high. According to me, much bigger than with a church boat. A recreational tour is almost like a walk through the rivers. Good conversations, nice landsacpes and some fitness workout if you want. Great boats.

What is your experience with wherry boats? Let us know.

tour rowing, Credit:

Rowing in a wherry boat in Holland


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