Who contrived this rowing seat?

Early last summer, I decided I’d return to the days of my youth and take up rowing again, and for that I needed a rowboat. I don’t happen to own a boat suitable for rowing but have at least three canoes to my name.

Remembering some articles from the old “Small Boat Journal,” I knew that a canoe could be converted into an acceptable rowboat. A half-hour trolling the Internet turned up a variety of rowing rigs one could buy for adapting a canoe to oars. My problem was, I sort of hoped to make this conversion for very little money, and that took me to my local boatbuilder friend.

I sat in his shop beside the woodstove and told him how I was planning to row my way through the summer. He listened, and then a smile crept across his face. “Wait a minute,” he said, and then he dragged a ladder into place and climbed up into the loft of his boat shop.

I could hear him rummaging around up there, pushing and shoving stuff aside. Within a few minutes, he called for me to grab this fiberglass seat he was lowering down from the attic. “Here,” he said, “I’ve had this for 20 years. Many times I was going to toss it, but it just seemed too nice to chuck out. So, here.” And with that he gave me the seat you see in the photograph.

Now the question is, who made this? If this seat looks familiar, and if any readers might know of its history or even when it was sold, I’d love hearing from them. The seat is molded fiberglass, and, as you can see, it provides the seat, the outriggers and the oarlocks all in one unit. My first thought was that it might have been from Old Town Canoe, but there are no labels and no part numbers to help identify the manufacturer.

Using the seat is simplicity in itself. Merely set it across the gunwales of the canoe approximately in the middle of the boat, ship your oars, and row off into the sunset. There’s some high-density foam glued to the underside of the arms that protects the gunwales and provides a little friction to resist shifting about.

Amazingly, the geometry of the seat and the oarlocks are just about perfect for a pair of six-foot oars. I rowed the little canoe all over the river, happy with the feel of the oars in my hands and the fond memories of when I was a boy rowing at the lake.

During the summer I have had occasion to show this very clever seat to a few friends who are into small boats and kayaks. They all agree that it’s a landmark design in its utter simplicity and practicality, but no one knows who made it. If you ever owned such a seat, or used one like it, please send me a note about it. I’ve got this one here at the marina, and if you’re intrigued by it, and want to look at it more closely just let me know. Meanwhile I’ll just take a late afternoon row around the cove.

Randy Randall
Marston’s Marina
Saco River, Maine


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