|No wind, slop and bobble. Yech.|
Hootin', hollering days in our waters are more than matched by flat calms. These might be forecast winds that are noshow, or the limp end of a morning's suckapuff. Or the world might just go near breathless for a week at a time.
Drifting is an option. Drift with the tides and anchor up between. If things are right, we can cover a good deal of ground. But we still need to get in and out of the current. And in many times and places, the current never runs fair... surface flow might vary from a half knot to three knots against, depending on whether or not the tide is nominally fair.
If we're in very shallow, poling or, in moderately deep water, warping (rowing out and hauling a pair of anchors, one after the other, using them like long arms to pull us along). Nowadays, we have a pedal unit, but it's mechanical and beyond our ability to make or repair.
The main tool in our repertoire is the yuloh (Chinese sculling oar).
|Leading edge of blade down about 45deg.|
|Yuloh in action... lanyard stays taut.|
There are any number of ways to rig a yuloh. We use system with four elements.
- Yuloh - Loom and blade.
- Deck lanyard (deck to end of handle) - this prevents the inboard end from popping up as the blade dives.
- HMD plastic oarlock (HighMolecularDensity, aka cutting board plastic).
- Oarlock Lanyard - attaches to a point on the outboard loom and keeps it from sliding outboard.
Our curved loom makes the blade want to spill to the correct angle. So we let it. The diving blade wants to make the handle ride at the top of the deck lanyard. So we let it. The loom wants to slide down and outboard, fetching against the outboard lanyard. So we let it.
The blade pretty much naturally wants to follow a falling leaf pattern... shallow figure-infinities (an 8 on its side), with the leading edge angled down. Breath. Feel it. Let go. Resist the urge to turn and watch it (you'll cramp up, quick!). Won't be long before you will be at one with your yuloh.
Chinese sailors were Taoist... it's all about easing along in sync with the world.
To turn, underway, just sidle a bit to put the tiller over as usual. Keep yulohing at the same distance off your body, and it will naturally help the turn. If you want to pick up the pace, slice the blade horizontal on the return stroke (for no power) and only stroke to favor the turn. If you really want to turn sharp (or without forward thrust), turn the blade perpendicular and shovel your stern around (like you were rowing off the stern).
|Deck Lanyard snapped to Deck Ring|
|Canoe paddle handle with adustable lanyard (2 rolling hitches)|
|Oarlock and Lanyard|
(Gotta whip that end!)
Length and amount of curve are determined by your freeboard... the idea is to have the blade enter the water at about 45 degrees when holding the inboard end at sternum height. Curve can be anywhere from none to about 15 degrees. More curvature allows a shorter yuloh. Consider how much room you'll have in the cockpit... you'll want to be able to move around the forward end. Sketching it all out on graph paper saves a lot of trial and error.
Ours is (of course) quick and dirty. We look for a snow bent conifer, with the bend about a third-plus of the way from the base. This becomes the inboard, handle end at about 3 inches diameter, tapering to about 2 inches at the tip.
We like a large blade - about 3 feet long and 8 inches wide, mounted perpendicular to the plane of the curve. We flatten both sides of the loom, and screw one side on (from loom set into blade 'feather'). Drill opposing holes in both feathers and lash the other on.
We shape the blade flat on the upper face (toward the convex side of the loom curve) and rounded on the downward face. Don't know if this helps, but makes me feel good.
We mount the yuloh, deck lanyard and oarlock to starboard (we're both right handed). We stand mid-ships, facing forward, and position the yuloh on a Line about 4 inches to starboard of our hanging arm (seems about right).
'Position the yuloh' means that the oarlock midline and deck ring (or equivalent) are positioned on the Line. Set the oarlock lanyard to hold the yuloh about centered on the oarlock. Affix the deck ring directly below the end of the yuloh, it's length set so the handle is about nipple height.
You can fudge the position of the oarlock... more loom inboard means more leverage for the person working the yuloh, and visa versa. Don't sweat it... you can always adjust with the oarlock lanyard.
None of this is rocket science, unless you're a Japanese ryo master (their highly tuned version). Top speed is maybe two knots in a sprint, so brilliant design won't do much for you. We look for comfort of use (good height, handle, leverage, spring and stowage).
I hear a lot of numbers quoted as yuloh science, but suspect that has to do with different installations that don't translate well. Consider a prototype to get the proportions before putting to much work into a beautiful work of art.
The yuloh is really a magical device. To slip out of harbor to catch dawn's first breath, or into a cove at days end, with little more than a liquid swirl to disturb evening's hush... it's... it's...
Well, you just have to try it.
Since this article was originally written, I've run across Some Thoughts on the Yuloh by Slieve McGalliard, R&D Director of the JRA (Junk Rig Association). Very good thoughts, indeed, including a general recipe induced from drawings and photos of Chinese Junks and Sampans.
I've written an update post here on our results with his recipe.