View Full Version : A different slant on flat bottomed boats

11th October 2008, 03:28 AM
Hello All,

I would like to start off by saying how much I like the elegant simplicity and light weight of the GIS and Beth. What I am wondering is whether the same principles could be applied to my favourite type of boats?

I was recently lucky enough to spend three years working near Venice and became a big fan of the traditional rowing and sailing boats on the lagoon. They offer a different slant on both rowing and sailing - rowing is done standing up (with one or two oars) and sailing is done without the aid of centre or daggerboards but with a huge rudder and an aft mounted lugsail. The boats are all flat-bottomed and used to be built with solid timber and extensive framing, making them pretty heavy. More recently plywood has been used but still with the traditional structure.

The GIS is quite close to some of the smallest boats (sandolo s'ciopon) in terms of underwater hull shape but probably weighs about 75% less. I am wondering if rowing the GIS venetian style may be a much better bet than the traditional way - high freeboard is not really a problem for this style. Also it may be a good idea for the RAID41 - you can see where you are going for one and you can row/sail quite effectively with one oar, keeping the mainsheet under a foot for quick release.

Anyway, I have rambled on a bit much for a first post. Details of the venetian boats can be found at the following links:




I would love to hear any opinions.



11th October 2008, 10:53 PM
Howdy Chris,

Have been at the Woodwork Show the last few days.

The Venetian style of rowing involves facing forward and rowing standing up.

Remember the weight of the Venetian boats gives them a lot of momentum and maybe there is some protection from winds ... also winds in the Med ... as I understand ... are either quite light or HOWLING as the Mistral and other adiabatic winds screech down out of the alps.

Might work, but my concerns would be
1/ Stability and momentum compared to the venetian boats
2/ Getting the rowlocks up high enough so you can have a decent length of oar
3/ Maybe also ... the Goat is so heavily biased toward sailing it doesn't seem right to worry too much about rowing. If you want to try rowing forward a couple of extra oarlock plates is a small price.

Give it a try, but be prepared that it may not work really well.

Best wishes

12th October 2008, 08:33 AM
Thanks MIK for the well considered feedback.

When I found out about these boats I was pretty amazed. After all, sharpies and flatiron skiffs are endlessly dissected in enormous detail but here is a whole family of very similar boats that are rowed and sailed totally differently (and very effectively). My only real problem with them is that they weigh a fair bit and have no built in buoyancy (Venetians also have a very cavalier attitude to buoyancy and shipwreck in general - you just call the fire brigade and they sort everything out!).

The fact that the GIS and (my favorite prospective boat) RAID41 are (or will be) so well set up for sailing is obviously a great part of their appeal. I think the bonus of the venetian rowing setup is that in some ways it demands fewer compromises on the part of the boat than 'normal' rowing. The rowlocks are generally high above the gunwale and somewhat outboard - so the shape of the boats themselves can vary quite a bit. Beams range from 0.4m to 3.4m(!) and freeboards go from about 0.15 to 1.5m. The rowlocks are carved from hardwood and literally wedged down the side of the boat between the gunwale and a sheer clamp. They can easily be pulled out for sailing.

As a guide the smallest 'normal' venetian boats are about 5.8m (of which about 1.2m is in overhangs) x 1.15m but they weigh about 120Kg.

As you say, in the end I think I will just have to suck it and see.

Thanks very much for all the great information on the website. I love the way your boats look - you can almost see the hours of brain-strain you put in to every detail seeping out of them!



12th October 2008, 09:49 AM
Cheers Chris,

You are more than kind!!! It may be possible to lash a venetian style rowing crotch in place at the top end if you do a square lashing around the inwale. You will have to put some screws into the inwale, through the inwale block into the gunwale just in that area.

You would have to work out some way of holding the bottom end .. maybe to the chinelog. The chinelog is a bit thin for screws to work but you could put a couple of saddles there either side of the crotch with metalthreads screwed and epoxy glued into the chinelog - there is not enough thickness of timber for screws to mechanically grab the wood fibre

one thing that may be a problem if not considered is that the mainsheet may tend to catch or wrap around such a crotch. You could change the Goat mainsheet to the stern only.

And regarding Venice's slack safety standards ... can you imagine all the Gondolieros in yellow PFDs?

"O Solo Mio ..."


sorry the clip is American Kitch rather than a real gondoliero.

12th October 2008, 09:53 AM
Now there's a marketing idea ... blue and white striped PFDs. Get the stripe width right and you will sell a heap in Venice and Brittany.


12th October 2008, 09:13 PM
Yes, in three years of boating around Venice I don't think I saw a single PFD! Specialist clothing for a gondolier really amounts to having a particular type of very nicely hand-made leather shoe.

I must admit that I prefer an aft mounted mainsheet (must be all the years growing up with Mirrors and old Wayfarers). Would this affect the way the Lug sets on the GIS? Does it need the tension in the middle of the boom?

Your suggestion for lashing in the oar crutch (forcole) sound eminently do-able. The base would just need a small socket built up from scraps of wood and epoxy - most of the load is fore and aft. The crutch can just be pulled up and out for serious sailing.

I sailed one of these boats a couple of times - it is a totally bizarre sensation. The huge rudder is basically all the lateral plane and the mast is mounted about 60% back from the stem. It feels less like you are steering the boat, more like you are actually moving the whole thing around with your bare hands. That is not to say the loads on the tiller are particularly heavy, it just feels strange. The rudder is also mounted on very long, curved, pintles. When you cross a shallow stretch it follows the terrain up and down with the tiller gently angling in your hand to follow. Boat keeps on trucking along though.

Seriously, you design beautiful boats. I know that Bolger has been an inspiration but you often really have to go and look for the beauty in his designs - if you look hard enough it nearly always comes out in the end. With yours, it just hits you in the face straight away. Quality work.



12th October 2008, 09:27 PM
Howdy Chris,

If you are more comfortable with an aft mounted mainsheet that is fine. It will probably need to be 3:1 with a ratchet block.