#1 oar  - Starboard - Harpooner Oar- Assists with lines and casting off 

#2 oar  - Port - Bow Oar- Assists with lines and casting off 

#3 oar  - Starboard - Midship Oar - Assists with spring line and berthing 

#4 oar  - Port - Tub Oar  - Second stroke, translates the stroke pace to the rest of the rowers. 

#5 oar - Starboard - After Oar - Stroke rower sets the rowing pace by example 



Boatsteerer   The person in charge and fully responsible for the safety and training of the rowers and the boat. The Boatsteerer steers the boat, using either a steering oar or rudder and tiller, and gives the commands to the Rowers.  The Boatsteerer is facing the bow, and the direction the boat is heading.

Bow Rider   The person who rides in the bow and acts as forward lookout. (There is not always a Bow Rider on board.)

Rowers   There are five rowers in a Beetle whaleboat; three starboards and two ports. The starboard rowers sit on the port side.  The port rowers sit on the starboard side.  All rowers face the stern and view where the boat has already traveled. 



Bow is the front of the boat (forward) ; Stern is the back (aft).

Port is the left side (when looking forward to the bow); Starboard is right.           

Midship is the center between bow and stern.

Thwart is a seat. 

Gunwale (or gunnel) is the top edge running bow to stern. 

Oarlock is situated atop the gunwale and supports the oar while rowing. 

Lines are the ropes on the boat.  Dock lines are used to secure the boat to the cleats on the dock. The spring line is the docking line at midship.



Rowing commands for the whaleboat can be confusing since the rowing configuration is single-banked, alternating port and starboard, with rowers sitting on the opposite side of the boat from their oar.  Additionally, there are 2 port rowers and 3 starboard rowers.  Rowers #1, #3, and #5 (sitting on Port side) are starboard rowers, and rowers #2 and # 4 (sitting on Starboard side) are port rowers. (See diagram on last page.)

Note:  Some commands will be intended for just the port, or the starboard, or the aft (stroke) rowers, in which case, the command will be preceded by the rowing position.  This port or starboard designation would tell the rowers that the following command applied only to those rowers. The aft designation indicates that the command applies only to the two stern rowers.

"Ready All"  All rowers lean forward and position themselves for the catch.  If getting ready to push, the position is leaning slightly back.

"Pull Together"  All rowers start pulling rowing.  

"Push Together"  All rowers start pushing together (same as Stern All).

"Avast"  This command is used to tell the rowers to stop rowing, as well as to bring rowers to attention. The oars remain in the oarlocks, and are perpendicular to the side of the boat, level with the water, and feathered.

"Hold Water"  Oar blades are placed in the water to slow or stop the boat. This is usually preceded by “Avast”, but maybe not in an emergency!  If the boat is moving fast, this command will be preceded with the “drop oars” command. 

"Stern All"  All rowers push to row backwards (same as “Back Stroke” and “Back Water”).

"Half Oars"  This command tells the rowers to pull in their oars while rowing in order to row through a narrow passage or to avoid hitting something. 

"Rest Oars"  This command tells the rowers that they may pull their oars across the gunwales and relax.

"Out Oars"  Oars are pushed out into the Hold Water position.   Each rower will push out the oar positioned between the rower and his/her side of the boat.  Once out to the button, the handle of the oar is passed to the rower in front (technically, the rower aft in the boat) and on the opposite side.  Rower #1 will push out oar #2 and hand it to rower #2, and then push out oar #1. Rower #2 will push out oar #3 to rower #3 and accept oar #2, etc.   Rower #5 only needs to accept oar #5 from Rower #4.  The tricky part is leaning back to pass the oar over your body (like doing the limbo) and not letting the blade dip into the water as you hand it to the rower in front of you.  Outing the oars must be done in unison to avoid tangling the oars. 

"Trail Oars"  The oars are pulled in and the blades are positioned aft along side the boat, above and outside the gunwales. Trailing oars is used when passing anything that might hit the oars.  In a whaleboat, this is the first step in shipping oars.  The oars remain in the oarlocks, and the handles are pulled forward into the boat.  This process is the reverse of outing the oars.  Rower #1 pulls in oar #1 and tucks the handle into the bow on the starboard side, and then immediately, accepts oar #2, pulls that over his/her head and tucks the handle into the bow on the port side.  Rower #5 only needs to pass the handle of oar #5 to rower #4 who will then pull in the oar and tuck the handle behind on the starboard side, all while passing the handle of oar #4 to rower #3.

"Ship Oars"  Oars are placed in the boat.  Command is given from the “Trail oars” position.

"Feather Blades"  Blades are turned so they are parallel to the water’s surface on the return so that they cut through the wind, and minimize resistance.     Due to the weight of the oars on the whaleboat, feather is not required.

"Drop Oars"  Blades are dropped to the water in the feathered position to slow the boat.  The blades will be resting flat on the surface of the water. This command can be used to prior to “Hold Water” to gradually stop the boat speed.

"Square Blades"  Blades are turned so they are perpendicular to the water‘s surface.


"Catching Crabs"    Crabs happen when you catch your blade in the water and it pulls you backwards off the seat. Common causes are:  not reaching far enough forward the catch, and therefore ending the stroke too far back without enough power to finish;  blades under-squared and therefore pulled too deep during the pull;  boat not trim so that blades on the low side do not clear the water; and failure to keep time with the stroke.

When you “catch a crab”,  press down on the handle of your oar quickly and firmly to get the blade out of the water.  If you feel that you are falling backwards, call out to the boatsteerer so that you can be given time to recover your rowing position.  If you do fall and hurt your head, let your boatsteeer know.