The five-foot basswood crap oars I’ve been nursing for five years are about three strokes from giving up the ghost and having invested several coats of Epiphanes varnish, Churbuck YellowÂ on the blades, and tacked on leathers and buttons, I’ve decided enough is enough, no more lipstick on the pig, and for once it is time to get some real oars.
I looked at a pair at an antique shop on Martha’s Vineyard over the weekend, the lady quoted $125 for a so-so pair of six-footers, maybe 50 years old. I was tempted, but I was basically paying New York prices for something some hedge fund manager was going to turn into a piece of wall art. It was time to call Shaw & Tenney, makers of the best oars on the planet, and the third oldest marine manufacturer in the country.
I dropped $180 for a pair of six-foot spruce oars with a leathers/button kit I’ll sew on myself. These should, knock on wood, wind up in the hands of my grandchildren. I was tempted to get ash — the “ash” breeze is the old nickname for rowing — but ash is heavy and overkill for a set of dinghy oars.
This fall I think I’ll clamp a sculling notch on the transom of the dinghy and learn how to propel myself with one oar. Interestingly, Shaw & Tenney charges more money for a single sculling oar than they do for a pair of conventional ones.