Middle Path Boats

Box 314, Edinburg, PA 16116 email: middlepath@aol.com 724-652-4448

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Frequently Asked Questions

Question. Of the many rowing cruiser designs in the Middle Path Boats line, why did you choose the 16' Skua to be the first one offered in fiberglass? Is it because Skua is the lightest, fastest, most stable and most seaworthy?

Answer. Skua is not, never was, and was never intended to be, either our lightest, fastest, most seaworthy or most stable design. It is, however, one of our most versatile: combining stability, efficiency, seaworthiness, capacity and elegant styling in a boat that can be lifted onto a car's roof rack by a typical couple when produced in a strong, affordable lay-up. So, if your family includes anglers, campers, small children, pets or anyone seeking safe, healthful, outdoor recreation you can't go wrong with a Skua.


Question. I've noticed that most of your fixed seat rowing craft have two pairs of oarlock sockets. Does that mean that they can be rowed double?

Answer. All of our boats can be rowed by two persons, but only our 18 footers are specifically designed for double rowing. A well-designed boat of up to 16 feet can be efficiently propelled near its theoretical hull speed for sustained periods by a single rower. Adding another rower to a boat of that length would only overpower the hull and be wasteful of energy. The second rowing station on our 14 and 16 foot models is for achieving proper trim (generally level) under various loads.

18' Skua XL

Question. I'm looking for a lightweight, efficient rowing cruiser. Several people I've talked to have recommended an Adirondack Guideboat. I've tried two, from different makers, and found them both to be fast, but too tippy and low-sided for comfort on my home waters. Your Skua is similar in length and beam to a typical Adirondack Guideboat, should I expect it to behave similarly?

Answer. The speed of Adirondack Guideboats is legendary, but they should be just as famous for their on-center tenderness. Many people are understandably drawn to the Guideboat's sleek lines and sweeping curves only to be surprised on their first row by the quick motion of these craft in the roll plane (side to side).

The Adirondack Guideboat has considerable deadrise in its sections, slack bilges and carries its volume relatively high. The guideboat's impressive reserve stability only makes itself felt after it reaches a fairly steep angle of heel. Skua, on the other hand, has a flatter bottom, a broader waterline beam and lower, firmer bilges topped by rounded, flaring sides. This combination yields a craft with good initial stability and steadily rising resistance to heeling as its gunwale approaches the water.

The center depth of a typical Adirondack Guideboat is 12" while the least depth of our 16 foot Skua is 14". As for speed and dryness, Skua's record on the open water racing circuit is the best testament to this design's efficiency and seaworthiness.

Center sections of 16' Skua and 1905 H.D. Grant 16' Adirondack Guideboat
Adirondack Museum, Blue Mountain, NY.

Question. Your literature states that your Skua dominated the Fixed Seat Open-Water Racing circuit in the mid-1990s. Why haven't we heard much about Skuas winning races lately?

Answer. This answer requires a brief history lesson. In the Victorian Era rowing was the most popular outdoor sport in America. Back then everybody knew the differences between workboats, pleasure craft and boats designed and built for competition. In those days, a boat of Skua's weight and general dimensions would have been considered pretty normal for a recreational craft. With the coming of reliable and affordable outboard motors in the early years of the 20th century, the general population gravitated toward modernity and ease, and they soon forgot almost everything they knew about "old fashioned" things like rowing craft and oarsmanship. For about half a century just about the only visible remnants of the Golden Age of rowing were Ivy League racing teams and a few coastal workboats preserved in maritime museums. Somehow, in the years following World War II, the notion got started that heavy, obsolete, coastal workboats would make good recreational rowing craft. That concept was reinforced in several widely distributed books, written by well-respected authors that were published between the 1950s and 80s.

By the early 1990s, when Skua was designed, her dimensions seemed radical by comparison to those stodgy and inconvenient craft. At that time racing in open water was the only way to publicly demonstrate Skua's seaworthiness. By winning so often, and so convincingly, Skua also proved her efficiency..

At the Mid-Atlantic Small Craft Festival XXV in October 2007 Brian Schexnayder showed
that Skua still has what it takes when he won the Men's Rowing Race, again.

For a company like Middle Path Boats, which has only produced user-friendly cruising designs, all that competitive glory has been somewhat of a mixed blessing. Against an overwhelming, and as yet largely unchallenged, literary backdrop of workboat lore, our sleek Skua looked to many people like a "racing boat". To some of those persons "racing boat" = unsafe. Our records indicate that Skua owners are 50 times more likely to be retirees than serious racers. So, having demonstrated Skua's capabilities in the coastal environment, and not wanting to frighten away much of our intended market, after the 1995 racing season, we withdrew our active support of high profile racing efforts.

Soon after that we learned just how much happenings on the racing circuit influence the broader recreational rowing community. In Skua's absence other builders jumped on the bandwagon and entered the fray with their own lightweight offerings and in no time the average weight of new fixed seat recreational craft dropped dramatically. Unfortunately, this was also a time when many buyers discovered that there is more to designing a safe and efficient seaboat than simply making it light and skinny. Quite a few also learned that having a long and storied history is no guarantee that a design will be suitable for general use in open water. They found out the hard way what we knew so well, race results alone don't tell you much about the overall handling qualities of various boat types. Sadly, after all these years, race results are still the only hard data available for readers to compare the relative performance of different boats.

Skua owners know that there is nothing demanding or intimidating about owning or rowing a well-designed, high-performance boat. In the future, we hope this design will be noted more for its seminal role in the recent trend toward practical, efficient recreational rowing craft than for its record on the race course.

From time to time, Skuas are raced, and when they are, they are always among the favorites to win.

Question. What kind of person buys a Middle Path boat?

Answer. We've noticed that a great many of our clients are teachers or engineers. It makes us extremely proud when such thoughtful and analytical types choose our boats. They tell us how much they appreciate that we can cite facts based on personal experience and observation rather than merely repeating stories from history books. Some of our customers are won over at boat shows where we are able to demonstrate that our lightweight rowing cruisers can do everything that heavier workboat replicas can, only better, and with less fuss. A sizable percentage of our clients purchase our boats as replacements for more famous designs that didn't quite meet their expectations. All of our customers are smart persons with a practical understanding of the laws of physics and how they affect their chosen form of recreation. They know that a boat which typically carries a load of one or two people is unlikely to see much use if it requires a team of four or more persons to launch and retrieve. And, they know how hard it is to enjoy a boat that doesn't provide a sense of security on their home waters.

Question. Where can I see, or try, one of your boats?

Answer. Of course, you are welcome to come by our shop and learn, first hand, from the people who know them best. We only ask that you call well in advance of your visit so that we can set aside the necessary time to properly familiarize you with our products. You can also see, and try, our boats at various small craft shows and gatherings around the country. This year you can see us at:
  • The Mid-Atlantic Small Craft Festival at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum (www.cbmm.org) on first weekend in October.
If you know of other established events where we can show our boats to good effect, please let us know about them.

Paolo Frigerio running away from the field in the Men's Rowing Race
at the Mid-Atlantic Small Craft Festival XXVII in 2009.

Question. I've noticed that your boats have no keels or skegs. How well do they track?

Answer. Keels and skegs aren't necessary on rowing craft for tracking. Indeed, high performance racing and cruising canoes dispensed with them decades ago.

Underwater appendages are liabilities on the hulls of human-powered craft. They are subject to being grabbed or damaged by unseen obstacles or caught up in errant currents. Any desired degree of directional stability can be achieved by manipulating the shape of the hull. Factors like waterline length, hull sections and the amount of rocker can all affect a boat's tracking and maneuverability.

Keels and skegs are vestiges of 19th century design, shaped by the technologies of the day, when boats were made of many pieces of wood held together by nails and screws.

Question. Would I have to remove the fixed center seat to install a sliding seat rig in one of your boats?

Skua with sliding seat

Answer. No. The rowing sled fits in over the center thwart. Also, the entire sliding seat apparatus can be installed and removed in seconds, without tools.

Question. If I installed a sliding seat rig in a 16' Skua would I be able to row it faster than I could from the fixed seat?

Answer. No. The extra power of a sliding seat and 9'-10' sculls will not make a 16 foot boat go any faster. Speed in a displacement (non-planing) craft is determined by waterline length: the longer the waterline, the greater the speed potential. Skua is optimized for efficient, long distance, fixed seat rowing. Experiments have shown that there is a point of diminishing returns regarding length when designing for speed in open, fixed seat craft. With a single rower that point is around 16 feet. Beyond that length any potential performance gains are increasingly offset by increases in weight, wetted surface (friction) and windage.

Brian Schexnayder gives the rest of the field a good look at Skua's shapely transom
on his way to winning the Men's Fixed Seat Rowing Race at the MASCF XXI.

A strong oarsman can keep Skua moving near hull speed for extended periods. The sliding seat method was developed for use in extremely long, extremely light, extremely narrow, low-profile, flatwater rowing shells. The farther a boat and the conditions depart from those parameters the less it will benefit from the power potential of the slide. Firing those huge quads to work the slide will only produce bigger waves and tire you faster. Sliding seat rowing is efficient exercise but makes for inefficient transportation. The results of mixed class, open water races show that 15'-17' sliding seat shells are no faster than the better fixed seat rowing craft.

Question. You say your boats are car-toppable. I have a small sedan with a 4 cylinder engine. Can I safely carry a Skua on the roof of my car?

Skua + roof rack + compact car = the world

Answer. Probably. The best rack manufacturers (Yakima, Thule etc...) offer sturdy rack systems to fit most cars. Any canoe or bicycle shop should be able to help fit your car with the proper set-up. You should also consult your car's owner's manual about its rooftop carrying capacity. A fit couple can usually hoist a 100 lbs craft onto the roof of a car.

If you don't have a boating partner you might want to consider ordering a lightweight trailer to transport your Skua. Middle Path Boats is an authorized dealer for the superb line of Trailex aluminum trailers. Trailex SUT trailers are long lasting and singularly gentle to small, lightweight watercraft. All Trailex SUT trailers are D.O.T. legal and many can double as hand pulled carts. They can be trailed behind the smallest vehicles. The all up weight of a Skua, with oars and life jackets, on a SUT-220-S trailer is under 250 lbs. With some of these trailers you'll never even have to lift your boat. Just float it on and off your trailer. One client commented that trailers like these should come as standard equipment with all lightweight, human-powered boats. The more experience we have with these trailers the more we see his point. Even if you think you don't like trailers, a Trailex SUT trailer may be the perfect accessory for your boat. By ordering your trailer from Middle Path Boats you can save money and take advantage of our proximity to the Trailex factory. More importantly, you can benefit from our unique knowledge of both the boats and the trailers. You can check out the complete Trailex line at www.trailex.com.

Skua on Trailex SUT-220 S Trailer

Question. Most high performance, fixed seat rowing craft are matched with long oars and that seems to be the case with Skua. Some designs demand an uncomfortable cross-handed rowing technique. With Skua will I have to row with crossed oar handles?

Answer.  No. Skua's maximum hull beam is the minimum necessary to achieve a sufficient spread between oarlocks to accommodate a pair of long, efficient oars without resorting to inconvenient and complicated devices like outriggers. Also, we have our custom sewn oar leathers placed so that the oar grips pass cleanly, without overlap, on both the power and recovery phases of the stroke. Outriggers can be a genuine liability on a cruising craft. They often place concentrated stresses on a hull and they can make it difficult for a rowing craft to closely and safely pull alongside docks, seawalls and other boats.

Question. Can a Skua be fitted with a sailing rig?

Answer. Yes, but it shouldn't be done. Some people can't resist the temptation to convert a pretty rowing boat into a sailboat. The design requirements for rowing and sailing differ enough that any hull which has been optimized for rowing will not be a sterling sailer, and any boat that sails like "a real sailboat" will not row like the best rowing craft. Putting a set of oarlocks on a nice sailing dinghy probably won't negatively affect its sailing qualities, but almost any alteration or addition you make to a high performance rowing craft in order to make it sail will adversely affect its comfort, efficiency and perhaps its safety. Under oars Skua can go faster on all points than most dinghies ever sail. Cutting up or cluttering up a hull like Skua's in an attempt to make it sail will only compromise this design's extraordinary rowing performance. There are very few rowing craft that can prepare you for the remarkable efficiency and civility of a hull like Skua. We strongly urge Skua owners not to waste time, money and effort turning one of the worlds most sophisticated rowing cruisers into something less.

Lacey England pulling Skua to victory in the Women's Fixed Seat Rowing Race
at Mid-Atlantic Small Craft Festival XXI in St. Michaels, MD.

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