Making Sweeps

A reader asked…. “I am in the process of trying to rig oar locks on a 24 foot aluminum shanty boat. Does anyone have any information on this endeavor. Pictures of different setup would be nice. I am building a rear deck to setup one oar system. And I will be setting up locks on the front deck also. so I may need different ideas for each location. With the amount of boat building on this site I hope that some may be able to help.”

Well… I’d do Sweeps.  They are the giant oars used to propel a shantyboat down rivers.   Actually, the theory is that the river current is what moves the boat, but a pair of large sweeps, long arms with a broad board as a paddle, can be used to control the pathway of the shantyboat within the river’s current.    They were used by Anna and Harlan Hubbard on their journeys, as told in Shantyboat, and if one looks through vintage shantyboat stories in old books and magazines, you’ll see their frequent mention.

It’s a nice image, isn’t it?   A comfy seat on the front deck of your boat, with a gentle sweep of the huge oar nudging your boat in the right direction.

I’ll write more on this later, but here’s where I am on MY sweep project so far:

sweep two



This was my inspiration.  More on this later too:

sweeps three

The idea is to make them light by using the layers.  Mount them on a post with a large “pin” in the top.  The sweep has a hole that is larger than the pin, so it can pivot about… or so it appears to me.



Originally posted 2015-07-08 07:39:31.

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  1. We’ve found that drift boats frequently like to lie ahull to the current… that is, at right angles.

    Initially, we panicked, and thrashed water trying to get ourselves in line and keep us there.

    Finally dawned: drift peacefully, and use the sweeps to position ourselves in the current. A stroke or two here and there, toward or away from mid-stream, say, or one’s side of a channel.

    Freaks people out to see this, and, given our initial reaction, can’t say I blame them. But, if this is the way your boat wants to drift, it’s the Watercourse Way!

    Dave Z

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