Friday, 28 August 2009
Rowing cross-oared again
I’m afraid that the craft that I previously referred to as a ‘polbiero’ is actually a ‘dorna’. I’d had some inkling of this but was finally able to confirm my suspicion when I met a Galician ‘dorna’ owner at the XXIII festival of lateen sail in Cadaqués. (More on this festival in another post.) Suso, author of the blog ‘Lajareu por Barlovento’ , was participating with his dorna, Tamariua, which he kindly let me sail and row.
The Dorna requires a crew of two to tack the dipping lug sail. The helm, having put the tiller over unhooks the sheet, leaves their position and, grasping the clew of the sail, dashes nimbly round the mast. While the crew first lowers the sail a few feet to enable the yard to pass freely round the front of the mast, then raises it again tying off the halyard to windward where it acts as a stay. The helm then re-attaches the sheet with a quick turn round a small belaying pin. It is rather complicated to perform on the confined decks of the dorna but with practice and coordination I imagine it could be quite a graceful step-by-step dance.
My efforts weren’t particularly graceful but I hoped to do better at the oars. The two-piece sweeps are as long as the dorna. Being so large they are also heavy but with so much of the oar inboard of the pins they are balanced. I found it hard to keep they blades out of the water on the recovery but the stroke was powerful and satisfying.
For the solo sailor the dorna would be a challenge. Not only due to the difficulty of single-handedly tacking and gybing but also because the crossed oar rowing, while fine for fishing, does not really make suitable auxiliary power. I think it would be difficult to row this boat alone for hours at a stretch maintaining a 3-knot average speed. However, when rowed by two people, as it more commonly was, the boat moves along easily and briskly. Stroke oar sits in the on the stern thwart and bow oar on the central one. Due to the length of the oars the starboard rower sits on the port side of the boat and vice versa.
As before I was struck by the contrasts of this boat. The rustic simplicity of the build and rig compared with the complexity of the hull form. The area of Galicia in northwest Spain has Celtic roots and the dorna hull form derived, according to Suso, from Viking craft. The dorna proved to be a big head-turner on the Catalan coast upstaging many of the smaller lateen rigged craft.