The main part of the work in sculling is done by the legs and back. When the arms and body are well forward in striking the water, press hard against the stretcher with the heels, and the arms will pull the sculls towards the body until the legs are stretched full length and the hands are close to the chest. Remember to keep the elbows close to the sides, for nothing is so ugly as to see sculling done with squared elbows. Much power, too, is lost thereby.
The position of the hands upon the sculls is an important point. Hold the sculls in the fingers, curved to form a hook, with the thumb underneath; do not grasp them in the palms of the hands. Keep the wrists in a straight line with the hands throughout the pull of the stroke, and drop the wrist at the end of the stroke. Maintain this position during the outward push of the arms, thus causing the sculls to turn and "feather."
The sculls, when out of the water, will be found to overlap one another by several inches, and it is therefore necessary to scull with one hand uppermost, that they may pass each other during the pull of the stroke. The upper hand has slightly the advantage, and it is therefore advisable to form the habit of sculling with the left hand uppermost - this being probably the weaker - in order to equalise the strength of the two arms during the stroke.
To begin the stroke the arms must be kept rigid, while the sculler bends forward from the waist (not from the shoulders) to lay hold of the water. As the body passes the perpendicular during the pull of the stroke, and the hands begin to cross each other, clear the way by slightly lowering the one hand and slightly raising the other.
As the hands open out again after having crossed - but not before - begin to bend the arms simultaneously to exactly the same extent, keeping the elbows down and close to the sides, in order to bring the ends of the sculls well home to the chest. The utmost limit of the stroke having been reached, bring it to a finish by sharply dropping the wrist, thus turning the sculls on to the feather - that is to say, the flat surface of the blade is parallel with the surface of the water and raised slightly above it.
In the forward swing of the body the arms, with the wrists still dropped and sculls on the feather, are pushed forward to their farthest extent until the limit of the forward swing is reached, when the sculls must be turned off the feather and be allowed to enter into the water with what looks like one swift continuous movement, the blades being just submerged, but no more.
Swiftness in turning on and off the feather and in laying hold of the water is one of the chief marks of a really good sculler. It is excellent practice for the beginner to finish a lesson by practising the necessary movement of the wrists until they become second nature.
Another important point for the novice to practise is that of getting the longest possible backward and forward swing entirely from the small of the back, not the shoulders, in the course of each stroke, applying the propelling power equally and simultaneously with both legs.
When sculling in a double - sculling boat the sculler seated nearest to the stern is called " stroke," and she sets the time and length of the stroke. The other sculler (or " No. I," as she is technically designated, all crews being numbered from the sharp end or fore part of the boat) seated behind her must keep her eyes fixed on "stroke's "back, dipping and feathering her sculls in unison with her, and keeping exact time in every particular.
Holding Water - that is to say, keeping the boat stationary when inclined to drift in a strong current or when in mid-stream, is performed by keeping the boat up against the stream and holding the sculls in the water as though nearly finishing a stroke, until it is found that the stream is taking the boat backwards, when a fresh stroke must be made. A slight downward pressure on the sculls must be made whilst holding water, to prevent them from sinking in too deep.
Backwatering is employed to reverse the direction in which the boat is travelling, causing it to travel backwards, stern first. It is an exact reversal of sculling, and is performed by means of pushing the blades of the sculls through the water and pulling them through the air.
If only one person is sculling in an ordinary Thames skiff, the arms should go forward and downward, then, with a smart pressure on the rowlock, the scull will be unshipped, and will fall or be guided into the bow of the skiff.
If two are sculling, No. 1 should be told to ship first, then when it is seen that the boat has enough way on her, No. 2 (stroke) is told to ship, and this is done in the same manner as above described. It is often desirable to ship by lifting the handle of the scull out of the rowlock, allowing the blade to rest flat on the water, and then draw the scull on board, so that the blades will then lie towards the stern. This is also done when passing close to another boat and there is a chance of striking the sculls of the other boat. It is very simple, but it has to be learnt.
Paddling is sculling at about half power.
At the end of the stroke, drop the wrists sharply so that the flat surface of the blade of the scull is parallel with the surface of the water. This is called "feathering" the scull
Sprinting is performed by the sculler exerting herself to her utmost capacity while propelling the boat through the water to accelerate its speed for any distance ranging from a few yards up to a quarter of a mile.
In order to steer, the steersman, or " cox," sits in the middle of the stern seat with the rudder lines held one in either hand. If the lines are held firmly, the slightest extra strain on one or other of them will tend to alter the direction to the right or left. Any sudden action of the rudder tends to stop the way of the boat and disturbs the sculler.
By pulling the right or left line, the nose of the boat turns to the right or left respectively.
General alertness and good judgment are essential in a "cox," for it must be remembered that she alone can see ahead in the direction in which the boat is being propelled, and must be constantly on the look-out, not only to direct its course, but to give prompt directions to her crew in all emergencies. It is she who has the entire responsibility of piloting the boat, without loss of varnish and with due regard for the rights of the occupants of other boats, into locks and up to the landing stage on the return from an outing, giving the directions "Paddle" and "Ship sculls" at the psychological moment, so that the boat may glide into its appointed place.
In approaching a point which has to be rounded, the boat should take the turn in a steady curve rather than be jerked round at an angle. When guiding a skiff along the stretches of an ordinary river, the course should be steered by means of some landmark and according to the strength of the currents - the bows of the boat being, as it were, steadied or corrected by means of gentle touches of the rudder applied between the strokes.
It is important to master thoroughly both the ordinary rules of the river and also the etiquette to be observed in going through a lock before embarking on a sculling expedition. When travelling up stream a skiff keeps to one or other bank as far as possible, in order to avoid the current; but it gives way to punts travelling either up or down stream, these being always allowed to keep to the track closest to the bank, often the only part of the river where a punting bottom is to be found.
When travelling down stream a skiff keeps to the middle of the river, to avail itself of the full benefit of the current, giving way only to launches, whose only channel lies in the middle of the river. Should a skiff chance to be coming down stream along either bank, it must at once give way to skiffs, punts, or canoes, or dinghies, coming on board so that the blades lie towards the stern up stream, steering at once out into midstream to let them go by.
When approaching a lock, if the lock gates are already open, either make a spurt in order to enter as quickly as possible, and so avoid detaining the other craft already inside, or else indicate to the lock-keeper by a very definite slacking of speed or by stopping for a moment that the occupants of the skiff are not contemplating going through the lock for the time being.
Always enter a lock with enough way on the boat to carry her right inside and up to her appointed place, after the sculls have been shipped outside the lock.
If the lock is almost empty, steer the skiff up to the side, and hold her in by means of the chains which are provided for the purpose. If only the centre of the lock remains unoccupied, however, it is etiquette to ask permission to hold on to, or make fast to, the boat alongside. On leaving the lock, a strict order of precedence is maintained. Launches go first, next skiffs, and punts leave last of all.
Often, how-ever, the sculler will find it easier to avoid locks altogether and to transfer her boat from the one level of the river to the other by means of the "r o l l e r s" which almost invariably are placed by the side of the lock. "Rollers " consist of a series of circular pins which revolve as the boat is dragged over them, and therefore make it quite light and easy to pull. First the boat must be brought to the bank, so that the passengers can land and the rudder be unshipped. Then, if one passenger pulls by means of the rope in the bow of the skiff and the others push at the sides, the boat will be found to travel over the rollers without any difficulty, and the time accupied will be much less than probably would be taken going through the lock.
In conclusion, a word of warning must be given cautioning scullers against the danger of weirs. This applies particularly to beginners, who, finding themselves pulling against a strong current, are apt to lose their heads. The experienced sculler has nothing to fear. And for that matter, nor has the beginner either, for large notices are always placed in the river in the neighbourhood of weirs, so that one has ample time to avoid the danger zone and steer down the channel either to the right or the left which leads to the lock and " rollers."