Drift boats and the sound

Discussion in 'Watercraft' started by wyofly, Feb 27, 2013.

  1. Bob Triggs’ Old School Dory Cool post makes me wonder if my Clacka Fly Fisher would be a good choice for Puget Sound. The boat rows well on rivers and lakes and slips the wind quite well. I'm not sure what to expect in a minus tide. Anyone use drift boats on the sound and if so how do they work for you?
    Bob Triggs likes this.
  2. It would be workable under ideal conditions, for sure. You would need to plan well for any trips.
    Stay in the back ends of bays and coves, if you can. Since you are in a flat-bottomed, rockered hull powered by oars, avoiding extreme tide exchanges and higher winds would be your first consideration.
    I can say that having rowed a 16' Willie upstream, and also being familiar with rowing downstream in slow water into the wind, that you would never want to find yourself fighting against current and wind.
    Bob Triggs likes this.
  3. I had a willie drift boat with a motor well and I used that boat everywhere. the wind will push you around as will the tide but thats a problem in any oar powered craft. Even with a motor on a driftboat they are not very fast. Other than that people have been going to sea in dorys for centurys and a drift boat is a modifed dory.
    Bob Triggs likes this.
  4. I managed a row boat rental on the sound for years. I've also done several long distance rowing trips on the sound in both clumsy and efficient row boats. I've rowed from Seattle to Port Townsend and from Lake Union to the far side of Bainbridge and back. There's no reason that you can't use a drift boat on the sound. It's certainly seaworthy enough, but would fit in the clumsy category as far as rowing efficiency goes. You'll want to get a chart of course, but also get a current atlas. Even a 1-2 knot current will slow you down to an agonizing pace.
    Bob Triggs and Jim Wallace like this.
  5. Dang! That's an awful lot of rowing!!!

    I just hate going backwards. Overwhelmingly, I prefer to go in the direction to which I am facing, even if I am rowing toward the opposite direction. I don't mind rowing down rivers; in fact, I prefer that to paddling downstream, since I believe in going downstream as slowly as is necessary to cover the decent fly water. Purty dang slow. Lately, I only row if I'm floating downstream from A to B. I most always paddle or use my PB when going forward and/or returning to the same place from where I launched.. Did you ever use mirrors when rowing in the Sound? I just can't stand going backwards. Lately, I can only stand to row against a river current. For flat water, I always want to be going forward, hence, I be paddling, or motoring.

    This is all in disregard to the exception of Bob's and other forum members' incredibly beautiful wooden skiffs.

    I just don't have eyes in the back of my head!:confused:
  6. My thoughts on river drifters in saltwater use here is that as long as you pick your places and conditions, they are fine. But you can get beat up pretty badly in stronger winds and sea conditions. The river drifters have more freeboard and act much like a sail in stronger winds. And this region is notorious for offering mild mornings with building conditions through late morning and afternoon. This is especially true in the summer months when we have onshore wind flows all day. You can head out in manageable conditions, seemingly ideal for fishing, crabbing or pleasure rowing, and get caught with a sudden wind change, coupled with adverse tidal currents and seas that go from placid to dangerous.

    The flat bottomed dories can really buck like a horse in heavier seas and the vertical chop we get in some areas here in Puget Sound country. So it is all about knowing your limitations- yours and the boat's- paying attention to tides, currents, winds and local forecasting. And developing reliable local knowledge over time. Be aware that there are federal and state legal requirements for safety equipment for rowboats on salt waters too. If you use a motor of any kind, or sails, there are additional requirements.
    Jim Wallace likes this.
  7. Good advice, there, Bob. The Strait can get nasty more quickly than a newbie might imagine.
    In the summer here on the coast, the afternoon onshore thermals can pick up enough to make paddling or rowing from way back in the estuary to the downstream launch a major chore (Elk and Palix estuaries, for example), especially if you are also fighting the incoming tide.

    As a matter of fact, nearly every local I know out here advises against taking a drift boat back into the estuaries, due to the wind and tide considerations. We either paddle, or take a skiff with an O/B motor. I sometimes row my mini-drifter up a tidal creek with the high tide, but I make sure that I am back down at the launch by low tide, or soon after. I never would attempt to row my mini-drifter back into the wide-open and wind-swept Elk River estuary. That tub is just too slow and has way too much wind resistance on flat water. I can paddle my U-12 at least twice as fast as I can row that thing, wwhen I'm just cruising. I can go 3 or 4 times as fast, if I want to power. If rowing, by the time I got back up near the head of tidewater to where I wanted to be fishing, why, I'd already be late for heading back out! And it would be a living hell to row it back out against the wind and tide. I'm talking 4 or 5 miles against a building incoming tidal push and average 10-15 mph onshore wind. Its nearly impossible to make headway against that rowing in a drift boat. The wind is the real momo killer. I can make headway against those conditions paddling a kayak for all I'm worth, but I'd be getting blown backwards into the mudflats if I was crazy enough to attempt the same route rowing in my mini-drifter..
    In my opinion, a drift boat does not belong in the salt or in an open estuary. My mini-drifter has a warning label from the manufacturer that it is designed for shallow white water rivers and not for deep water. However, I have taken it out into some local lakes. It has large pieces of foam on the undersides of its seats for floatation, so it probably wouldn't go to the bottom if swamped or capsized.
  8. Thanks for your comments. I'll leave the drift boat at home and use my father-in-law's skiff with a 7.5 hp outboard for fishing off of the beaches.
  9. That will let you get around to other locations quicker. Motor skiff can be the ticket.
    I've seen guys out on glassy calm mornings in 8' pontoons on Hood Canal during the Chum run, at places like Potlatch. Not far from the launch and just off the beach, fisher casting in to the shallows. Your drift boat might be OK for such conditions in the more protected areas if you plan right, and/or don't get too far from the launch.
    I just wouldn't recommend taking it out into open reaches, or anywhere the current gets ripping and the wind chop can get nasty.
    Bob Triggs likes this.

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