A rowlocking good idea
PBO editor David Pugh demonstrates how he adapted some chromed brass rowlocks to fit his Zodiac Zoom dinghy and enable the use of longer oars
Zodiac make great rubber dinghies, but on some designs the rowlocks leave something to be desired. After moving moorings and acquiring a rack space for a dinghy, I decided to press my 2.6m Zodiac Zoom into service as a tender, but there was one problem: an enthusiastic bout of rowing in the past had broken one of the rowlocks.
As designed, the rowlocks comprise a chromed brass pin which locates in a socket on the dinghy. The oar is retained with a plastic loop attached to the pin. The pin locates in the socket and twists to lock it in position – a neat idea which keeps the oars secure, but also allows them to be easily removed.
The problem is the plastic loop. Replacements are readily available, at a price: however, I wanted to be able to use longer oars, as it was more important to be able to row strongly than stow the oars easily. My solution was to adapt some conventional U-shaped rowlocks to fit the Zodiac socket. Measuring the remaining Zodiac rowlock showed that it had a 12mm stem, and an online search revealed that several chandleries offered a chromed brass rowlock with a stem of suitable diameter. (It’s distributed by
Osculati and has a part number 34.160.10, should you wish to follow suit.)
Choosing chromed brass increased the cost a little, but brass is nice to machine and would work well on my hobby lathe. Consigning the sockets that came with the rowlocks to my odds and sods stock I set to work, first turning the shaft to remove any irregularities from the chroming and ensure it was the correct diameter.
I then cut the slot which retains the pin in the socket. As I didn’t have a lathe tool narrow enough, I cut out the majority of the waste with a V-shaped tool before squaring off with a cut-off tool. Finally, I used the cut-off tool to trim the shaft to length. Throughout the process I kept checking the dimensions against the original with a vernier caliper.
The last step was to cut the vertical slot which allows the rowlock to enter the socket. I used a milling cutter, but a file would do just as well. I also eased the machined edges to avoid cut fingers.
I now have a set of rowlocks which fit the tender perfectly and allow me to use proper oars. At a total cost of £27.98 they cost almost exactly the same as the Zodiac replacements – but I’m confident these won’t break, however hard I row.