Top of Lava

Do you boat with a partner who is bored with sitting while you row? Are you old enough that you don’t quite have the strength to make the cut around Upset? Do you lose the perfect line when you stop to put on sunscreen? Do you dread rowing into a headwind? The answer might be to add a 2nd rowing station to your cataraft!

My wife and I have faced all of these issues over many years of both rowing independently and sharing the same raft.  We recently added a 2nd pair of oars and have been delighted with the results.  We just finished 3 weeks on the Grand and saw no disadvantages.

In Lava…

We started off shifting the standard rowing position to the front (as many have done before us).  We then decided to add a 2nd seat on the back crossbar. We placed it a bit higher, giving a good view and a chance to have some footroom while loading some gear underneath.  The two positions are far enough apart that we can row independently without hitting each others’ oars.  While I am the ‘captain’, my wife is an experienced boater and can usually figure out what needs to be done without shouted commands.  We rigged two other cats this way for our Grand trip and they worked well for bow rowers with less experience also.

Our frames are 105″ long (pipe to pipe) and 70″ wide.  With 10 foot oars, we do not have to synchronize our rowing – there is enough room for each to row at his/her own rate.

Photo album with additional pictures 

(When looking at an individual picture, click on the ‘Info’ icon for captions with comments about the picture.)

Doughnut Boats: I was asked about converting a doughnut boat to tandem rowing. While not having any direct experience, I know that some have done it (there was a post on a facebook group a while back). I think the key step is whether you can get enough distance between the two rowers so that they can row independently. I measured our frames – we have the front and back pins (or front and back seats) set 70-72″ apart. (That’s with 10′ oars – presumably you could get by with a bit less if you had shorter oars.) If you can manage that, I think you are good to go! If I had a smallish raft, I would investigate putting a stern frame (NRS has an example: NRS stern frame ) on the back.

John and Kresta with a tandem 16′ doughnut on the Grand. So would the stern frame allow the gear to be piled up in the center and more space between the pairs of oars? I don’t know, but it would be fun to try.

Speaking of which, I just saw a post from someone who is concerned about a low-flow trip this summer down through the Desolation/Gray Canyons of the Green with 16′ rafts. I’ve done that trip a number of times – I would – without doubt! – set up tandem rowing for the long stretches.

If you do this, how about sending me some comments and pictures? I’d post and make you famous! (Well, at least we could document it…)

Questions? Further discussion?  Feel free to email me at