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Travel Tips
Rowing Hack: Let Us Now Praise Low-Boys
December 14, 2022
John FX Flynn

A humble low-boy at work

Call them what you will--low-boys, trestles, blocks, "tees"--every boathouse has them and they are nearly all home-made, so as your team finishes up fall practices and we get back into 'build stuff season' don't forget about one of the original Rowing Hacks out there: The Low-Boy.

These are essential when traveling, as a quick and easy way to store a rigged shell both close to the ground, so that it can't blow over, as well as hull up--so that if it does hit the ground somehow the rudder and the skin cannot be damaged.

(Each set will also save you from ever having to spare two athletes per shell as Human Slings.)

The key to a good set of low-boys is, of course, that they store flat--either by folding or coming apart altogether--thus taking up the bare minimum trailer space when you hit the road, and it is hard to do better in the "fold flat" department than wooden low-boys.

There are a few designs--from the classic two boards halved-jointed into an "X" seen above to the classic "A frame" that Rowing Hacks featured a few years back--but the low-boy we'd like to praise today is this easy folding variation, which does the standard A Frame one better:

The Side-Hinged Varient
The Side-Hinged Varient

By hinging the two pieces of wood on the side, you can get away with one hinge per set rather than the two the A Frame needs and, while your standard door hinge is not terribly expensive, it never hurts to be able to build two things for the price of one... plus you will cut your hinge-installing time in half.

What we like about the folding designs is that you don't need the fancy, matching cuts that you need to create the halved-jointed version and there is zero chance of forgetting to pack one half of the low-boy if they are always hinged into a single piece.

Your 'length of cord' can also double as a carrying handle
Your 'length of cord' can also double as a carrying handle

It is still a good idea to include a length of cord that sets how far the hinged boards can open, and you can even use a length of an old, frayed, and retired boat strap to do that job.

Speaking of straps, any good set of low-boys should also have a strap pass-through, which can easily be drilled with a 1 1/2 - 2 inch hole-saw. That will allow you to tie the shell down without having your straps going under the low-boy and--potentially--into mud that will dirty them.

You can use any 12-16 inch wide boards for this Hack but plywood will be cheaper in the thickness you are looking for--at least 3/4 inch--and you should cut each "arm" of the low-boys long enough to fit the widest boat you travel with, plus some strapping room.

A peek at the single hinge working its magic
A peek at the single hinge working its magic

Here is a pro tip, though, for any design you make out of plywood: be sure to paint or epoxy the edges to seal them against moisture. Water seeping from wet ground into the layers of unpainted plywood is possibly the only thing that that will quickly shorten the life-span of a low-boy--which can otherwise last pretty much forever.

Even if you do use boards, painting the whole thing will help them weather better, but you should at the very least paint the edges where the end-grain shows: that keeps the long fibers of the wood from drawing moisture out of the boards over time, which can lead to cracking, and will also keep the boards from soaking up ground moisture when you use them on a rainy regatta day.

Plus, what better way to fill winter hours at the boathouse than by painting low-boys in school or club colors?

Have school colors, will travel.
Have school colors, will travel.

Do you have a killer design you use to build low-boys, or an even better boat traveling trick? Share your tips--and hacks--in the comments below.

If you have a great rowing hack to suggest for future inclusion, then please send it to us, and we will feature your idea in a future column.

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