Pssst – could you use a plastic rowing boat?

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Two-man rowing boats for sale, £400 each


A number of moulded Tidal Fly clinker-effect plastic rowing boats are on sale at £400 a pop in the South-East of England.

I don’t know who made them, or whether they were designed or moulded from an existing boat, but the boats used by fly fishermen on our local reservoir are coming up for sale at £400 a pop. I gather there are as many as 54 of these things coming up for sale during this year.

A great feature of these little craft is their built-in bouyancy, which I think should appeal to three overlapping groups: those who like to row on the sea; those who might like to set up a small get-you-home sailing rig for the kind of trip where you plan to ride the tide and a breeze home, having rowed out; and those who want a boat with a convenient long flat floor on which to unroll a mat and sleeping bag. That’s not something you often get with a round-bottomed boat, and I think some will find it an especially helpful design feature.

Bewl is also selling the outboard motors the boats have been used with also, but I have no details.

For years I’ve thought these lean two-person rowing boats looked useful as rowing boats, and that it was sad that in their role as hire boats, they’ve generally been used with small outboards. In that role, with one fisherman and one outboard they make an impressive sight with their bows rather light and often well out of the water.

If you want to avoid looking silly, I wouldn’t recommend using one of these boats with an engine, but if you’re lucky enough to have easy access to water and want a cheap, indestructible little boat to knock about in, get some exercise while you’re building your next project or want to buy some boats for a boating lake hire business, ring or email Howard McKenzie at Bewl on 01892 890661 and

19 thoughts on “Pssst – could you use a plastic rowing boat?”

    1. I'd say it was somewhere in the 17-19ft range. Useful for hire, for a school or club, and lots of other purposes. Just don't use a motor! I'm tempted myself, but can't think where I'd use it or where I'd put it!

  1. Four hundred quid! strike, wish I could get my hands on one. You could make one of those look really swish, and fit it with a sprit rig for downwind work too. I agree with Chris Partridge, I like their bones and here, in and out of the water all the time, they'd be less prone todamage than wood.

    1. Agreed. If only I could think where to put it I'd like one – but they don't really encourage rowing boats at Bewl unless you happen to be a club racing kind of person. Myself, I'm not the competitive kind and in general I want fewer people organising me – not more – so joining the rowing club just isn't for me. And if I'm really honest what my family needs now is something like a GP14. Not very glam, but just the cheap boat for a middle-aged dinghy sailor with a wife and family and a big lake on his doorstep where sailing is so much the in thing!

  2. I think I'm the only rower on our bay too, On flat winter mornings I like to do do a 6 or 7 mile course. I am planning to build a purpose built craft for such pleasures. It is essential to have a boat that can be re-entered in open water but I haven't settled on a model yet.

  3. "And if I’m really honest what my family needs now is something like a GP14. Not very glam, but just the cheap boat for a middle-aged dinghy sailor with a wife and family … "

    Gavin, don't insult the GP14!!

    A quite superb design, one of probably only two world class cruiser-racer dinghies (the other being the Wayfarer), and very much enjoyed and appreciated by some of us.

    Cheap? Well, yes, you can buy an old tore-out for buttons, and you can get quite a reasonable example for a few hundred, but a good modern one is anything but cheap – as, indeed, is a nicely restored vintage one. My own custom-built wooden one, new in 2006, cost me about two and a half times what I paid for my Privateer 20 this year, and the latter was not exactly cheap!


    1. I didn't meant they were all cheap!

      I've nothing against the GP – but it's been a while since I last saw a new one at the places I sail. Not being into it, I don't spend time looking at racing fleets. What I'd like is an elderly plastic one – and not quite for buttons, for I know what that would get me!

    1. I think the maximum beam is likely to be 4ft 6in or so. They won't make a real sailer, but with leeboards and a snug rig, I'm sure they could be used the way you describe without being spoilt for rowing. Though Ben C does very well with his Light Trow by just sliding a short plug into the c/b slot.


  4. Hi Gavin, Pic 146 on the disc I sent. A local Tasmanian design, a Derwent skiff if I remember rightly.

  5. I would go along with Pete Culler's advice about not trying to turn a good rowing boat into a mediocre sailboat.

    It looks as if this boat was built with more stability than usual to allow for a fly fisherman to cast while being rowed around by a partner. There is plenty of room to alter the interior. It would be easy to add another thwart to row double. Then put on a rudder for someone to steer and warn of obstacles. Not that I know that much about UK conditions, but Pub to Pub canal rowing might be fun.

    1. It would be difficult and even unhelpful to add a centreboard slot to these boats, but I see no harm in adding a small leeboard. The kind that hangs on a line running to the inside boat somewhere could well be just the job.

      I read Pete Culler some time ago and don't recall whether Pete Culler made your point, though I do remember Bolger did so. But I do remember that Culler was also on adding a small spritsail rig to a rowing skiff so that one could enjoy a kind of boating we don't do much here in the UK: rowing out into wind and tide, and resting for lunch or a spot of fishing (which I don't do, but lunch would be fine!) and then sailing home on a run or a reach, preferably with the tide beneath you.


  6. This is the contact I had last year when I enquired. I didnt buy one in the end as I was ill last summer.


    Wendy Page

    Recreation Assistant

    Bewl Water Management Associates Ltd.

    The Estate Office

    Bewl Water


    Kent TN3 8JH

    Tel: 01892 890661
    Wendy Page []

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