Sliding Seats

Our world-class sliding seats are trusted by competitive ocean rowers and recreational rowers alike.

Even a casual rower will notice a big difference between our slide seat design and those of our competition. Most slide seat mechanisms are designed for flat water competition in narrow, tippy Sculls or pulling boats. Narrow craft like those use restricting, butt shaped seats and floor mounted rails to force the rower to remain precisely centered in the boat. Narrow boats also require long metal outriggers to artificially increase the beam. The hard, narrow rollers under the seat typically make an annoying sound as they travel back and forth on the aluminum rails… really annoying on a quiet morning row. These are great for competition, but woefully lack the real world requirements of a recreational rowboat.

Gig Harbor Boat Works sliding seat shown with optional seat cushion

Most Gig Harbor Boat owners prefer to row across open water for relatively long distances with the option to fish, camp, crab, or just take their pooch along for a ride. This requires freedom of movement, an uncluttered floor and versatility for different wind, load and sea conditions. Instead of floor mounted rails our seats are suspended by rollers on the hull sides which leaves the floor unencumbered… plenty of space for tackle boxes, lunch boxes or even your feet when you want to stand up to stretch, cast a line or pull a crab pot. Our wide seats also allow the rower to shift their weight sideways to counterbalance the rapidly moving aforementioned pooch. The beam of our boats is wide enough to be able to eliminate outriggers… if you try to come alongside an average height dock in an outrigger equipped boat you can’t reach the dock! Folding outriggers? Great in concept but when it’s folded in to come alongside a dock you no longer have an oar on that side of the boat.

Did I mention our rollers are absolutely silent? The rollers are a type of ‘rollerblade’ wheel but with very soft durometer, UV resistant material. And of course metal bearings in a salt water environment is asking for problems so we make our own exclusive UHMW / Nylon roller bearings for a lifetime of quiet, smooth slide seat rowing.

Also note that every one of our slide seat boats has three standard pairs of oarlocks; For good rowing performance a boat’s hull needs to be on its designed waterline. But all true rowing craft have relatively fine ends which are susceptible to weight shift. If you row a Whitehall with one person in the center and a passenger in the stern the added weight in the stern upsets the level of trim. To maintain trim the rower can row from the forward location to maintain trim. Or better yet, get a second air of oars so the second person can row tandem!


Sliding seat roller and pin close-up

A side view of the sliding seat

A close up of the seat rollers

Tandem seats in our 16′ Melonseed

A custom teak wood sliding seat (additional upgrade from fiberglass)


Now consider that depending on work loads and sea conditions, fixed seat rowing can be superior to slide seat operation. When rowing for speed and endurance slide seat is usually best. But when the water gets lumpy or when ‘working’ in the boat such as fishing, navigating tricky waterways or towing a broken down powerboat you have more control with fixed seat. Changing from fixed to sliding or vise versa in our boats is as simple as inserting a couple of Stainless steel pins lock pins.

And as for durability? We built the slide seat mechanisms for numerous Trans Oceanic rowing crossings: The West to East transatlantic rowing record was set by Oar Northwest using our seats and rails; Erden Eruc completed a circumnavigation the world in a boat with our slide seat system; Roz Savage, the first woman to row the Pacific used our system… EXACTLY the same system we build into every one of our slide seat rowboats.

Check out posts with the “Ocean Rowing” tag in our blog to read all about our small but important part in their adventures.

And finally, here is a video of 3-year-old Karst “demonstrating” the sliding seat in a 14′ Whitehall:

Questions?  Feel free to visit the Sliding Seat FAQ, or of course you can send us an email!